Monday, February 26, 2024

Just As We Said -- The DoJ/FTC (and State AGs) Are Clearing Their Throats -- On US Antitrust Enforcement. Do Take Heed, Pharma...

As we mentioned a lil' more than a week ago, the US antitrust authorities have once again. . . found their collective voice. And now, as we predicted, the FTC has sued, to either enjoin or reform the Albertsons / Kroger merger.

This will, at a minimum, involve the parties divesting outlets each controls in certain markets (to an independent competitor), to preserve real competition in grocery prices. And it would behoove the people circling the Sanofi consumer health businesses to take into account that -- in certain mature therapies the proposed deal may unlawfully harm natural price competition, for say shoe inserts and OTC allergy meds. This is going to change the way parties bid for, or at least set "hold backs" -- in the mature life sciences brands as well. In any event, here's the latest:

. . .The Federal Trade Commission sued to block a proposed merger between grocery giants Kroger and Albertsons, saying the $24.6 billion deal would eliminate competition and lead to higher prices for millions of Americans.

The FTC filed an administrative complaint against the companies Monday, which will be considered by an administrative law judge at the agency. It also filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court in Oregon requesting a temporary injunction blocking the merger. That lawsuit was joined by the attorneys general of eight states and the District of Columbia.

Kroger and Albertsons, two of the nation’s largest grocers, agreed to merge in October 2022. The companies said a merger would help them better compete with Walmart, Amazon, Costco and other big rivals. Together, Kroger and Albertsons would control around 13% of the U.S. grocery market; Walmart controls 22%, according to J.P. Morgan analyst Ken Goldman. . . .

Now you know. . . onward -- grinning into the sunshine -- for a cool afternoon bike ride. Be excellent to one antoher, as Black History Month draws to a close.


WHO Reports Out Improved Standards For Protecting Health Workers, In Ebola And Marburg Outbreaks...

The new WHO-generated advice is the result of deep experience in the last decade, during prior flare ups.

The central message is to ease back on the spraying of aerosolized higher concentration chlorine solutions creates more problems and risks than it ameliorates. Here's the latest -- and a bit, from MedPage Today:

. . .Excessive or inappropriate use of PPE is associated with adverse effects for healthcare workers and negative impacts on the environment, they noted. Spraying workers and the environment with chlorine during Ebola and Marburg virus outbreaks remains a common practice, but causes adverse ocular, respiratory, and skin reactions. Instead, the WHO recommends wiping potentially contaminated surfaces with disinfectant.

One example of confusion surrounding PPE use is that some facilities rely on double gloving with variable approaches to changing gloves between patients and glove disinfection, Willet and colleagues pointed out. The new guidelines, which were published last August, clarify when double or single gloving should be used, how to disinfect gloves, and when to change gloves between patients. . . .

We all know there will be another outbreak, the question is simply. . . when -- and how best to minimize the number of deaths, when it comes. . . as "the fire, next time". Onward. . . smiling into the sunshine just the same.


Sunday, February 25, 2024

Some Of This Won't Work -- See StrikeThroughs -- As It Is Tipped Over...

The main object lesson here is that we cannot underestimate what it takes, to land on a far off, low gravity body. That's no mean feat, from an engineering standpoint.

And this episode should bespeak additional caution, about any crewed mission toward. . . Mars. Still mostly good news, as a soft landing was achievedm true. But here's what's working -- as the science package -- at the South Pole of the Moon, right now, on Odysseus:

. . .Additional NASA hardware aboard the lander includes:

Lunar Node 1 Navigation Demonstrator: A small, CubeSat-sized experiment that will demonstrate autonomous navigation that could be used by future landers, surface infrastructure, and astronauts, digitally confirming their positions on the Moon relative to other spacecraft, ground stations, or rovers on the move.

Laser Retroreflector Array: A collection of eight retroreflectors that enable precision laser ranging, which is a measurement of the distance between the orbiting or landing spacecraft to the reflector on the lander. The array is a passive optical instrument and will function as a permanent location marker on the Moon for decades to come.

