OAPs to be given Samsung Galaxy tablets to SKYPE carers after cash-strapped council scraps home visits

A CASH-STRAPPED council is handing out high-end Samsung Galaxy tablets in a bid to make sick pensioners SKYPE their carers instead of receiving a home visit.

Up to 40 OAPs in Essex will be handed top-of-the-range 4G Samsung Galaxy tablets as part of the madcap scheme.

 Up to 40 Essex OAPs will receive top-of-the-range computer tablets as part of the trial

SWNS:South West News Service

Up to 40 Essex OAPs will receive top-of-the-range computer tablets as part of the trial

Last night Essex County Council bosses insisted the trial, run in partnership with Essex Cared LTD, will provide “a more convenient and prove a less intrusive method of interacting with a care worker, friends and family.”

But top GP Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard blasted: “What these patients need is someone to listen to them and to find purpose in life.

“GPs see patients, many of whom are widowed, who have multiple health problems like diabetes, hypertension and depression, but often their main problem isn’t medical, they’re lonely.

An estimated 1.1 million OAPs are chronically lonely in the UK, and lonely people are more likely to develop serious conditions like heart disease, depression and dementia.

Cliff Rich, CEO of Contact the Elderly added: “We gladly recognise the amazing strides modern technology has made in helping all of us, and especially older people, with staying in touch with family and friends who may live too far away to visit in person.

 Critics say the scheme will rob lonely pensioners of vital face-to-face contact

SWNS:South West News Service

Critics say the scheme will rob lonely pensioners of vital face-to-face contact

“However, we still believe that nothing can replace the essential human need for face-to-face interaction.”

John Spence, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, said: “It is important that we keep pace with new technology.

“I am pleased that Essex is trialling this system to have a positive impact on people’s lives.

“It will allow our vulnerable adults to live independently, providing them with something that is accessible from the comfort of their own homes.”

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Trump’s Space Council Head is a SpaceX Skeptic

The administration of President Donald Trump revived the National Space Council earlier this year after a 24-year absence, but what it will actually do remains cloudy. Besides the slightly strange, repeated remarks about going back to the moon, the administration also wants to empower the commercial sector and give the private spaceflight industry more influence and presence over what the nation as a whole does with space. Trump’s resurrection of the National Space Council is supposed to be a conduit in which companies like SpaceX can wield more influence over the shape of U.S. space policy.

So it’s a bit odd that Trump turned to Scott Pace, the director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, to lead the new NSC. That’s because Pace has a track record of skepticism for having NASA turn over projects the commercial sector, specifically SpaceX.

In a new review of the developing private space industry, CQ Press published some interesting quotes from Pace in which he describes some of his thoughts on Musk and his company. “Elon Musk sat in my office in 2002 and told me he’d have 10 launches a year by 2006,” Pace said. “I’m still looking at my watch.”

As reported by Ars Technica, Pace made that comment this year — in what is almost certainly the most successful period of SpaceX’s history. The company is on track for an 11th successful launch in just a few days.

Pace conceded to Ars Technica SpaceX has proven itself a capable spaceflight party. “That comment is accurate and it was true for years,” he said. “In 2017, it became obsolete—which was an outstanding achievement for SpaceX.”

Part of Pace’s doubts seem to stem from how badly SpaceX has managed to meet so many of its deadlines over the last decade. Nowhere is this clearer than in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, in which SpaceX (along with Boeing) are developing commercial spaceflight vehicles to allow the United States to once again use American spacecraft to send astronauts to the International Space Station and low Earth orbit.

Those vehicles were supposed to be ready for human spaceflight years ago. It’s 2017 and we’re still waiting.

In general, the CQ Press report emphasizes Pace’s preference for a slower, more methodical approach to spaceflight development. Pace has never been a strong supporter of the Commercial Crew Program, and was not shy of criticizing the Obama administration for pushing forward such a plan.

“I think [the CCP] is somewhat dangerous,” he said in 2012. “Accelerating the rules means that you will be taking risks by potentially putting people or high value cargo on before you’ve established a real track record. And I think that’s the approach that has a lot of people worried, particularly those of us who remember the results of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.”

It’s unclear to what extent Pace might come into the NSC with a fresh perspective and work to move forward Trump’s desire to see the commercial industry play a larger role in U.S space policy, or whether Pace may situate himself as a dissenting voice which tries to slow things down.

