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A Real-Life 'Star Wars' Death Star Would Cost $850 Quadrillion, Says U.S. Government

A sad day for Star Wars fans. While three new Disney-sponsored films in the intergalactic franchise are on the horizon, the construction of an actual Death Star, like the one Darth Vader called home in the films, above Earth is not. (Sigh.)

A petition setup on the Petitions.WhiteHouse.gov website amassed more than 34,000 e-signatures demanding that the Obama Administration "secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016." The group argued that "focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star" would "spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense." While an excellent point, those 34,000 people overlooked some potential hurdles.

In what could only be called a small victory in the face of eminent defeat for Star Wars fans, the White House actually responded to the petition.

"The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn't on the horizon," began the poignant response from the U.S. government that ultimately nixed the plan.

The author of the response, Paul Shawcross, serves as Science and Space Branch Chief at the White House Office of Management and Budget. Shawcross, who helped pen the White House's fiscal 2013 budget, cited three main reasons for the petition's rebuttal, and affectionately titled it: "This Isn't the Petition Response You're Looking For."

Shawcross says that the construction of the Death Star would cost the U.S. somewhere in the $850,000,000,000,000,000 ballpark. "We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it," he rationalized. He also added that the U.S. government "does not support blowing up planets" nor would it "spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?" (Might Shawcross, himself, be a fan of the Star Wars films? That is still undetermined.)

Shawcross challenged the undersigned to apply their keen imaginations to the current night sky, as it is already home to a pseudo Death Star. "Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that's helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations," he wrote. He noted that with six astronauts aboard from three different countries, it was more of a peaceful stopover in the cosmos, than destroyer ship.

While Shawcross' response is point-blank hilarious, it is also immensely informational, as he provides links to several currently in-the-works space projects. "We don't have a Death Star, but we do have floating robot assistants on the Space Station, a President who knows his way around a light saber and advanced (marshmallow) cannon, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is supporting research on building Luke's arm, floating droids, and quadruped walkers," he challenged. (Okay, this guy is definitely a HUGE Star Wars fan.)

Alas, the Death Star petitioners should be basking in their defeat. They did manage to get a response from the U.S. government, and it isn't necessarily a dead end. There are several privately funded aerospace companies, such as Elon Musk's SpaceX, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, that they can hit up for that $850,000,000,000,000,000.

Adds Shawcross, "We are living in the future! Enjoy it. Or better yet, help build it by pursuing a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field." May the force be with you.

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San Francisco Lawmaker Proposes CAREN Act To Criminalize Racist 911 Calls

A California lawmaker introduced an ordinance that could criminalize racist 911 calls. San Francisco supervisor Shamann Walton presented the CAREN Act during a Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday (July 7).

“Racist calls are unacceptable,” Walton tweeted. “That’s why I’m introducing the CAREN Act at today’s SF Board of Supervisors meeting. This is the CAREN we need. Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies.

Racist 911 calls are unacceptable that's why I'm introducing the CAREN Act at today’s SF Board of Supervisors meeting. This is the CAREN we need. Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies. #CARENact #sanfrancisco

— Shamann Walton (@shamannwalton) July 7, 2020

The measure is similar to a bill proposed by a New York Senator in 2018, and another proposed by California Assembly member Rob Banta last month to help end “discriminatory 911 calls motivated by an individual’s race, religion, sex, or any other protected class by designating such reports as a hate crime.”

Making a false police report is a criminal misdemeanor offense under California law, but there is currently no legislation criminalizing discriminatory 911 calls.

In related news, a white New Yorker named Amy Cooper could face criminal charges for calling 911 on a birdwatching Black man in Central Park after he informed her that her dog needed to be leashed. Chris Cooper, who has no relation to Amy Cooper, filmed the viral video in May. However, Chris has refused to cooperate with the District Attorney efforts to bring charges against Amy because she “already paid a steep price,” and “Bringing her more misery just seems liking pilling on.”

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Kentucky AG Criticized For Celebrating Engagement While Breonna Taylor Case Stalls

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron continues to garner criticism over the investigation into Breonna Taylor’s death. The most recent round of backlash came after photos of Cameron’s engagement party surfaced online over the weekend.

Cameron, a Louisville native, was slammed for celebrating his engagement while the cops who killed Taylor remain free. Beyonce’s mother, Tina Lawson, joined the chorus of criticism.

“I was shocked to learn that the attorney general for Kentucky is a 34 year old black man. A republican. When Breonna’s Mother Tamika asked to speak with him, he had someone else call her,” Lawson wrote in part on Monday (June 28).