Radio Frequency Mass Gauge: A technology demonstration that measures the amount of propellant in spacecraft tanks in a low-gravity space environment. Using sensor technology, the gauge will measure the amount of cryogenic propellant in Nova-C’s fuel and oxidizer tanks, providing data that could help predict fuel usage on future missions.

Radio-wave Observations at the Lunar Surface of the Photoelectron Sheath: The instrument will observe the Moon’s surface environment in radio frequencies, to determine how natural and human-generated activity near the surface interacts with and could interfere with science conducted there.

Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume-Surface Studies: A suite of four tiny cameras to capture imagery showing how the Moon’s surface changes from interactions with the spacecraft’s engine plume during and after descent. . . .

Now, you know. Smiling. . . .


CHMP Favorable On Merck's Pembrolizumab In Resectable NSCLC at High Risk of Recurrence -- With Chemo...

Again, not material, but still good EU news for US Merck, this past week.

The approvals continue to pile up -- for the juggernaut. Here's the latest:

. . .Merck today announced that the European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) adopted a positive opinion recommending approval of KEYTRUDA, Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, in combination with platinum-containing chemotherapy as neoadjuvant treatment, then continued as a monotherapy as adjuvant treatment, for the treatment of resectable non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) at high risk of recurrence in adults. . . .

"The CHMP’s positive opinion puts us another step closer to helping certain patients in Europe with earlier stages of non-small cell lung cancer, regardless of PD-L1 expression," said Dr. Marjorie Green, senior vice president and head of oncology, global clinical development, Merck Research Laboratories. "We look forward to the European Commission’s decision, as we continue to build on the legacy of KEYTRUDA in certain types of lung cancer and pursue meaningful advances that may help extend the lives of patients. . . ."

Now you know -- onward, to catch a matinee of "Origin", this afternoon -- smiling.


Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Odysseus Press Conference Last Night Revealed That The Lander Will Be Out Of Battery Life In Nine Days, No Matter What...

This mission has still been a resounding success, as it was always known that by choosing to land near the lunar south pole, the solar panels would be out of sunlight for long stretches of time, sitting near that pole.

And yet, the lander ended up lying on its side -- when it turned out, about nine hours before touchdown, that a hard wired safety switch on the laser guidance (to protect human eyes on the ground during the build) had not been shut off. . . so that laser guidance system had to swapped for a backup LiDAR, such that the team had to unload and reload software on the fly, and land using an older, back-up LiDAR system. Thus Odysseus set down on uneven ground, and tipped over. [The dark bottom half of the globe image at right is a fish-eye camera view of the lander, on its side.]

So yes -- quite a success -- but it also suggests that getting to Mars. . . with a crewed mission, probably sits out beyond 2035 (if at all). [The radiation exposure risk -- as we'd sail away from Earth's protective blankets. . . remains a largely unsolved technical problem, for human life, on a three year out and back journey.] But today, we celeberate another seven or so days of data being beamed home (albeit on a smaller pipe than hoped), per the NYT:

. . .The spacecraft, named Odysseus, set down in the moon’s south pole region on Thursday evening, the first U.S. vehicle to land softly on the moon since Apollo 17 in 1972.

“The vehicle is stable near or at our intended landing site,” Steve Altemus, the chief executive of Intuitive Machines said during a NASA news conference on Friday. “We do have communications with the lander.”

He added, “That’s phenomenal to begin with.”

But the landing did not go perfectly. Because the spacecraft fell over, its antennas are not pointed directly at Earth, limiting the amount of information that can go back and forth. . . .

Now you know -- once again proving that "space is. . . hard." Even so, we are admiring about an inch of gleaming white snow here, under the bright morning sunshine. . . it will all be gone by afternoon, in the warmth -- but it renders all so quiet. . . and clean for the moment. Smile. . . .


Friday, February 23, 2024

Ron DeSantis's (GOP FL) State Surgeon General Makes Shockingly Stupid, Unscientific Pronouncement -- Regarding A Measles Outbreak In Public Schools...