Photos via Flickr / MediaGamut

Advice for the National Space Council from Policy Insiders

Marcia S. Smith

Now that President Trump has announced his intent to appoint Scott Pace as Executive Director of the newly reconstituted National Space Council, advice is pouring in on what issues it should tackle and the challenges ahead.

At a seminar Friday sponsored by the Aerospace Corporation and George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute — which Pace currently heads — Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) and two panels of experts offered their views on the Space Council and other topics.  The White House announcement came the evening before the seminar began.  While Pace was widely rumored to be the top choice, the timing caught many by surprise. The seminar’s topic, however, Ensuring U.S. Space Leadership, lent itself to the breaking development.

The National Space Council has existed in law since the FY1989 NASA Authorization Act. (A predecessor National Aeronautics and Space Council was created in the 1958 law that established NASA, but was disbanded by President Nixon in 1973).  President George H.W. Bush issued an Executive Order standing up the organization in April 1989 with Vice President Dan Quayle as its chair.  After his term ended in 1993, however, no President has chosen to fund or staff the office until now.  President Trump signed an Executive Order on June 30 reestablishing the Council within the Executive Office of the President (EOP) with Vice President Mike Pence as its chairman.

In the Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama Administrations, space policy was developed in the EOP through interagency processes led by the National Security Council (NSC) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).  The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which formulates the President’s budget request to Congress and oversees how agencies spend money appropriated by Congress, is also part of the EOP.

The two panels at Friday’s seminar encompassed six EOP space policy veterans.  From the NSC: Gil Kilnger (George W. Bush), Peter Marquez (George W. Bush and Obama), and Chirag Parikh (Obama).  From OSTP:  Richard DalBello (Clinton, Obama), Damon Wells (George W. Bush, Obama), and Ben Roberts (Obama). All but Roberts continue to work on space in industry or government — Harris, Planetary Resources, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), Virgin Galactic, and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), respectively — though all were speaking in their private capacities. The group is very collegial and offered good-natured advice and ribbing about the challenges Pace will confront, while seriously addressing both structural and policy issues that need to be solved.

Joining them were former Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and former Commander of U.S. Strategic Command Gen. C. Robert Kehler (Ret) who also offered their views on the proposal to form a Space Corps within the Air Force, an idea they oppose.  Babin chairs the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee and gave a comprehensive keynote address that included the key issues he thinks the Space Council should address.

Many of the comments from the White House policy veterans focused on the inner workings of the EOP and the challenges of dealing with complex policy issues with just one person at the NSC assigned to work on space issues and perhaps one or two at OSTP.  The prevailing view was that reestablishing the Space Council would help because it presumably will have a few more staff than that and, with the Vice President as chairman, raising these issues to higher levels in the White House will be easier.

Roberts, who left OSTP in March after nine years in the EOP (the first seven at OMB) conceded that he was skeptical when he first heard that the Space Council would be reestablished because the OSTP/NSC model was working quite well.   He has changed his mind because it is not clear how President Trump will staff or utilize OSTP.  No science advisor has been nominated and most of the staff has departed with no replacements in sight.  Obama’s OSTP Director and Science Adviser John Holdren had “a lot of clout” with the President on civil and commercial space issues, Roberts said. With that model now in doubt, he views the Space Council, reporting directly to the Vice President, as a positive development.

Parikh pointed out that one missing element of the Executive Order reestabllshing the Council, however, is that no line is drawn among OSTP, NSC and OMB.  The NSC and OSTP staff can write policies, “but it you’re not linked with the budget officials” the policies may not be executable.  For example, when Obama’s National Space Policy was issued in 2010 the policy community recognized the need for more investment in space security, but funding was not made available until 6 years later.  He lamented that too much time is spent worrying about where to place a comma while forgetting about the budgetary spreadsheets.

Wells and DalBello agreed the challenge is implementation.  “Policy is aspirational goals,” said Wells. but it is only after the policy is released “that the fun begins” in obtaining budgetary resources and harmonizng policy and regulatory frameworks.  Calling the space policy process “self congratulatory,” DalBello said it falls short in getting the necessary interagency commitments to translate policy into workable budgets as well as in reaching out to Congress.  Congress needs to appropriate the money and in some cases set policy in law. 