According to TMZ, Taylor’s family agreed with Lawson’s  reaction.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

I was shocked to learn that the attorney general for Kentucky is a 34 year old black man. A republican . When Breonna’s Mother Tamika asked to speak with him , he had someone else call her. ! 💔💔 When he ran for office there are a lot of Black people that were excited and thought oh my God maybe we have a fair chance now because it will be a black man in this position ! He will be fair and unbiased towards Black people. They voted for him. Well That’s why it’s important to educate yourself on people who are running for office . I have no problem with who he marries , that is his personal business. That is not what this post is about ! I just don’t understand his actions !!! And where are their masks ?

A post shared by Tina Knowles (@mstinalawson) on Jun 29, 2020 at 7:39pm PDT

Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, was shot and killed inside her apartment in March. Protests continued in Kentucky this past weekend, amid continued demands for justice in the case.

Last month, Beyonce penned an open letter urging Cameron to arrest Louisville Metropolitan Police Department Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and officer Myles Cosgrove and former LMPD officer Brett Hankison.

On Monday, several LMPD officers walked out of a meeting with LMPD Interim Chief Robert Schroeder after he refused to discuss whether or not he agreed with the mayor’s assertion that the tree officers should be fired for killing Taylor.

Meanwhile, Cameron has asked the public for patience. “My heart is heavy concerning the fear and unrest in our city following the death of Ms. Breonna Taylor,” reads a statement posted on his Instagram account on May 29. “It weighs on me, as I know it does for many of my fellow Kentuckians who are grappling with the tragic events here and in other cities across the country.”

The post goes on to state that Cameron’s office isn’t handling the full LMPD probe, and that the investigation will take time in order to be “done correctly.” The office is awaiting the conclusion of the LMPD report, Cameron said.

The FBI opened an independent investigation into the shooting in May. “At the conclusion of this investigation, the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division will determine if the officers’ actions violated federal law,” the statement continues. “Our office will determine if any state laws were violated. We will continue to work with our federal colleagues in our effort to find the truth.”

Cameron’s Instagram post has received more than 18,000 comments, many of which are lambasting him for the engagement photos and the slow pace of the investigation. “Shame on you,” read one comment while another added, “Stop protecting these officers.”

Read the full post below.

 

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Statement from Attorney General Cameron regarding the investigation into the death of Ms. Breonna Taylor:

A post shared by Daniel Cameron (@danieljaycameron) on May 29, 2020 at 12:24pm PDT

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NASA Names Washington D.C. Headquarters After Trailblazing Engineer Mary W. Jackson

NASA is naming its building headquarters in Washington D.C. after trailblazer Mary W. Jackson, the agency announced on Wednesday (June 24). Jackson was the first Black female engineer at NASA.

“We are honored that NASA continues to celebrate the legacy of our mother and grandmother Mary W. Jackson,” said Jackson’s daughter, Carolyn Lewis. “She was a scientist, humanitarian, wife, mother, and trailblazer who paved the way for thousands of others to succeed, not only at NASA, but throughout this nation.”

Jackson’s remarkable story was chronicled in the film, Hidden Figures, alongside Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Christine Darden.

“Mary W. Jackson was part of a group of very important women who helped NASA succeed in getting American astronauts into space. Mary never accepted the status quo, she helped break barriers and open opportunities for African Americans and women in the field of engineering and technology,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Today, we proudly announce the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building. It appropriately sits on ‘Hidden Figures Way,’ a reminder that Mary is one of many incredible and talented professionals in NASA’s history who contributed to this agency’s success. Hidden no more, we will continue to recognize the contributions of women, African Americans, and people of all backgrounds who have made NASA’s successful history of exploration possible.”

Multiple NASA facilities around the country are named after, “people who dedicated their lives to push the frontiers of the aerospace industry,” noted Bridenstine.

Jackson was born and raised in Hampton, Va., in 1921. She went on to earn a degree in math and physical science from Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in 1942. She worked as a math teacher, bookkeeper, and U.S Army secretary prior to being recruited by NASA in the early 1950s.

Jackson initially worked under Vaughn as a NASA mathematician in a segregated computing unit. After two years in the West Area Computing Unit, Jackson moved to a 4-foot-by-4-foot Supersonic Pressure Tunnel where her supervisor suggested she join a training program to become a NASA engineer.

Jackson completed the course at the segregated Hampton High School and had to receive special permission to study with her white colleagues. In 1958, Jackson earned a promotion, and simultaneously made history as the first Black woman to become a NASA engineer. In 1979, she joined Langley’s Federal Women’s Program, where she worked to address the hiring and promotion of a new generation of female mathematicians, engineers and scientists. Jackson retired from Langley in 1985.

She passed away in 2005.

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