Well, just when you thought the Alabama Supreme Court had won the week's prize for bad biological science. . . Florida decides to deny three quarters of a century of learnings, about viral pandemics.

And it does so with the explicit blessing of Gov. Ron DeSantis (proving that at least some legacy admissions at Yale. . . are a wasted use of a scarce resource -- an elite education). The WaPo has it all -- but it sure feels like a bad sci-fi / biblical nonsense movie -- not the current Broward County Public School system:

. . .As a Florida elementary school tries to contain a growing measles outbreak, the state’s top health official is giving advice that runs counter to science and may leave unvaccinated children at risk of contracting one of the most contagious pathogens on Earth, clinicians and public health experts said.

Florida surgeon general Joseph A. Ladapo failed to urge parents to vaccinate their children or keep unvaccinated students home from school as a precaution in a letter to parents at the Fort Lauderdale-area school this week following six confirmed measles cases.

Instead of following what he acknowledged was the “normal” recommendation that parents keep unvaccinated children home for up to 21 days — the incubation period for measles — Ladapo said the state health department “is deferring to parents or guardians to make decisions about school attendance.”

Ben Hoffman, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said Florida’s guidance flies in the face of long-standing and widely accepted public health guidance for measles, which can result in severe complications, including death. . . .

“It runs counter to everything I have ever heard and everything that I have read,” Hoffman said. “It runs counter to our policy. It runs counter to what the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] would recommend.”

Measles outbreaks have been on the rise in recent years. So far in 2024, at least 26 cases in at least 12 states have been reported to the CDC, about double the number at this point last year. In addition to the six cases confirmed in the Florida school, cases have been reported in Arizona, California, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York City, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Because measles virus particles can linger in the air and on surfaces for up to two hours after an infected person leaves the area, up to 90 percent of people without immunity will contract measles if exposed. People who have been infected or received the full two doses of the MMR vaccine are 98 percent protected and very unlikely to contract the disease. That is why public health officials typically advocate for vaccination amid outbreaks. . . .

Ladapo’s unwillingness to use public health tools echoes the movement by conservative and libertarian forces to defang public health’s ability to contain diseases like the highly infectious measles. In a measles outbreak in Ohio that began in late 2022, most of the 85 children infected were old enough to get the shots, but their parents chose not to do so, officials said. The state legislature in 2021 had stripped health officials’ abilities to order someone suspected of having an infectious disease to quarantine.

Paul Offit, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said Ladapo’s failure to urge vaccination endangers children.

“Is he trying to prove that measles isn’t a contagious disease when the data are clear that it is the most contagious vaccine-preventable disease, far more contagious than influenza or covid?” Offit wrote in an email. . . .

A drop below 95 percent vaccination coverage for measles can compromise herd immunity and allow a virus to spread more quickly. Florida’s state vaccination coverage is 90.6 percent, but statewide vaccination coverage does not identify pockets where there may be lower coverage.

The outbreak will explode exponentially, becoming a much bigger community threat, if unvaccinated people exposed to the virus don’t follow public health recommendations and stay home from school during the potentially contagious period, said Patsy Stinchfield, president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and a nurse practitioner in Minneapolis. She has been involved in controlling three measles outbreaks, including the 2017 outbreak in Minnesota that affected 75 people, most of them unvaccinated, and most of them children. . . .

Manatee Bay Elementary School, about 20 miles west of Fort Lauderdale, has six confirmed measles cases, school officials said this week. Of the school’s 1,067 students, 33 have not received the MMR vaccine, Broward County Schools Superintendent Peter B. Licata said Wednesday during a school board meeting. A school district official said the district has held “four vaccination opportunities,” including two at the school and two at other locations in the community. . . .

What on Earth is happening. . . to common sense, in these GOP dominated (mostly southern) geographies? Good grief. On this day in 1954, the first mass polio vaccine campaign was launched in Pittsburgh -- and that was the beginning of a scourge -- eradicated. These people are. . . luddites.