More broadly, Klinger stressed that the single most critical issue is whether the rate at which the United States is adapting and changing its space policy and capabilities matches the rate of change in threats and opportunities.  “If yes, we’re in the game.  If not, we are at risk of looking like the dinosaurs in the Gary Larson cartoon.”

Klinger, Parikh and DalBello all mentioned the soft power value of the space program on the global stage.  DalBello urged that whatever human spaceflight goals are chosen be “articulated in an international context.”  Whether in human spaceflight or space traffic management or other areas, the United States needs to “align our interests with other nations.”

One benefit that many see to a Space Council is that it can deal with issues on a cross-cutting basis rather than stovepiped into the civil, commercial, and national security sectors.  Babin discussed five issues he believes would benefit from a “holistic” review by the Space Council:  space transportation, satellite servicing, weather, space weather, and space situational awareness. He offered his own views and solutions, some of which are reflected in the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act that was approved by the committee last month, but also believes an “appropriately constituted” Space Council “can provide a leadership role in synergizing” many of these issues.  He cautioned, however, that if the Space Council does not get “buy-in” from the NSC, OMB and OSTP, “it could simply become another layer of bureaucracy.”

For his own part, Pace noted that he was the Department of Commerce’s representative to the George H.W. Bush Administration’s National Space Council and remarked on how much has changed in aerospace in the intervening decades.  The Council is being “reincarnated” in an era of “democratization and globalization” where the private sector “is changing the rules of the game.” 

Although it dealt with a wide variety of issues, the earlier Space Council is probably best remembered for the tense relationship it had with NASA, which eventually led to the firing of NASA Administrator Richard Truly and his replacement by Dan Goldin.  

Pace stressed in an op-ed published in the March 14, 2017 issue of The Hill that the Space Council’s purpose is not to supervise NASA.  Pace was NASA’s Associate Administrator for Program Analysis and Evaluation when Mike Griffin was Administrator in the second George W. Bush term, so has seen the process from that side.   The “White House does not, and never has, needed a space council to supervise NASA, but it does need a way to combine the separate strands of national security space programs, diplomatic engagement, commercial competition and civil space cooperation with a unity of national purpose and effort.”

That opinion was shared by participants in the seminar.  As Marquez said, it is “not a NASA council” but is “about national priorities, needs, and strategic imperatives.”

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Space community lines up in support of National Space Council

WASHINGTON — Members of the space community, including those who have previously worked on space policy issues at the White House, are guardedly optimistic that the newly reconstituted National Space Council will help guide national space policy as it faces new challenges.

The role of the council, formally reestablished in a June 30 executive order by President Donald Trump, was the central theme of a July 14 symposium on U.S. space leadership held by George Washington University and the Aerospace Corporation here.

“When the space council was first rumored to be resurrected last fall, my initial reaction was somewhat skeptical,” said Ben Roberts, who worked on space issues at the Office of Science and Technology Policy during the Obama administration. “Over the last several months, I think I’ve become a lot more positive about the idea.”

He said the space council is particularly important now given the potentially diminished role of OSTP, which traditionally took the lead on civil and commercial space issues, in the Trump administration. The current administration has yet to name a director of the office, and many of its staff have left.

Even when both OSTP and the National Security Council (NSC) are fully staffed, though, only a few people work on space issues. “It’s hard to appreciate until you’re there how thinly staffed” those offices are on space, said Damon Wells, who previously worked on space issues at OSTP. The National Security Council had a single person working space issues, with only a couple at OSTP and the Office of Management and Budget. “And that was it. That’s who was working space in the White House.”

The space council will provide additional staff devoted to space policy, they and other panelists noted, as well as focus on various space issues. Having the vice president chair the council will also give it more influence. “It immediately gives you greater range in getting senior leadership involvement,” said Peter Marquez, former director of space policy on the NSC.

“The role of the vice president, I believe, will be critical in all of this,” said Richard DalBello, who worked on space issues at OSTP in both the Clinton and Obama administrations. The choice of the space council over other approaches, he said, was less critical than ensuring it is “properly aligned with the objectives of the White House.”

As for what issues the council should focus on, panelists and other attendees offered a wide range of civil, commercial and national security topics. However, they said it was key for the council to work on overarching issues. “A space council is not a NASA council,” said Marquez. “A space council is about national priorities, it’s abound national needs, it’s about strategic imperatives. It’s not just about guiding NASA.”

