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Donald Trump to be allowed back on Facebook after 2-year ban

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Facebook parent Meta said Wednesday it will restore former President Donald Trump ’s personal account in the coming weeks, ending a two-year suspension it imposed in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The company said in a blog post it is adding “new guardrails” to ensure there are no “repeat offenders” who violate its rules, even if they are political candidates or world leaders.

“The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box,” wrote Nick Clegg, Meta’s vice president of global affairs.

Clegg added that when there is a “clear risk” to real-world harm, Meta will intervene.

“In the event that Mr. Trump posts further violating content, the content will be removed and he will be suspended for between one month and two years, depending on the severity of the violation,” he wrote. Facebook suspended Trump on Jan. 7, 2021, for praising people engaged in violent acts at the Capitol a day earlier. But the company had resisted earlier calls — including from its own employees — to remove Trump’s account.

Meta said Trump’s accounts will be restored “in the coming weeks” on both Facebook and Instagram. Banned from mainstream social media, Trump has been relying on Truth Social, which he launched after being blocked from Twitter.

Facebook is not only the world’s largest social media site, but had been a crucial source of fundraising revenue for Trump’s campaigns, which spent millions of dollars on the company’s ads in 2016 and 2020. The move, which comes as Trump is ramping up his third run for the White House, will not only allow Trump to communicate directly with his 34 million followers — dramatically more than the 4.8 million who currently follow him on Truth Social — but will also allow him to resume direct fundraising. During the suspension, his supporters were able to raise money for him, but couldn’t run ads directly from him or in his voice.

Responding to the news, Trump blasted Facebook’s original decision to suspend his account as he praised Truth Social.

“FACEBOOK, which has lost Billions of Dollars in value since “deplatforming” your favorite President, me, has just announced that they are reinstating my account. Such a thing should never again happen to a sitting President, or anybody else who is not deserving of retribution!” he wrote.

Other social media companies, including Snapchat, where he remains suspended, also kicked him off their platforms following the insurrection. He was recently reinstated on Twitter after Elon Musk took over the company. He has not tweeted yet.

Civil rights groups and others on the left were quick to denounce Meta’s move. Letting Trump back on Facebook sends a signal to other figures with large online audiences that they may break the rules without lasting consequences, said Heidi Beirich, founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism and a member of a group called the Real Facebook Oversight Board that has criticized the platform’s efforts.

“I am not surprised but it is a disaster,” Beirich said of Meta’s decision. “Facebook created loopholes for Trump that he went right through. He incited an insurrection on Facebook. And now he’s back.”

NAACP President Derrick Johnson blasted the decision as “a prime example of putting profits above people’s safety” and a “grave mistake.”

“It’s quite astonishing that one can spew hatred, fuel conspiracies, and incite a violent insurrection at our nation’s Capitol building, and Mark Zuckerberg still believes that is not enough to remove someone from his platforms,” he said.

But Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University called the reinstatement “the right call — not because the former president has any right to be on the platform but because the public has an interest in hearing directly from candidates for political office.”

The ACLU also called it the right move.

“Like it or not, President Trump is one of the country’s leading political figures and the public has a strong interest in hearing his speech. Indeed, some of Trump’s most offensive social media posts ended up being critical evidence in lawsuits filed against him and his administration,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “The biggest social media companies are central actors when it comes to our collective ability to speak — and hear the speech of others — online. They should err on the side of allowing a wide range of political speech, even when it offends.”

Clegg said that in light of his previous violations, Trump now faces heightened penalties for repeat offenses. Such penalties “will apply to other public figures whose accounts are reinstated from suspensions related to civil unrest under our updated protocol.”

If Trump — or anyone else — posts material that doesn’t violate Facebook’s rules but is otherwise harmful and could lead to events such as the Jan. 6 insurrection, Meta says it will not remove it but it may limit its reach. This includes praising the QAnon conspiracy theory or trying to delegitimize an upcoming election.

While Trump has insisted publicly that he has no intention of returning to Twitter, he has been discussing doing so in recent weeks, according to two people familiar with the plans who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Though it has been eclipsed culturally by newer rivals like TikTok, Facebook remains the world’s largest social media site and is an incredibly powerful political platform, particularly among older Americans, who are most likely to vote and give money to campaigns.

Throughout his tenure as president, Trump’s use of social media posed a significant challenge to major social media platforms trying to balance the public’s need to hear from their elected leaders with worries about misinformation, harassment and incitement of violence.

“In a healthier information ecosystem, the decisions of a single company would not carry such immense political significance, and we hope that new platforms will emerge to challenge the hegemony of the social media giants,” the ACLU’s Romero said.

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NASA Awards University Research Projects to Support Agency Missions

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“NASA’s EPSCoR awards are a tool to strengthen research capacity in areas across our nation that have historically been underrepresented in government research,” said Torry Johnson, deputy associate administrator of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Engagement Programs at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The goal with each award is to provide institutions a long-term and sustainable pathway to participating in the aerospace industry by cultivating competitive research capabilities and fostering strategic relationships with NASA experts.”

The EPSCoR awards will compliment NASA’s research portfolio to benefit future missions. Selected proposals cover a range of science and technology needs including in space manufacturing, heliophysics, astronaut health, and climate research.

The NASA EPSCoR Rapid Response Research grants, funded by the agency’s Office of STEM Engagement, will award approximately $100,000 to each project over the course of a one-year performance period for fiscal year 2024.