Thursday, February 22, 2024

USDC Judge Ezra Has Set The Rio Grande / Eagle Pass Floating Razor Wire Case For Trial On Motion To Dismiss -- In Four Weeks

The full transcript will have to wait a tick, but this one is going to hit Gov. Abbott like a ton of bricks.

He is going to lose -- in epic fashion:

. . .IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the above entitled and numbered case is set for a hearing on the motion to dismiss, in Courtroom 2, on the Fourth Floor of the United States Courthouse, 501 West Fifth Street, Austin, TX, on Tuesday, March 19, 2024 at 09:00 AM. . . .

Buckle up, butter cup. Your time in the Sun. . . is nearly at an end.


[U: Odysseus Has Landed!] Intuitive Machines To Attempt Soft Robotic Landing -- Near The Moon's South Pole, This Evening...

The last time a US mission touched down safely on the lunar surface -- it was during the Apollo program -- and it was a crewed mission. But this time, it is a stepping stone to crewed missions to Mars, likely not until. . . the mid-2030s.

Still, it is important to show. . . we still have "what it takes" -- given that several other privately-funded missions have recently seen less-than-stellar results, in attempting soft lunar touchdowns, and operations -- without glitches. Here's the latest, for tonight's viewing / streaming along:

. . .As part of NASA’s CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative and Artemis campaign, Intuitive Machines is targeting no earlier than 5:30 p.m. EST Thursday, Feb. 22, to land their Odysseus lunar lander near Malapert A in the South Pole region of the Moon.

Live landing coverage will air on NASA+, NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. NASA TV can be streamed on a variety of platforms, including social media. Coverage will include live streaming and blog updates beginning at 4 p.m., as the landing milestones occur. Upon successful landing, Intuitive Machines and NASA will host a news conference to discuss the mission and science opportunities that lie ahead as the company begins lunar surface operations.

In May 2019, the agency awarded a task order for scientific payload delivery to Intuitive Machines. Odysseus launched at 1:05 a.m., Feb. 15, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. . . .

Now you know -- onward, grinning. . . with no news out of the able USDC Judge Ezra's courtroom, in West Texas, yet. Be excellent to one another. Updated: safe at the lunar south pole, tonight!


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-33-103(a) Is Set For An Internal Conference At The Supremes, On March 15, 2024. A Mandate Has Issued From The Sixth Cir...

Here's a brief update, on where the Supremes are, on this Tennessee "law" that purports to tell doctors they are forbidden from treating juvenile gender dysphoria cases, inside the state [but only if the presenting patients' apparent genital morphology is not "aligned" with the patients' self-perception, of gender]. [Mandate issued in Sixth Circuit. This is harming children, every day that it remains even a threat of law. Parents are leaving the state to get care in Illinois and Colorado, and California, as I type this.]

So, the Court will now discuss it all, at a March 15 (private) conference, and we will likely see argument dates shortly after that.

I suppose it is possible, given the Supremes turning back the TJ HS (Va.) case yesterday, that the Court will summarily report out that Bostock has been decided, and as such, Tennessee § 68-33-103(a) is unconstitutional. But more likely, the Supremes will take the route of hearing argument. Certainly, they cannot duck this one. Here's a bit from the parents' brief:

. . .In defending Tennessee’s ban, Respondents do not dispute the profound importance of the constitutional questions presented or the profound consequences of SB1 for transgender youth and their families. Instead, Respondents advance -- without any support in the district court’s factual findings -- misconceptions about gender-affirming care that the district court rejected, and that were not questioned, much less deemed clearly erroneous, by the court of appeals. Those assertions have no proper place here.

On the merits, the Constitution is not “neutral,” as the Sixth Circuit put it, about laws that classify based on a person’s sex or transgender status. App. 18a. Such laws carry a presumption of unconstitutionality, and the government must provide an exceedingly persuasive justification for the differential treatment. The Sixth Circuit’s sweeping declaration that laws targeting transgender people and the medical decision-making of their families are subject only to rational basis review creates multiple circuit splits, contravenes well-settled precedent, and imposes immediate and devastating harm. This Court’s review is warranted now. . . .

