What a shock. The International Space Station is going to cost US taxpayers even more money than we were told it would just months ago. Of course, the station’s price tag has been rising since the day it was (ill) concieved, it seems, and the MoJo Wire noticed months ago. But now, a recently-released General Accounting Office report warns that not only is NASA’s share of the bill growing, but when the dastardly thing is finished it will still have problems that need more time and money to fix.
It is now projected that NASA will foot up to $26 billion of the project’s total cost, which is being shared among the US, Canada, Russia, Japan, and the European Space Agency. Part of the problem, however, is that Russia is a bit — let’s put it delicately — fiscally-challenged. In fact, the Station’s crew quarters — which Russia is building — “will not meet all of NASA’s quality standards,” according to THE SEATTLE TIMES. Despite needing several “safety upgrades,” it will be launched anyway; the problems will be fixed once it is in orbit. Astronauts are scheduled to begin living aboard the station in March, even though the crew quarters will not be able to withstand impacts from flying space debris as well as originally planned (a chunk the size of an M&M could puncture the thing) — a problem it is estimated will take 3 1/2 years to fix.
Sept. 1, 1999
British Petroleum Amoco, now the second-largest oil conglomerate in the world, should be proud. They’ve won the prestigious Greenhouse Greenwash Award, given by the Transnational Resource & Action Center (publisher of Corporate Watch) for superlative achievement in greenwashing its reputation. With announced plans to install solar panels in 200 gas stations around the world, BP’s “Plug in the Sun” program promises to “fill you up by sunshine.” On sunny days the panels will help power the stations’ gas pumps and mini-marts, thus reducing demand on the electric grid.
The customer that chooses a BP station, the logic seems to be, cares about the environment; their consumer dollar supports renewable energy. But all fluffy PR aside, the problem remains: While they’re parked at that happy little solar-powered gas station they’re filling their car with gasoline, a non-renewable energy source that, when burned, contributes to global warming. The burning of BP Amoco fossil fuels alone creates more emissions than all the countries of Central America combined. As Corporate Watch puts it, the reality is that “BP Amoco is committed, over the long term, to oil and gas”: In Alaska alone the company plans to invest $5 billion in the next five years on oil exploration and production.
Aug. 31, 1999
Much to the chagrin of the State Department, a delegation of liberal congressional staffers took a fact-finding trip to Iraq, where they met with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. According to REUTERS, the delegation is studying the effects of United Nations sanctions on the Iraqi people. The Clinton administration has supported such sanctions, while humanitarian workers and Iraqi officials say that the sanctions have caused hunger, disease, and poverty.
Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies who accompanied the group, called the meeting “useful, interesting, productive, and warm.” The group also visited a children’s hospital and a grain silo to assess the sanctions’ impact. Before the trip, the State Department refused to validate the staffers’ passports for Iraq, citing safety concerns. And State Department spokesman James Foley warned that traveling to Iraq with an American passport that has not been validated may be illegal and punishable by law. The mission is the first such trip since the Gulf War in 1991.
Aug. 30, 1999
Edward Said, Columbia University’s well-known activist, writer, and intellectual, has become the subject of a heated controversy. An article appearing in this month’s Commentary magazine — a Jewish publication and self-styled “home of neoconservatism” — alleges that Said invented family ties to Palestine that did not exist and contrived an identity as an “exiled Palestinian” to legitimize his political agenda. Said, perhaps the most prolific and vociferous champion of the Palestinian cause, has spoken and written at length about his family’s own experiences as well as the pain and struggles of the greater Palestinian diaspora.
Commentary’s article, written by Justus Reid Weiner, has provoked strong reactions from both sides in the debate. COUNTERPUNCH has posted a defense of Said in which they call Weiner’s charges “meanly trivial, as well as factitious.” Even if Said had never set foot in Palestine, they ask, “Would that degrade his role as a Palestinian spokesman? If so, are we to ridicule the bonds to Israel that American Jews cherish and often proclaim?” At the other end of the spectrum, Jeff Jacoby, a Boston Globe columnist, proclaims that “Said lies routinely, especially when Israelis or Arabs are on the agenda.”
Meanwhile, Said himself has responded to the allegations in the Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram. He calls Weiner “a propagandist who, like many others before him, has tried to depict the dispossession of Palestinians as ideological fiction.”