Gil Klinger, another former director of space policy on the NSC, said the growth in capabilities in commercial space, coupled with growing threats to U.S. space assets, warrant a review of what space capabilities remain relevant today. “Take a look at all of the things that comprise how we’ve done space for 60 years,” he said. “We are now obliged to ask ourselves what subset of those things that comprise how we’ve always done space remain relevant as we go forward.”

Some, while supporting the council, offered some notes of caution. Chirag Parikh, also a former director of space policy on the NSC, noted the executive order establish the space council did not describe the relationships it will have with offices like the NSC, OSTP and OMB. “Getting that figured out immediately is going to be critically important because that’s where the new administration’s policies will stem from,” he said.

Michael Donley, former secretary of the Air Force, said the space council will need to carefully choose what issues it takes on. “There are a lot of things that you could address, but you want to be relevant. You want to know when and why a decision is needed at the national level,” he said.

Retired Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, former head of Strategic Command, said attention to space issues at the national level has been cyclical throughout the history of the space age. “The number one thing we need to make sure we have done is refocus our national-level thinking on space,” he said. “If a renewed space council does nothing else, then I think it was worth standing it up.”

Pace to be space council’s executive secretary

The event coincided with the announcement late July 13 by the White House that it intends to appoint Scott Pace as the executive secretary of the National Space Council, who will lead its day-to-day work.

Pace’s selection was widely expected, and warmly received, by those in government and industry. Currently the director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, Pace previously worked on space policy issues at several agencies, including NASA and OSTP.

“Like the space council itself, Scott Pace has a wide variety of experience and knowledge in both national security and civil space, making him the perfect candidate for this position,” said Mike Gold, chair of the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee. “The revived National Space Council is off to an excellent start.”

“Scott has devoted his career to space policy, and will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to this role,” said Sandy Magnus, executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, in a statement.

“Scott is a leader who will serve the National Space Council well,” said Alan Stern, chairman of the board of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, in a statement. “We look forward to working closely with Scott and the rest of the [council] to advance the United States space enterprise by leveraging the U.S. commercial space industry’s vision, investment, and innovation.”

Pace, in a brief interview at the event, said he expects to formally start working as executive secretary later this summer. Vice President Mike Pence said in a July 6 speech at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center that he planned on chairing the council’s first meeting by the end of the summer.

At the symposium, Pace also got some advice that went beyond policy issues that the space council may take up in the coming months. “You’re about to find that you have more friends than you realize,” said Courtney Stadd, who worked on the staff of the space council during the George H.W. Bush administration.

Uber, Lyft ordinance back on the table at Monroe City Council


Flying cars might not work as well as we think. There’s a lot to account for.

An ordinance paving the way for transportation network companies, such as Uber and Lyft, to enter the Monroe market will once again go before the city council on Tuesday. 

On March 28, the council voted to table a similar agenda item requested by Council Chairman Michael Echols regarding the ride-for-hire companies so the administration would have an opportunity to vet the ordinance.

Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo said city officials have done so over the past few months with City Attorney Angie Baldwin discussing transportation network company, or TNC, policies with several other cities.

Read the Uber backstory: Paving the way for Uber in Monroe: bumpy road ahead | Council puts Uber ordinance in park | State bill could pave Uber’s way in Monroe

The TNC ordinance has generated community discussion at and outside of council meetings since March and has maintained a presence on social media that spun into high gear when the reintroduction was made public with the publishing of the current council agenda. 

For example, a parade to the city council meeting is being hosted by roeLa Roaster and starts at 4:30 p.m. with a community conversation at the business at 523 DeSiard Street. Sixty-three have indicated they will attend with 151 interested. 

Echols said the outpouring of enthusiasm on social media and across the community can be attributed to two factors. 

“One, there is a sense of excitement,” he said, “and, two, (people) don’t want to see this progress derailed.”

Examining the TNC ordinance

A primary point of comparison for Monroe’s proposed ordinance is a similar ordinance that passed in Shreveport in February and served as the model for both the March proposal and the item on Tuesday’s agenda.

“What has occurred is the ordinance that will be on the agenda for tomorrow night is not exactly the way Shreveport’s ordinance is … and the vetting process has been really good to make sure we have an ordinance that will be conducive to our particular area,” Mayo said.