Respondents. . . assert that heightened scrutiny does not apply because Tennessee’s ban “merely” references sex without classifying based on sex. But Tennessee’s ban is nothing like a law regulating abortion that happens to refer to the word “woman.” See Opp. 24. Such a law would have precisely the same meaning if the word “woman” were changed to “person.” By contrast, under SB1, the legality of medical treatment expressly turns on whether the care “[e]nabl[es] a minor to identify with, or live as, a purported identity inconsistent with the minor’s sex.” Tenn. Code Ann. (“TCA”) § 68-33-103(a)(1)(A). That Tennessee must treat boys and girls differently to regulate gender-affirming care is not a reason for discarding heightened scrutiny. It is why heightened scrutiny is required. . . .

Tennessee will lose here, just as Alabama will lose in about a year, in the Supremes, on the idea that a clump of 500 cells is a human being. These are. . . indeed, dark times, for the real biological sciences, especially in the largely Southern-, and GOP-controlled, state courts and legislatures.

Onward, just the same.


U: An INANIMATE Clump Of Cells, Unable To Survive In Any Current Form... Is Not, And Cannot Be... Deemed A Full "Human", Alabama. Period.

I am confident that this result will not stand.

Even so, it is frightening how little the GOP Justices of the Alabama Supreme Court understand about human biology and development. Updated -- the University hospital at Birmingham has announced that it is "pausing" all IVF procedures in light of the below. So this is no longer a "theoretical" problem, Alabama. Damnation. End, updated portion.

I do not think many Americans would concur that a FROZEN clump of perhaps 500 cells. . . is a human, with all the rights of a human -- and should the IVF fail, the doctors (and "parents") might be charged with a "homicide".

That is lunacy, Alabama. Here's the bit of it:

. . .“This ruling is stating that a fertilized egg, which is a clump of cells, is now a person. It really puts into question, the practice of IVF,” Barbara Collura, CEO of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, told The Associated Press Tuesday.

The group called the decision a “terrifying development for the 1-in-6 people impacted by infertility” who need in-vitro fertilization. . . .

This will ultimately reach the Supremes. It will be overturned -- and elected state level judges should leave science. . . to the scientists.

One may be compensated, where -- as here -- the embryos were negligently destroyed by a lab -- without having to decide that the clump of cells was a fully formed human being. In sum, this decision violates the rule of parsimony. Onward.


Tuesday, February 20, 2024

USDC Judge Ezra In West Texas Will Hold An In Person Hearing At 9 AM Thursday...

This would suggest that the able Judge is displeased with the efforts Texas is making to comply with his exquisitely clear -- and now affirmed at the US Supreme Court -- prior court orders, granting the CBP and DHS the right (but not the obligation) to remove the floating barriers, and send Gov. Abbott the bills -- all at Texas's sole expense.

There may be fireworks, so I'll see if I can secure a dial in for the hearing.

Will let you all know -- if I'm able to prevail upon Judge Ezra's docket clerk, tomorrow -- or at least before the hearing on Thursday.



Well -- quite a bit of "power alley" news, on the day. Grin. Sanofi / Antitrust Edition...

We should mention that the German Merck (no relation) had divested its Consumer Health businesses some five years ago, and the US Merck as packaged up its Women's Health biz, into a rebranded and updated Organon -- soon set to spin off.

So -- not surprising, as Consumer Health business lines tend to be more mature, and lower margin than the core drug businesses that spawn them.

But the new wrinkle here may be (as was true during the Obama years) renewed vigor in ferretting out anticompetitive deals, at the Antitrust Division (and in the EU, to be candid). We shall see, but here is the latest, per Bloomberg, then:

. . .Some of the world’s largest buyout firms, including Advent International and Blackstone Inc., are circling the consumer health division of French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi ahead of a potential separation of the business, according to people familiar with the matter.

