Deputy PM: Luxembourg’s Space Mining Mission Begins Tuesday

When Luxembourg’s new law governing space mining comes into force on Tuesday, the country will already be working to make the science-fiction-sounding mission a reality, the deputy prime minister said.

The legislation will make Luxembourg the first country in Europe to offer a legal framework to ensure that private operators can be confident about their rights over resources they extract in space.

The law is based on the premise that space resources are capable of being owned by individuals and private companies and establishes the procedures for authorizing and supervising space exploration missions.

“When I launched the initiative a year ago, people thought I was mad,” Etienne Schneider told Reuters.

“But for us, we see it as a business that has return on investment in the short-term, the medium-term, and the long-term,” said Schneider, who is also Luxembourg’s economy minister.

Luxembourg in June 2016 set aside 200 million euros ($229 million) to fund initiatives aimed at bringing back rare minerals from space.

While that goal is at least 15 years off, new technologies are already creating markets that space mining could supply, said Schneider.

He said firms could soon make carrying materials to refuel or repair satellites economically feasible or supply raw materials to the 3-D printers now being tested on the International Space Station.

Lifting each kilogram of mass from Earth to orbit costs between 10,000 and 15,000 euros ($11,000 to $18,000), according to Schneider, but firms could cut these costs by recycling the debris of old satellites and rocket parts floating in space.

The small European country, best known for its fund management and private banking sector, will on Tuesday begin the work of making such deals, with the security of a legal framework in place, said Schneider.

Luxembourg has already managed to attract significant interest from pioneers in the field such as U.S. operators Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, and aims to attract research and development projects to set up there.

A similar package of laws was introduced in the United States in 2015 but only applies to companies majority owned by Americans, while Luxembourg’s laws will only require the company to have an office in the country.

“I am already in discussions with fund owners for more than 1 billion euros which they want to dedicate to space exploration over here in Luxembourg,” Schneider said. “In 10 years, I’m quite sure that the official language in space will be Luxembourgish.”

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Sam Shepard, Pulitzer-winning Playwright, Dead at 73

Sam Shepard, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Oscar-nominated actor and celebrated author whose plays chronicled the explosive fault lines of family and masculinity in the American West, has died. He was 73.

 

Family spokesman Chris Boneau said Monday that Shepard died Thursday at his home in Kentucky from complications related to Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

 

The taciturn Shepard, who grew up on a California ranch, was a man of few words who nevertheless produced 44 plays and numerous books, memoirs and short stories. He was one of the most influential playwrights of his generation: a plain-spoken poet of the modern frontier, both lyrical and rugged.

 

In his 1971 one-act “Cowboy Mouth, which he wrote with his then-girlfriend, musician and poet Patti Smith, one character says, “People want a street angel. They want a saint but with a cowboy mouth” — a role the tall and handsome Shepard fulfilled for many.

 

“I was writing basically for actors,” Shepard told The Associated Press in a 2011 interview. “And actors immediately seemed to have a handle on it, on the rhythm of it, the sound of it, the characters. I started to understand there was this possibility of conversation between actors and that’s how it all started.”

Shepard’s Western drawl and laconic presence made him a reluctant movie star, too. He appeared in dozens of films — many of them Westerns — including Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven,” “Steel Magnolias,” “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” and 2012’s Mud.” He was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as pilot Chuck Yeager in 1983’s “The Right Stuff.” Among his most recent roles was the Florida Keys patriarch of the Netflix series “Bloodline.”

But Shepard was best remembered for his influential plays and his prominent role in the Off-Off-Broadway movement. His 1979 play “Buried Child” won the Pulitzer for drama. Two other plays — “True West,” about two warring brothers, and “Fool for Love,” about a man who fears he’s turning into his father — were nominated for the Pulitzers as well. All are frequently revived.

 

“I always felt like playwriting was the thread through all of it,” Shepard said in 2011. “Theater really when you think about it contains everything. It can contain film. Film can’t contain theater. Music. Dance. Painting. Acting. It’s the whole deal. And it’s the most ancient. It goes back to the Druids. It was way pre-Christ. It’s the form that I feel most at home in, because of that, because of its ability to usurp everything.”