Since the ordinance passed in Shreveport, Mayo said that to date no TNCs have filed an application. 

Because of this, Monroe is presenting a less restrictive policy that strikes a portion requiring a TNC to execute an agreement that would defend and hold the city harmless for any incident that causes harm to a third party and arises from the intentional or negligent acts of a driver or the TNC. A second change was noted by Mayo.

“One of the restrictions that Shreveport has is they requested that they get additional insurance and then show the city as an insurable interest,” Mayo said. 

Echols said the changes to the ordinance are nominal and that the elimination of an extra $1 fee would prevent disincentivizing traffic from Monroe Regional Airport.

Other fees assessed include a $2,500 fee for each TNC’s permit and a service charge of 25 cents per ride. 

During the vetting process, city officials also had conversations with Uber and Lyft, which Mayo discussed at a Monday press conference. 

Following the failure of statewide legislation that would take cities out of the driver’s seat for regulating ride-hailing services, Uber representatives told the city they would not be adding services to the remainder of the state at the present time.

“Now what does that mean? Does that mean they are not going to come at all? We don’t know. Does it mean that they will come later on? We don’t know,” Mayo said. “Their comments were they were not going to extend services to the rest of the state anytime soon.”

Lyft, however, has indicated an interest in Monroe and agreed to the fees and per ride charge specified in the existing ordinance.

“They have indicated that they are interested,” Mayo said. “As of now, Lyft is saying they are coming now. Uber is saying they are not coming at this time.”

If the council approves a first reading of the ordinance on Tuesday, a final reading will take place on July 25. 

Follow Ashley Mott Reporter on Facebook for the latest news. 


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White House reconstitutes National Space Council –

President Donald Trump, flanked by astronauts, members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence, signs an executive order June 30 re-establishing the National Space Council. Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

The Trump Administration officially reconstituted the National Space Council, an advisory group that once provided the White House with guidance on space policy, through an executive order announced at a public ceremony on Friday, June 30.

Attendees at the ceremony included Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) executive director Sandy Magnus, president and CEO of United Launch Alliance (ULA) Tory Bruno, Vice President Mike Pence, various members of Congress, and representatives of other commercial spaceflight companies.

In earlier statements, President Donald Trump said Pence would lead the council, which was disbanded after President George H.W. Bush left office in 1993.

“Today’s announcement sends a clear signal to the world that we are restoring America’s proud legacy of leadership in space,” Trump said during the ten-minute ceremony, which was not televised.

“The National Space Council will be a central hub guiding space policy within the administration. And I will draw on it for advice and information and recommendations for action,” the president noted.

According to the executive order, the National Space Council will include several cabinet members, NASA representatives, and leaders of the commercial spaceflight industry.

A “Users Advisory Group” will assure that the interests of non-government entities involved in spaceflight, including commercial spaceflight companies, are represented on the Council.

Among the Council’s responsibilities will be reviewing space policy, fostering cooperation and technology sharing among private and public entities in space-related activities, and making recommendations to the president.

Lightfoot described the re-establishment of the Council as “a testament to the importance of space exploration to our economy, our nation, and the planet as a whole.”

Mary Lynne Dittmar, president and CEO of the Coalition for Space Exploration, commended the action as a sign of “renewed commitment to NASA’s deep space exploration program.”

No details were provided on how the Council will conduct day-to-day operations. Individual members will be appointed in the near future.

Trump signs order reviving long-dormant National Space Council – Spaceflight Now

President Trump signs an executive order re-establishing the National Space Council, with astronauts Dave Wolf and Al Drew, and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin (left-to-right) looking on. Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

Emphasizing commercial, technological and national security opportunities in space, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday re-establishing the National Space Council, a space policy advisory and steering group that was last active nearly 25 years ago.

The directive to relaunch the council was promised by Trump’s presidential campaign, and Vice President Mike Pence announced in March that he would chair the reinstated National Space Council.

Friday’s signing by President Trump formally sets up the council, an inter-agency board that will include the secretaries of state, defense, commerce, transportation and homeland security, the head of the government’s intelligence community, the NASA administrator, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other Trump administration officials.

“Today’s announcement sends a clear signal to the world that we are restoring America’s proud legacy of leadership in space,” Trump said. “Our vice president cares very deeply about space policy, and for good reason. Space exploration is not only essential to our character as a nation, but also our economy and our great nation’s security.”