The business is also drawing early interest from Bain Capital, CVC Capital Partners, EQT AB and KKR & Co., the people said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private. The unit could be valued at about $20 billion in any deal, they said. . . .

So there you have it -- we suspect, in any event, that the ~$35 billion Capital One / Discover deal will see some retooling, in various local markets -- including required divestitures and spin-offs. And whenever Bain surfaces, expect mischief (in the potential Sanofi deals). Onward.


Trivia: It Seems Some Opioid Bankruptcy Papers Have Been MIS-Filed -- In Norfolk Virginia Federal Court, In The Glenmark/Merck Zetia® Antitrust Settlement

Normally I wouldn't mention this at all.

But since we indicated last December that the Zetia® antitrust class action had settled, and only a few insurers / drug compounder individual suits remained, and were remanded, to their home district courts. . . we had stopped watching this boxcar litigation.

But apparently, the USDC Judge in Norfolk has spindled what looks like a February 12, 2024 bankruptcy court notice, from one of the smaller "mini-Sackler" type-entities -- one still fighting its way out, to minimize its payments in the opioid cases here in the states.

Honestly, I cannot imagine what sort of a set of facts, or set of prescription drugs, would have had to coalesce, to dump a now largely vanished, last gen, "expensive placebo" supposed cholesterol management drug franchise. . . into the Sackler matters -- or what that would would look like, but I will let wiser heads instruct me, if this is not just a clerk's filing error.

Onward, grinning. . . .


Merck Wins FDA Priority Review In Certain Uterine Cancers, For Keytruda®, Plus Chemo-... Good News.

This is decidedly good news, but given that pembrolizumab already generates over $25 billion a year in revenue. . . in the near term, this coming approval will not materially boost that total -- all by itself.

But this certainly continues the impressive winning streak -- against a wide array of solid organ tumors / cancers, where Keytruda® is now greatly extending survival odds, and quality of life durations. Here's the latest, from a Merck presser this morning:

. . .[Rahway] announced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted for priority review a new supplemental Biologics License Application (sBLA) seeking approval for KEYTRUDA, Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, in combination with standard of care chemotherapy (carboplatin and paclitaxel), followed by KEYTRUDA as a single agent for the treatment of patients with primary advanced or recurrent endometrial carcinoma.

The FDA has set a Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA), or target action, date of June 21, 2024. . . .

Onward, into the warm sunshine now -- grinning. Be excellent to one another.


Monday, February 19, 2024

Power Alley Update: Bayer Effectively "Vanishes" Its Cash Dividend... Whoa.

The idea of an old line pharma company effectively ending its dividend is. . . radical.

I highly doubt this will spread (as any sort of trend), as it is clearly-specific as a financial challenge -- to this company's Roundup litigation woes. But we will keep an eye on it, just the same:

. . .Bayer AG is planning to slash its dividend by 95% in an effort to pay down debt as the German company looks to recover from multiple crises including a wave of litigation over Roundup herbicide.

Bayer will present a plan to offer investors 11 euro cents ($0.12) per share for fiscal year 2023, down from €2.40 last year, according to a statement Monday. . . .

Now you know. But pharmas have always been dividend kings. Likely to decline in the coming days -- by about 20% -- so, maybe not so much of a king, any longer.


What More Is There, To Be Made -- Of Lincoln's Examples, After 160 Years?

So much has been written -- so many movies made. . . and frankly, so much water is now under the bridge. . . it is hard to say whether there is anything original that might yet be said of Abraham Lincoln.

Certainly he was a great American President -- perhaps second only to George Washington -- and yet, both of them seemed to less than fully embrace the equality of all humans.

. . .John Brown was executed by the state of Virginia with the approval of the national government. It was the national government which, while weakly enforcing the law ending the slave trade, sternly enforced the laws providing for the return of fugitives to slavery. It was the national government that, in Andrew Jackson's administration, collaborated with the South to keep abolitionist literature out of the mails in the southern states.