 

Samuel Shepard Rogers VII was born in Fort Sheridan, Illinois, in 1943. He grew up on an avocado ranch in Duarte, California. His father was an alcoholic schoolteacher and former Army pilot. Shepard would later write frequently of the damage done by drunks. He had his own struggles, too; long stretches of sobriety were interrupted by drunk driving arrests, in 2009 and 2015.

 

Shepard arrived in New York in 1963 with no connections, little money and vague aspirations to act, write or make music.

“I just dropped in out of nowhere,” he told the New Yorker in 2010. But Shepard quickly became part of the off-off-Broadway movement at downtown hangouts like Caffe Cino and La MaMa. “As far as I’m concerned, Broadway just does not exist,” Shepard told Playboy in 1970 — though many of his later plays would end up there.

 

His early plays — fiery, surreal verbal assaults — pushed American theater in an energized, frenzied direction that matched the times. A drummer himself, Shepard found his own rock ‘n roll rhythm. Seeking spontaneity, he initially refused to rewrite his drafts, a strategy he later dismissed as “just plain stupid.”

 

As Shepard grew as a playwright, he returned again and again to meditations on violence, masculinity and family. His collection “Seven Plays,” which includes many of his best plays, including “Buried Child” and “The Tooth of Crime,” was dedicated to his father.

 

“There’s some hidden, deeply rooted thing in the Anglo male American that has to do with inferiority, that has to do with not being a man, and always, continually having to act out some idea of manhood that invariably is violent,” he told The New York Times in 1984. “This sense of failure runs very deep — maybe it has to do with the frontier being systematically taken away, with the guilt of having gotten this country by wiping out a native race of people, with the whole Protestant work ethic. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s the source of a lot of intrigue for me.”

 

Shepard was married from 1969 to 1984 to actress O-Lan Jones, with whom he had son Jesse Mojo Shepard.

 

His connection to music was constant. He joined Bob Dylan on the 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour of 1975, and co-wrote the song “Brownsville Girl” with him. Shepard and Patti Smith were one-time lovers but lifetime friends.

“We’re just the same,” Smith once said. “When Sam and I are together, it’s like no particular time.”

Shepard’s movie career began in the late ’70s. While making the 1982 Frances Farmer biopic “Frances,” he met Jessica Lange and the two remained together for nearly 30 years. They had two children, Hannah Jane and Samuel Walker. They separated in 2009. Lange once said of Shepard: “No man I’ve ever met compares to Sam in terms of maleness.”

 

Shepard worked occasionally in movies (among other things, he wrote Wim Wenders’ 1984 Texas brothers drama “Paris, Texas”) but took acting gigs more frequently as he grew older. One movie, he said, could pay for 16 plays.

 

Besides his plays, Shepard wrote short stories and a full-length work of fiction, “The One Inside,” which came out earlier this year. “The One Inside” is a highly personal narrative about a man looking back on his life and taking in what has been lost, including control over his own body as the symptoms of ALS advance.

 

“Something in the body refuses to get up. Something in the lower back. He stares at the walls,” Shepard writes. “The appendages don’t seem connected to the motor — whatever that is — driving this thing. They won’t take direction _ won’t be dictated to — the arms, legs, feet, hands. Nothing moves. Nothing even wants to.”

Shepard’s longtime editor at Alfred A. Knopf, LuAnn Walther, said Shepard’s language was “quite poetic, and very intimate, but also very direct and plainspoken.” She said that when people asked her what Shepard was really like, she would respond, “Just read the fiction.”

 

In Shepard’s 1982 book “Motel Chronicles,” he said that he felt like he never had a home. That feeling, he later, acknowledged, always remained.

 

“I basically live out of my truck,” Shepard said in 2011. “I feel more at home in my truck than just about anywhere, which is a sad thing to say. But it’s true.”