The council will review space policy, develop a national space strategy, make recommendations to the president on space issues, foster close coordination and cooperation among civilian, military and commercial space sectors, and advise on U.S. participation in international space activities, according to the document signed Friday by President Trump.

But many questions remain unanswered about the space program’s future under President Trump, including the balance between traditional government-managed projects and privately-run efforts.

The White House has not named a nominee to be NASA’s next administrator, and President Trump has also not appointed a science advisor. The three remaining employees in the science division of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy left their jobs this week. Their departures left the science division unstaffed, according to CBS News.

While slashing Earth science research and calling for the elimination of NASA’s education office, the Trump administration’s first budget request keeps Obama-era human spaceflight programs in place, continuing spending on commercial space taxis to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station, the government-owned Space Launch System mega-rocket, and the Orion crew capsule designed for deep space missions.

“We will continue to unlock the mysteries of space, but to do so, we most reorient our civilian space program toward deep space exploration and provide the capabilites for America to maintain a constant presence in low Earth orbit and beyond,” Pence said earlier this month in a speech at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin joined other astronauts, lawmakers and business executives at the signing ceremony in the White House.

“I am pleased that President Trump has signed an executive order re-establishing the National Space Council,” said Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator, in a statement. “The council existed previously from 1989-1993, and a version of it also existed as the National Aeronautics and Space Council from 1958-1973. As such, the council has guided NASA from our earliest days and can help us achieve the many ambitious milestones we are striving for today.”

Lightfoot added that the council “will help ensure that all aspects of the nation’s space power — national security, commerce, international relations, exploration, and science — are coordinated and aligned to best serve the American people.”

Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, billionaires who established SpaceX and Blue Origin with their fortunes, did not attend the White House signing ceremony. Congressman Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma, a rumored candidate to become NASA’s next administrator, was also absent.

The chief executives of Boeing, Lockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance were there, along with an executive from Orbital ATK. Sandy Magnus, a former astronaut and executive director of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics, also attended the order-signing.

“We appreciate the Trump Administration’s efforts to strengthen our nation’s space enterprise and view this as an opportunity to create an integrated strategic approach to U.S. space endeavors,” Magnus said in a statement.

The order resurrecting the National Space Council also sets up a “Users’ Advisory Group” with members from industry and other organizations involved in aeronautical and space activities.

“I’m very happy to see this executive order,” said Alan Stern, chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, an advocacy group that promotes commercial human spaceflight. “I think that a new National Space Council is an important step forward for the nation and for space exploration, and on first brush, I’m very happy with the structure of the council.”

Stern said he was also pleased that Vice President Pence will lead the council.

“That’s precisely how it worked when the nation was really turning heads around the world with space exploration in the 1960s,” Stern said in an interview Friday with Spaceflight Now. “Lyndon Johnson had that job.”

Stern said he wants to ensure the voices of the commercial space industry and scientists are heard by the council through the Users’ Advisory Group.

“I do think the devil is in the details, and I’m going to be looking very closely to see that the commercial space community, the scientific community and other stakeholder communities are properly represented, not just at a token level but at a meaningful level,” Stern said.

“And I’m sure that I’m not alone in that,” he said. “Many others are watching to make sure that the deck isn’t stacked for certain communities, and leaving others behind or under-represented.”

“The Trump people have been talking about this since before the inauguration, so it’s finally good to see some action,” said John Logsdon, a space historian, policy analyst and professor emeritus at George Washington University. “I frankly expected this to be part of a package of signing the executive order and naming the new leadership of NASA, so I’m a little disappointed that that didn’t happen.”

Stern agreed that the Trump administration should name a new NASA administrator soon.

“I think, now that we’re about six months past the inauguration, its beginning to hurt that NASA doesn’t have a named administrator,” Stern said. “While Robert Lightfoot is doing a tremendous job as acting administrator, it’s time for an agency of this scope, and this importance to the nation, to get an appointee.”

Logsdon called the establishment of the National Space Council a “potential step towards a high-quality, coherent U.S. space program.”

But the tenor of the council could be much different today than under the first Bush administration.