Such a national government would never accept an end to slavery by rebellion. It would end slavery only under conditions controlled by whites, and only when required by the political and economic needs of the business elite of the North. It was Abraham Lincoln who combined perfectly the needs of business, the political ambition of the new Republican party, and the rhetoric of humanitarianism. He would keep the abolition of slavery not at the top of his list of priorities, but close enough to the top so it could be pushed there temporarily by abolitionist pressures and by practical political advantage. . . .

Lincoln could skillfully blend the interests of the very rich and the interests of Black America at a moment in history when these interests met. And he could link these two with a growing section of Americans, the white, up-and-coming, economically ambitious, politically active middle class. . . .

I will add nothing else, except to say his life is worthy of celebration -- but certainly not deification. He was a man. In many ways, he was a better man than anyone who has led this nation in over ten years, but in many ways. . . he too, was in part a pandering politician.

We may be certain though, that while he had engaged in fisticuffs as a youth for sport and money, he would never have hawked colognes and hideously-made spray-painted gold sneakers on the streets of Philadelphia -- or any other city.

And, he did manage to avoid ever being indicted, despite the virulent racists who sought to end him. . . and eventually. . . did. Onward, to more substantive -- and on topic -- fare by tomorrow.


After Glitches, Euclid Underway For The European Space Agency…

The mapping of our "dark universe" has begun in earnest now.

To get to this moment took a tic, because it turns out that in space, even when the "can" of the scope was positioned with its back light shield directly into (and perpendicular to) the Sun's position, small amounts of light still leaked into the imaging sensors. The fix was to skew the opening at an angle, to throw an additional "porch shadow" across the imaging opening.

But it's all sorted out now, and data is flying back to Paris -- without a hitch. Here's the latest from ESA:

. . .Over the next six years, Euclid will observe billions of galaxies across 10 billion years of cosmic history.

Euclid, one of the most precise and stable space telescopes ever built, was launched on 1 July 2023. During its first months in space, teams across Europe turned on, tested, and prepared the mission for routine science observations. However, these ‘routine’ science observations are no piece of cake. . . .

To minimise the effect of ‘stray’ sunlight, the teams found out that Euclid needs to observe with a more restricted rotation angle, such that the sunshield is not directly facing the Sun, with a small but impactful tilt in one direction. . . .

Euclid is a European mission, built and operated by ESA, with contributions from NASA. The Euclid Consortium – consisting of more than 2000 scientists from 300 institutes in 13 European countries, the US, Canada and Japan – was responsible for providing the scientific instruments and will provide the scientific data analysis. . . .

Now you know. Grinning into the gray but luminous approaching dawn, about two thirds through February. . . so, Spring is not so distant.


Sunday, February 18, 2024

What's The Over / Under -- In Months -- Before Tangerine Mentions Putin's Culpability In Navalny's Prison Death?

I gather he's too busy selling gold-leaf adorned sneakers, fashioned in Southeast Asia or China by child labor (but truly, why would Jabba the Hutt be needed to. . . endorse a basketball line?!), some awful cologne, and even now has apparently launched a "GoFundMe"(?!) -- for his legal bills.

We really shouldn't expect him to -- well, you know -- actually care... about a dissident dying in the frigid reaches of a brutal, arctic prison.

Not when he needs Putin far more than Putin will ever need him.

This alone ought to be disqualifying -- but for some Americans who slept through middle school civics... it won't matter. They are ready to throw their votes... away.

Ah, well. . . but do know this, you Trump voters (as Bantu Steven Biko taught us all): "it is better to die. . . for an idea that will live -- than to live for an idea that will. . . die".

And Tangerine's ideas. . . are definitely. . . dying.



Saturday, February 17, 2024

As Expected, USDC Judge Moses Is Very Concerned About Asylum-Seeking Moms And Babies... Drowning In The Rio Grande. Texas Gov. Abbott Is In... Hot Water.

Overnight, the Del Rio federal courts entered an order -- preparing both sides for what the arguments on March 4 and 5, 2024 will center around.

