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Space Race: NASA Awards Contracts to Boeing, SpaceX

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 5:50pm

NASA(HOUSTON) -- NASA awarded contracts Tuesday to Boeing and Elon Musk's SpaceX to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station, signalling the agency's return to manned space launches after the end of the space shuttle program.

"This is the fulfillment of the commitment President Obama made to return human space flight launches to U.S. soil and end our reliance on the Russians," NASA administrator Charles Bolden said.

The winning designs will end U.S. dependence on the Russian Soyuz for transportation back and forth to the International Space Station.

The announcement came after an expensive and ferocious competition to determine which companies would be tasked with building the next era of spacecraft.

NASA's space shuttle program rolled to a stop on July 21, 2011, when Commander Chris Ferguson noted the poignant end of the shuttle program. "Mission complete, Houston, after serving the world for over 30 years, the shuttle has earned its place in history, and it has come to a final stop," he said.

The contracts are worth a potential $6.8 billion in the long run, according to Bolden, to launch U.S. astronauts into space by the end of 2017, the year NASA's current contract with Russia expires.

The Commercial Crew Program was designed by NASA to replace the retired space shuttle, which was the workhorse of the space program for over 30 years.

Boeing has invested in the CST 100 capsule, which would launch on an Atlas V rocket -- almost a turnkey proposition for NASA when you consider the company’s history in aerospace.

SpaceX has the advantage of already launching cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station and hopes to parlay that experience into a human version of its Dragon spacecraft.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Top Syrian Warns Congress 'Moderate' Rebels May Sell...

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 5:55pm

iStock/Thinkstock(BEIRUT, Lebanon) -- In letters addressed to the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House of Representatives, the Syrian speaker of parliament calls on the United States to refrain from arming and training so-called moderate Syrian rebels and from entering into a coalition with countries whose religious ideologies, the speaker says, has fueled the growth of ISIS.

Speaker Jihad al-Lahham also writes that one of the two American journalists beheaded by ISIS was sold to the militant group by the moderate forces.

"What is called moderate opposition sold to ISIL the innocent, beheaded U.S. journalist," Lahham writes to House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, using an alternative acronym for ISIS. "There is nothing to prevent those groups from selling the U.S. weapons to ISIL as it is their proven common practice."

Lahham doesn't name the journalist, but it's the same accusation made by a spokesman for the family of Steven Sotloff, whose execution video was posted online by ISIS earlier this month.

In his letters to the U.S. Congress,  Lahham argues that there is no such thing as moderate rebels and arming and training those selected groups "is a nonreversible action that will trigger a global negative chain reaction."

Lahham also singles out Saudi Arabia, one of the United States' closest allies in the anti-ISIS coalition the administration is building. He says the "core engine generating jihadi terrorist[s]" stems from the puritanical interpretation of Islam practiced and enforced in Saudi Arabia. He points out that the beheadings that ISIS has become infamous for "is a government legal practice in Saudi Arabia."

The White House is lobbying Congress to authorize $500 million to arm and train "vetted" moderate Syrian rebel groups to fight ISIS. The CIA has already been covertly training certain rebel groups fighting the Assad regime in countries bordering Syria, but this would be an expanded program. Saudi Arabia has already agreed to allow rebels to train in the country, according to U.S. officials.

The Obama administration has long resisted arming the moderates on a large scale with small and heavy weapons out of fear that arms given to the relatively weak and very fractured forces would fall into the hands of extremists. Moderate Syrian forces say the West's reluctance to arm them over the past three years of Syria's civil war has given rise to the radical Islamist elements in Syria whose wealthy patrons from the Gulf have funded more sophisticated weaponry.

The U.S. has carried out over 160 airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and has warned that it will begin to target the group inside Syria where it has its base in the northern city of Raqqa. The Obama administration has said it is not coordinating with either the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, nor Iran, Syria's main backer.

Syria has warned that an American assault against ISIS inside Syria without coordination would violate their sovereignty.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Lawmakers Tackle NFL's Tax Exempt Status

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 5:37pm

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- The National Football League’s tax-exempt status could come to an end if Sen. Maria Cantwell gets her wish.

Cantwell, D-Wash., announced Tuesday that she will introduce legislation that would end the league’s tax-exempt status in a move to increase pressure to change the name of the Washington Redskins.

“The NFL needs to join the rest of Americans in the 21st century. We can no longer tolerate this attitude towards Native Americans,” Cantwell said at a news conference on Capitol Hill. “This is not about team tradition. It is about right and wrong.”

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has previously introduced legislation to end the tax-exempt, 501 (c)(6) status of professional sports organizations making annual revenues of more than $10 million, including the NFL, National Hockey League and Professional Golfers Association.

Cantwell’s announcement came as she joined other members of Congress, Native American leaders, and religious leaders asking NFL leaders to call for the Washington football team to remove the “racial slur” from its name.

“Members of Congress and the millions of constituents that they represent are told every Sunday by the National Football League regime that Native Americans aren’t people, but instead they are mascots, cartoons and relics,” Brian Cladoosby, president of the National Conference of American Indians, said at the news conference.

The Rev. John R. Deckenback of the United Church of Christ said the NFL has “lost its ethical way” and needs to “find an ethical core for all of its activities.”

The “Change the Mascot” campaign sent a letter on Tuesday to 31 NFL owners, excluding Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, calling on them to “play a constructive role against prejudice and for equality.”

“We are writing today to request that you use your position of authority in the NFL to put an end to the league’s promotion of a dictionary-defined racial slur as the Washington franchise’s name,” the campaign wrote in a letter.

The “Change the Mascot” campaign noted that Congress has provided the NFL tax-exempt status and argued that the NFL should not be using taxpayer resources to “promote this slur.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


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