“One of the big differences is a vibrant commercial space sector, which wasn’t the case in 1989 through 1993,” Logsdon said in an interview Friday. “Another is that, in principle, this space council will be able to exert influence over the national security space program, which the Bush 41 council was never able to do.

“What happened in ’89 is Mr. Bush set these very ambitious goals — back to the moon, this time to stay, and then on to Mars — and NASA didn’t want to do them,” Logsdon said. “So let’s see whether Mr. Trump has some goals to set, and whether the leadership he puts in place at NASA is consistent with his goals.”

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

Trump signs order creating national space council with VP Pence as chair

President Trump formed a long-anticipated National Space Council today bringing both military and civilian government space programs closer together. Vice President Mike Pence will chair the council and become the president’s chief adviser on national space policy.

The council could bring clarity and focus to the nation’s space efforts, or it could create more confusion in an environment where civilian and military programs have different goals and operating systems. U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), who represents the district that is home of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, attended the signing ceremony and was optimistic.

“The National Space Council will realign our nation’s space policy towards national goals and assess possible gaps in government systems,” Brooks said in a statement. “With the reestablishment of the National Space Council today, President Trump and Vice President Pence have put America back on a path to global leadership in space.”

Here are the members of the council as spelled out in the order: 

The vice president, who will chair the council; the Secretary of State; the Secretary of Defense; the Secretary of Commerce; the Secretary of Transportation; the Director of the Office of Management and Budget; the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy; the Director of National Intelligence; the Secretary of Homeland Security; the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and the heads of other executive departments and agencies and other senior officials within the Executive Office of the President, as determined by the chairman.

NASA is currently headed by Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot, a former director of the Marshall center. Lightfoot praised the action late Friday.

“It will help ensure that all aspects of the nation’s space power – national security, commerce, international relations, exploration, and science – are coordinated and aligned to best serve the American people,” Lightfoot said. “A Users’ Advisory Group also will be convened so that the interests of industries and other non-federal entities are represented.”

Facebook comment brings abrupt and dramatic end to council meeting in Ohio

USA Today Network
Sheila Vilvens, The Cincinnati Enquirer

Published 5:49 p.m. ET June 28, 2017 | Updated 5 hours ago


Loveland Mayor Mark Fitzgerald ends city council meeting after Councilman Robert Weisberger refuses to take down a threatening Facebook comment someone posted to his page.
Provided footage | Edited by Phil Didion

CINCINNATI — A Facebook comment prompted a city council in Ohio to abruptly end its meeting. 

The mayor called the comment “incendiary” and a “personal attack.” Residents, who booed when the meeting was adjourned, accused the mayor and his allies of overreacting. 

And it all happened in Loveland, a Cincinnati suburb. 

Just after the City Council convened its meeting Tuesday, Mayor Mark Fitzgerald read a public statement regarding the “threat posted by an individual” on Facebook. He condemned Councilman Rob Weisgerber on whose page the so-called threatening post was made.

Fitzgerald, the embattled mayor of the city of 12,400 just north of Cincinnati, said Weisgerber’s failure to scold the commenter amounted to a tacit endorsement. At the end of his statement, council voted 4-3 to adjourn without discussion or an opportunity for Weisgerber to comment.

The June 22 Facebook comment in question was directed toward Councilwoman Pam Gross and was in response to a post by Weisgerber.

In the post, Weisgerber noted Gross had made a public records request for documents and email exchanges between himself and others. That prompted a commenter to write: “Trying to pull another fast one with intimidation. She nerds (sic) a good old fashion Loveland ass kicking 80s style lol.”

Gross said that as a woman and councilwoman, she took the “threat” seriously.

“Anytime they say they’re going to beat you up is unnerving and is not something that is dismissive,” she said.

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Gross brought the post to the attention of the Loveland Police Department.

“We were not sure that it rose to the level of a criminal act,” said Chief Dennis Sean Rahe. The department sought the opinion of the Clermont County prosecutor’s office, which also said the comment did not rise to the level of a criminal offense, Rahe said.

The investigation is closed.

Fitzgerald said the Facebook comment was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” He called the comment “threatened violence.”

“The toxicity of social media is extremely unfortunate,” Fitzgerald told The Enquirer Wednesday. 

Fitzgerald and Gross both cited the recent shooting of Republican congressmen at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Va., as part of the escalating violence in the nation

Cassandra Dahnke, co-founder of the Institute for Civility in Government in Houston, said concern about threatening social media comments is justified.