And this presaging in no manner favors the lawless position of the State of Texas. We will keep you posted, but here it is:

. . .It is ORDERED that the parties at the March 4, 2024 and March 5, 2024 hearings be prepared to discuss whether the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded this case for the Court to make new factual findings only, or to make legal determinations in light of new factual findings to be made after taking evidence.

It is FURTHER ORDERED that the parties at the March 4, 2024 and March 5, 2024 hearings be prepared to discuss how new factual findings may impact appellate review of the Court's November 29, 2023 preliminary injunction decision, considering that the evidence to be taken at the hearings will not have been before this Court before the preliminary injunction decision was entered. It is

FURTHER ORDERED that at the March 4, 2024 and March 5, 2024 hearings, the parties submit photographs, videos, and maps needed to make new factual findings.

It is FURTHER ORDERED that the scope of the March 4, 2024 and March 5, 2024 hearings include all the issues raised in the parties' joint brief [ECF No. 83], including but not limited to:

A. The Defendants' use of and access to Shelby Park and surrounding areas;

B. The Plaintiff's control of municipal and non-municipal land in and around Eagle Pass, Texas since November 29, 2023;

C. The scope of the physical area that the Plaintiff has occupied in and near the Shelby Park area since November 29, 2023;

D. The Defendants' access to the Rio Grande in and near the Shelby Park area since November 29, 2023, including but not limited to boat ramp access;

E. The Defendants' ability to surveil the border, patrol the border, apprehend migrants,process migrants, and perform other duties in and near the Shelby Park area since November 29, 2023;

F. The Defendants' ability to respond to medical emergencies in and near Eagle Pass,Texas since November 29, 2023, including the Defendants' ability to access Shelby Park and surrounding areas on or about January 12, 2024;

G. Events in and near the Shelby Park area on or about January 12, 2024, including but not limited to migrant drownings; and

H. The frequency of migrant crossings in and near Eagle Pass, Texas since November 29,2023.

Signed by Chief Judge Alia Moses. (jaw) (Entered: 02/16/2024). . . .

Now you know. Onward -- but still shaken by Alexei's murder in the arctic prison -- by Putin and his thugs.


Friday, February 16, 2024

Wanna' Be A Martian-eer?! Or, At Least Simulate Being One? Apply By April 2, 2024...

Technically, the idea is to study the isolation, and limited resources effects -- of living in under 2,000 square feet -- with three other "Martian-eers". . . while solving mechanical problems, growing crops -- and dealing with a 20 minute delay on all communication outside the 3D printed pod.

In sum, not really like being 210 million miles off, in the night sky -- with no way home, for a year. But we must crawl before. . . we walk. This will be the second of these four member "crews" to be studied in isolation at NASA Houston:

. . .NASA is seeking applicants to participate in its next simulated one-year Mars surface mission to help inform the agency’s plans for human exploration of the Red Planet. The second of three planned ground-based missions called CHAPEA (Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog) is scheduled to kick off in spring 2025.

Each CHAPEA mission involves a four-person volunteer crew living and working inside a 1,700-square-foot, 3D-printed habitat based at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The habitat, called the Mars Dune Alpha, simulates the challenges of a mission on Mars, including resource limitations, equipment failures, communication delays, and other environmental stressors. Crew tasks include simulated spacewalks, robotic operations, habitat maintenance, exercise, and crop growth.

NASA is looking for healthy, motivated U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are non-smokers, 30-55 years old, and proficient in English for effective communication between crewmates and mission control. Applicants should have a strong desire for unique, rewarding adventures and interest in contributing to NASA’s work to prepare for the first human journey to Mars. . . .

I am by no means claustrophobic, having worked in deep mines -- but living in 1,700 sq. ft., for a year -- with the occasional Mars-quake, and not being able to get a foamy root beer float, tacos or fresh cherries. . . that might be a. . . problem.

In any event, the deadline to apply is April 2, 2024. Mark your Barsoomian calendars!