Sat-ND, 31.01.1998 -- This bird is sinking
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European organised idiocy
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If you're waiting for some news on the satellite launches planned for today: both have been scrapped.
Winds high above French Guiana forced postponement of the scheduled launch of Arianespace flight 105 with Brasilsat 3B and Inmarsat 3F5 aboard for the second time.
Company officials said a new launch date would be announced only when weather conditions were acceptable. A new launch could be scheduled as early as Sunday night if conditions improved.
Countdown was stopped a first time on Friday several hours before planned lift-off when high-altitude winds beyond acceptable safety levels were detected.
Cancelling rocket launches because of high-altitude winds is usually a safety measure in order to protect populated areas from debris in case of an explosion.
Officials delayed the Saturday, Jan. 31 launch of a Boeing Delta II expendable launch vehicle carrying five Iridium system satellites owing to winds and rain. The launch was rescheduled for tomorrow, Sunday but there is a 60 percent chance of yet another postponement due to bad weather at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The five-second launch window opens at 7:33 a.m. PST (1533 UTC.) Live coverage of the launch is planned (GE 3K at 87° W; Ku-band transponder 19, 12.080 GHz h.)
European launch service provider Arianespace seeks a raise in capital from US$45 million to US$350 million to finance its new Ariane 5 rockets.
Explains Jean-Marie Luton, president of Arianespace: "at first, we were planning five launches a year. Today, we must plan on 10 or 14. This rocket must be able to carry 9 to 11-tonne payloads by 2002. Starting in 2000 Ariane-5 will be carrying a 7-tonne payload. It is for this reason that we have decided to increase Arianespace's capital."
The company still wants the European aerospace industry to supply the new launcher at much lower prices. "Given increased competition in this market, we will have to ask our European manufacturers to reduce the cost of the first 14 Ariane-5 rockets we have ordered by 40 percent, then by 50 percent," Luton said. On the other hand, Luton announced Arianespace will increase its personnel by 20 percent.
Luton reportedly acknowledged that everything still depended on Ariane-5's next qualification flight, scheduled for mid-July. It is still neither known which commercial satellite it will carry nor whether it will be on schedule.
It may be confusing to read about a "next generation rocket ship." No, this is not about SeaLaunch and its ocean-going launch platform. It's about Lockheed Martin's recently announced plans to provide launch services on a new vehicle called VentureStar.
Forget the rocket launches of the past -- as from 2003, VentureStar may put satellites into orbit quite differently. The first difference is that the vehicle will take off and land vertically just as a plane. The second difference is that it will cost just a tenth of a rocket launch -- US$2,200 per kg instead of US$22,000.
As Florida Today reports, the venture is expected to spur the US$40-billion space industry by radically reducing the cost of transporting satellites into orbit. But it also threatens to make the facilities at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Station obsolete in the 21st Century.
Local politicians are therefore trying to lure the rocket ship to the Brevard County region that is well-known for its rocket launch activities, said Florida Today.
According to the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong based and mainland-backed satellite operator APT Satellite is re-negotiating 70 per cent of the leases on its recently launched satellite Apstar 2R.
The paper quoted investment bank Jardine Fleming as saying "APT had previously projected 50 per cent initial utilisation of its third satellite but two-thirds of those expected leases are now being re-negotiated," quite obviously a consequence of the bad shape Asia's economy is in.
Analyst Marlowe Burke said the company expected not only many customers to negotiate lower prices, such as "an average 12.5 per cent discount to the original pricing terms" but also "some cancellations."
The South African Mail and Guardian reported that there are seven bidders for a license to run the country's first national commercial free-to-air TV service.
The combined bids amount to R2.1 million while each applicant claims to have spent R2 million to R3 million to finance their respective venture. But these figures are peanuts compared to the revenues that are expected by 2000 -- on average, the bidders project R400 million.
"It's no wonder then that almost every prominent businessperson, media personality, trade union investment and media company has climbed aboard the TV train," the paper commented. Hearings on the license that will create the most influential black-owned media company around will begin on Monday. The channel will be obliged to carry news, current affairs, drama and other local content, plus children's programming.
The bidders are Free to Air (supported by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and the UK's United News and Media; Midi Television (foreign partner: Time-Warner;) Station for the Nation (with participation of yet another Australian media mogul, Kerry Packer;) Afrimedia (no international backers;) Community TV Network (5.2 percent held by Canada's United Television Holdings;) New Channel TV (with commercial channel France 1 on board;) and Island Television (with support from Sweden's Modern Times Group.)
Want some proof that idiots lurk everywhere, especially in European governments? Here it is.
The European Union ministers for justice and home affairs agreed that law enforcement agencies must have access to the codes used to transmit encrypted information over the Internet.
The ministers warned that unbreakable encryption systems would mean organised crime could pursue its activities, cheerfully ignoring that those systems already exist and are in wide-spread use.
"We have to make sure that legitimate law enforcement interests are taken into account when it comes to accessing encrypted material," said Joyce Quin, a junior British Home Office minister. "We should not be in the position of fighting the crime of the 21st century with the methods and equipment of the 19th."
The idiocy starts with those stone-age politicians assuming that the Internet was a preferred medium to conduct criminal activities. It can be used for such purposes, of course, just as a sealed envelope can -- will European law enforcement agencies start opening and reading each and every letter sent across the Continent?
They could actually do that, but the difference is this: While European politicians want to have the ability to read every encrypted email, they won't be able to. There is at least one encryption programme thought to be reasonably safe against any kind of attack -- I'm talking of PGP, of course. The almighty politicians are so afraid of it that at least one European country, France, has already banned its use. [However, I have so far heard no complaints by European politicians over the fact that the U. S. of A. still reserve the right to eavesdrop upon European telephone and Internet traffic, using monitoring stations all over Europe. No kiddin': it's a fact.]
In order to get their encryption systems with their government backdoors widely distributed, European politicians would inevitably have to resort to a EU-wide ban of PGP which for technical reasons would be more or less of a symbolic nature. PGP-encrypted messages cannot automatically be tracked, even if law enforcement agencies were to monitor all email traffic. (Yes, there are specific headers which might be used as an indicator, but they can be removed and later be added by the message's recipient.)
But what's more, has anybody told that stone-age politicians about steganography, a method that allows to hide short messages in audio, video or picture files? A harmless picture of a flower or whatever might in fact contain a message such as "Assault scheduled for Monday, 10 a.m." And nobody except for the recipient will ever know.
Yes, dear idiots -- I mean politicians, in order to fight organised crime you should go after the criminals instead of usurping the right to read everybody's email. You won't find anything interesting in there anyway. And kick those U.S. monitoring stations out of Europe before you even think of anything else.
International version of PGP: http://www.ifi.uio.no/pgp/ or http://www.pgpi.com/
The Monica, er... Paula... Hillary... no!, the Clinton administration is proposing that the U.S. government turn operation of the Internet over to a private, non-profit corporation.
Under a proposed rule announced by the Commerce Department, Internet policy and operations would be controlled by the new corporation after a two-year transition period.
The administration of Internet addresses, now in the hands of a single contractor, would be opened up to competition. The proposal calls for creation of five new domain names in addition to the widely used .com, .org and .net but the Commerce Department did not specify what the new domains should be.
Earlier, a group of Internet users suggested seven new domains: .firm for businesses; .shop for online retailers; .web for sites related to the World Wide Web; .arts for cultural sites; .info for information services; .rec for recreational activities; and .nom for individuals. No idea what will become of that proposal. If in doubt, you can always resort to a Tonga (.to) address.
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