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Chemical Industry and US Call for Global Culture of Chemical Security

Securing petrochemical plants and keeping chemicals out of the hands of terrorists were the topics of discussion at a recent Chemical Sector Security Summit in Houston, Texas. Security experts say the countries that are producing chemicals are shifting and that is one of many reasons developed and developing nations need to share best security practices. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee reports from Houston, a petrochemical hub in the United States.

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Online Suicide Searches Spike After Netflix Released ’13 Reasons Why’

Online searches about suicide and suicide methods spiked in the weeks following the release of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, a show that dramatizes the suicide of a teenage girl, according to a U.S. study released Monday.

Google searches about suicide were 19 percent higher than average in the 19 days following the show’s release on March 31, translating into 900,000 to 1,500,000 more searches, researchers reported in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine. 

The study did not examine whether the actual number of suicides increased following the series’ release, but researchers said the internet search trend is troubling.

Google search volumes for things like “how to commit suicide,” “commit suicide” and “how to kill yourself” all decisively spiked during the 19-day window after the show’s release. A 2009 study suggested “suicide search trends are correlated with actual suicides,” according to a letter accompanying the study in JAMA.

Many mental health experts concluded that Netflix acted unethically by releasing the series. In it, a high school girl leaves behind 13 cassette tapes that explain the decision to take her own life. The series, which some argue glamorizes suicide, has been renewed for a second season.

The San Diego State University researcher who led the study, John Ayers, called on Netflix to reconsider the show and the effects it is having on its teenage-skewing audience.

“Psychiatrists have expressed grave concerns because the show ignores the World Health Organization’s validated media guidelines for preventing suicide,” Ayers told VOA in an email. “Tragically, it is unsurprising then that we find the show has increased suicidal thoughts.

“The show’s makers must swiftly change their course of action, including removing the show and postponing a second season. If not, subscribers should consider canceling their subscriptions so not to support programming that can cause premature death. I am no longer a subscriber.”

Currently, the most violent episodes are prefaced with warnings. Netflix has also created a website equipped with suicide hotlines for each of the countries in which it can be streamed. In a statement, Netflix defended 13 Reasons Why, saying that the show has spurred an important conversation.

“We always believed this show would increase discussions around this tough subject matter,” Netflix said. “This is an interesting quasi-experimental study that confirms this. We are looking forward to more research and taking everything we learn to heart as we prepare for season two.”

The study analyzed Google trends between March 31, 2017, and April 18. They halted their research on that date because former National Football League player Aaron Hernandez committed suicide on April 19, a development that might have skewed the data.

Researchers used the period between January and March 2017 as a control to determine the expected volume of suicide-related Google search queries.

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With Uber in Turmoil, Lyft’s Ridership Surpasses All of 2016

Ride-hailing service Lyft carried more passengers through June this year than it did in all of last year as it capitalized on missteps at Uber.

 

The company says ridership through June surpassed the 162.5 million rides it gave in all of 2016. A spokeswoman wouldn’t give an exact number.

 

Lyft has made its gains as some shun much larger rival, Uber. Riders boycotted Uber after allegations that it took advantage of a New York taxi boycott in protest of President Donald Trump’s first order on immigration. There also were reports of widespread sexual harassment.

 

Lyft wouldn’t comment on Uber but says it added 160 U.S. cities this year. The company operates only in the U.S.

 

Uber says it’s given more than 5 billion rides since 2010.

 

 

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Clooney Foundation to Open Schools for Syrian Refugees

George Clooney’s foundation is planning to open seven public schools for Syrian refugee children.

 

The Clooney Foundation for Justice announced a new partnership Monday with Google, HP and UNICEF to provide education for more than 3,000 refugee children in Lebanon.

 

George and Amal Clooney said in a statement Monday that the foundation’s commitment of more than $2 million toward education for Syrian refugees aims to prevent thousands of young people from becoming “a lost generation.”

 

The couple said Syrian refugee children “have been victims of geography and circumstance” for whom formal education can make all the difference.

 

George and Amal Clooney established the Clooney Foundation for Justice last year to support equity in courtrooms, classrooms and communities around the world.

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