“We reach a tipping point and someone who can’t differentiate between a person venting, however inappropriate, and a call to action will take it upon themselves to do something,” Dahnke said.

Weisgerber, who only recently made his Facebook page public, said his post generated a lot more interest than he expected. When he saw the comment in question, he said it did stand out, but he didn’t interpret it as an actual threat. The overall conversation was more about process.

Following the abrupt end to the council meeting, Weisgerber and two other councilmembers remained at the table to speak with residents. Some residents booed and jeered as the mayor and three other council members adjourned from the meeting.

The mayor’s statement and the adjournment were not about the Facebook post, Weisgerber said.

“My perspective, this was preplanned to put me in a no-win position,” he said.

This is an election year in Loveland with four seats, including those of Weisgerber and Gross, up for grabs. Fitzgerald is in the second year of a four-year term but is the subject of a recall petition drive.

Halie Rebeccaschild is the secretary of the political action committee Loveland Community Heartbeat, the group behind the petition drive to recall the mayor. She called the abrupt ending of the council meeting a “very sad situation.”

“It was a failure on their part to respond in a productive way around social media threats or violent language in general,” she said. “They had an opportunity to have a productive discussion about how we, as a community, can resolve differences rationally and diplomatically. That conversation didn’t take place. It was a missed opportunity.”

She also said it was “theatrics to avoid the community.”

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English county council saves millions switching to G Suite and Chromebooks

A day in the life of an employee at Northumberland County Council in northern England involves everything from running schools, repairing roads or literally putting out fires. It’s work that never stops and that stretches across a rural area the size of Greater London with 330,000 citizens and three million sheep.

Two years ago, the Northumberland IT team started to notice strain in their service infrastructure which connects 380 locations across the region, and recent budget cuts made that system feel increasingly unworkable.

“We had a very big legacy setup that was costing us a fortune in licensing and devices,” says Neil Arnold, Chief Information Officer at Northumberland County Council. “We decided to bring people together in a central hub to make teams more agile.”

Creating G Suite champions

After evaluation, Arnold and his team chose G Suite for its functionality and flexibility. The team relied on Netpremacy, a Google Cloud partner, to train 300 staff members to educate colleagues on how to use G Suite. Within months, 5,500 corporate users and 11,500 schools users had been set up with G Suite accounts. “Without the support of Netpremacy, we wouldn’t have been able to implement as rapidly as we did,” says Arnold. “They recognised the cultural challenges. There was skepticism at first, but users really took the tools to heart when they could see the benefits.”

From different locations across the region, staff began working collaboratively on Docs and Sheets and inviting others to join. The team saved money by switching to Chromebooks and Arnold and his colleagues started using Hangouts to join meetings to stay synced on daily work.

Even firefighters, who were reluctant to try out Hangouts at first, started using it regularly. “Firefighters now use Hangouts at the scene of fires to communicate with central command, monitor the fire, and decide how many vehicles they need,” says Arnold. “The chief fire officer doesn’t have to get in his car and drive out to the scene to help — he can do it all from wherever he is.”

Firefighters use Hangouts at the scene of fires to communicate to central command, so the chief fire officer doesn’t have to drive to the scene.

Neil Arnold

CIO, Northumberland County Council

Saving big by going cloud-first

Arnold expects switching to Chromebooks will help Northumberland County Council save close to £2.5 million on licensing and hardware, without sacrificing data security since Chromebooks have multiple protection layers.

The next step for Arnold and his team is to bring G Suite to the classroom. “We’ve got a lot of schools using Google Classroom successfully,” he says, “and we want to roll G Suite out to more schools. It’ll be a big efficiency for them, because many have small file servers on site, that they manage themselves or pay a third-party to manage. Drive will help them decommission that.”

Meanwhile, outdated exchange and file servers are being closed down across the council as data is seamlessly transferred to Google Cloud. The new central office for the county is set to open in 2019, and Arnold does not plan to have a datacenter at the new building: “That footprint’s going to reduce over the next three years to virtually nothing.” 

“I’ve been working in IT for over 30 years and this has been one of the most successful and satisfying projects I’ve ever been involved in,” says Arnold. “We’ve achieved more than we expected and using G Suite has been a tremendous catalyst for change.”