SCOTUS SHARPENS ITS KNIVES FOR AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: The U.S. Supreme Court will weigh in on whether colleges and universities can consider race in admissions as it agreed to hear a case brought by an anti-affirmative action group against UNC-Chapel Hill. The group, Students for Fair Admissions, alleges UNC-CH discriminated against white and Asian American applicants by using race as a factor in its undergraduate admissions process. The justices will also hear a similar case against Harvard University brought by the same group. The court consolidated the two cases Monday, allotting a total of one hour for oral arguments. The outcome of these cases could have sweeping implications for affirmative action in higher education and diversity of student bodies on campus. And with the court becoming more conservative in recent years, the fate of race-conscious admissions is in doubt. UNC-CH has defended its admissions process in this legal battle for several years. Funded by right-wing dark money, of course. Seven Degrees of Sarah Scaife. I need to take another shower.
CRASTON ARTIS WITHDRAWS FROM WAKE SCHOOL BOARD APPOINTMENT: The pick to fill the Wake County Board of Education’s vacancy has withdrawn from his appointment. Craston Artis II told WRAL News on Saturday that he’d withdrawn. His decision comes several days after some people first began publicly disputing his residence. “I regret that this process has devolved into conversations that have nothing to do with the needs of Wake County students,” he wrote in a text message to WRAL. The school board will meet Tuesday at 2 p.m. to discuss reopening the application process for the board seat, Chairwoman Lindsay Mahaffey told WRAL. Artis’s swearing-in for the position, scheduled for Jan. 18, was canceled just before it was set to occur after Artis was unable to complete all of the paperwork required of him before the ceremony. Some of the paperwork included proof of address, but records show Artis’ move to District 4 had been delayed until Jan. 19 — the day after the ceremony. And yet, little Maddie Cawthorn gets to run in any state Congressional District he has a hankering for. Sorry to see this.
COMPUTER CHIP SHORTAGE HAS NOT IMPROVED AT ALL: Manufacturers and other buyers of computer chips had less than five days’ supply of some chips on hand late last year, leaving them vulnerable to any disruptions in deliveries, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday as it pushed Congress to endorse federal aid for chip makers. The report highlighted the severity of a global shortage that has hobbled manufacturing and fueled inflation for more than a year and that defies easy solutions. Manufacturers’ median chip inventory levels have plummeted from about 40 days’ supply in 2019 to less than five days, according to a survey of 150 companies worldwide that the Commerce Department conducted in September. “This means a disruption overseas, which might shut down a semiconductor plant for 2-3 weeks, has the potential to disable a manufacturing facility and furlough workers in the United States if that facility only has 3-5 days of inventory,” the Commerce Department concluded in a six-page summary of its findings. “The reality is Congress must act,” Raimondo added, urging lawmakers to pass a proposal for $52 billion in federal subsidies to incentivize construction of chip factories. “Every day we wait, we fall further behind.” The Senate passed the measure last year. The legislation has been tied up for months in the House, though House Democrats are expected to introduce their version of the legislation as soon as this week. Industry executives say federal funding is likely to create more long-term supply of chips but not to alleviate the short-term shortages because chip factories take years to build. Survey respondents said they didn’t see the shortages going away in the next six months. Some industry executives say they could last into 2023.
STATE DEPARTMENT ORDERS FAMILIES OF DIPLOMATS TO LEAVE UKRAINE: The U.S. State Department has ordered the families of all American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv to leave the country, and it said that nonessential embassy staff could leave. Britain said it, too, was withdrawing some diplomats and dependents from its embassy, and families of Canadian diplomatic staff also have been told to leave. Ukrainian authorities, however, have sought to project calm. Speaking in the second televised speech to the nation in as many days, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Ukrainians not to panic. "We are strong enough to keep everything under control and derail any attempts at destabilization,” he said. The decision by the U.S., Britain, Australia, Germany and Canada to withdraw some of their diplomats and dependents from Kyiv “doesn't necessarily signal an inevitable escalation and is part of a complex diplomatic game,” he said. ”We are working together with our partners as a single team." Russia has said Western accusations it is planning an attack are merely a cover for NATO’s own planned provocations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov again accused the U.S. of “fomenting tensions” around Ukraine, a former Soviet state that has been in a conflict with Russia for almost eight years. Moscow has rejected Western demands to pull its troops back from areas near Ukraine, saying it will deploy and train them wherever necessary on its territory as a response to what it called “hostile” moves by the U.S. and its allies.
THIS IS HOW WE WILL GET SOIL AND ROCK SAMPLES FROM MARS BACK TO EARTH: The rover would transfer samples to a lander, being developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, that would use a robotic arm (developed by ESA) to pack the samples into a small rocket, called a Mars Ascent Vehicle, being designed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The rocket would launch from the lander to deliver the sample capsule to an ESA spacecraft orbiting Mars. Inside the orbiter, the capsule would be prepared for delivery to Earth by hardware that a team led by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is developing. This preparation would include sealing the sample capsule within a clean container to trap any Martian material inside, sterilizing the seal, and placing the sealed container into an Earth-entry capsule before the return trip to Earth. To carry and launch the Mars Ascent Vehicle, the lander needs to be a sturdy platform, weighing about 5,291 pounds (2,400 kilograms) – almost twice as heavy as Perseverance, which was lowered to the Martian surface with cables from a rocket-powered jet pack. The Sample Retriever Lander wouldn’t have a jet pack; its legs would have to absorb the impact of touchdown, relying on retrorockets to slow its descent, similar to recent Mars lander missions like InSight and Phoenix. Surviving landing is just part of the challenge: Safely launching the nine-foot-long (2.8-meter-long) two-stage rocket that will sit atop the lander’s deck adds another level of difficulty. Mars’ gravity is one-third that of Earth’s, and the rocket’s weight, combined with its exhaust, could cause the lander to slip or tilt. So engineers have conceived of a system to toss the rocket into the air just before it ignites. The whole process happens in a finger-snap, tossing the rocket at a rate of 16 feet (5 meters) per second. I do love this stuff...