The awarded institutions are:

  • University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • University of Arkansas in Little Rock
  • University of Delaware in Newark
  • Iowa State University in Ames
  • University of Idaho in Moscow
  • University of Kentucky in Lexington
  • Louisiana Board of Regents in Baton Rouge
  • University of Mississippi in University
  • Montana State University in Bozeman
  • University of North Dakota in Grand Forks
  • University of Nebraska in Omaha
  • New Mexico State University in Las Cruces
  • Nevada System of Higher Education in Reno
  • Oklahoma State University in Stillwater
  • Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island
  • College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina
  • South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City
  • West Virginia University in Morgantown
  • University of Wyoming in Laramie

NASA establishes partnerships with government, higher education, and industry to create lasting improvements in research infrastructure while enhancing national research and development competitiveness. The program is directed at those jurisdictions that have traditionally been underrepresented in competitive aerospace and aerospace-related research activities.

For more information about NASA STEM, visit:

https://stem.nasa.gov

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NASA Selects First Lunar Instruments for Artemis Astronaut Deployment

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Artist’s concept of an Artemis astronaut deploying an instrument on the lunar surface. Credits: NASA

NASA has chosen the first science instruments designed for astronauts to deploy on the surface of the Moon during Artemis III. Once installed near the lunar South Pole, the three instruments will collect valuable scientific data about the lunar environment, the lunar interior, and how to sustain a long-duration human presence on the Moon, which will help prepare NASA to send astronauts to Mars.

“Artemis marks a bold new era of exploration, where human presence amplifies scientific discovery. With these innovative instruments stationed on the Moon’s surface, we’re embarking on a transformative journey that will kick-start the ability to conduct human-machine teaming – an entirely new way of doing science,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. “These three deployed instruments were chosen to begin scientific investigations that will address key Moon to Mars science objectives.”

The instruments will address three Artemis science objectives: understanding planetary processes, understanding the character and origin of lunar polar volatiles, and investigating and mitigating exploration risks. They were specifically chosen because of their unique installation requirements that necessitate deployment by humans during moonwalks. All three payloads were selected for further development to fly on Artemis III that’s targeted to launch in 2026, however, final manifesting decisions about the mission will be determined at a later date. Members of these payload teams will become members of NASA’s Artemis III science team.

The Lunar Environment Monitoring Station (LEMS) is a compact, autonomous seismometer suite designed to carry out continuous, long-term monitoring of the seismic environment, namely ground motion from moonquakes, in the lunar south polar region. The instrument will characterize the regional structure of the Moon’s crust and mantle, which will add valuable information to lunar formation and evolution models. LEMS previously received four years of NASA’s Development and Advancement of Lunar Instrumentation funding for engineering development and risk reduction. It is intended to operate on the lunar surface from three months up to two years and may become a key station in a future global lunar geophysical network. LEMS is led by Dr. Mehdi Benna, from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Lunar Effects on Agricultural Flora (LEAF) will investigate the lunar surface environment’s effects on space crops. LEAF will be the first experiment to observe plant photosynthesis, growth, and systemic stress responses in space-radiation and partial gravity. Plant growth and development data, along with environmental parameters measured by LEAF, will help scientists understand the use of plants grown on the Moon for both human nutrition and life support on the Moon and beyond. LEAF is led by Christine Escobar of Space Lab Technologies, LLC, in Boulder, Colorado.

The Lunar Dielectric Analyzer (LDA) will measure the regolith’s ability to propagate an electric field, which is a key parameter in the search for lunar volatiles, especially ice. It will gather essential information about the structure of the Moon’s subsurface, monitor dielectric changes caused by the changing angle of the Sun as the Moon rotates, and look for possible frost formation or ice deposits. LDA, an internationally contributed payload, is led by Dr. Hideaki Miyamoto of the University of Tokyo and supported by JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency).

“These three scientific instruments will be our first opportunity since Apollo to leverage the unique capabilities of human explorers to conduct transformative lunar science,” said Joel Kearns, deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “These payloads mark our first steps toward implementing the recommendations for the high-priority science outlined in the Artemis III Science Definition Team report.”

Artemis III, the first mission to return astronauts to the surface of the Moon in more than 50 years, will explore the south polar region of the Moon, within 6 degrees of latitude from the South Pole. Several proposed landing regions for the mission are located among some of the oldest parts of the Moon. Together with the permanently shadowed regions, they provide the opportunity to learn about the history of the Moon through previously unstudied lunar materials.

With the Artemis campaign, NASA will land the first woman, first person of color, and its first international partner astronaut on the Moon, and establish long-term exploration for scientific discovery and preparation for human missions to Mars for the benefit of all.

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NASA Administrator Names New Head of Space Technology

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Dr. Kurt “Spuds” Vogel will serve as the new associate administrator of the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced Tuesday. His appointment is effective immediately.

Vogel succeeds James Reuter, who retired from the agency in June 2023. Dr. Prasun Desai has served as the acting associate administrator since and now will return to his previous role as deputy associate administrator for STMD.

“With more than three decades of public service, including his most recent role as NASA’s director of Space Architecture, Spuds brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate,” said Nelson. “I am confident his leadership will help NASA continue pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with space technologies and advancing American leadership in space.”

In this role, Vogel is responsible for executive leadership, overall strategic planning and direction, and effective management for all elements of the Space Technology Programs executed under STMD’s $1.2 billion budget. He plans, directs, coordinates, and evaluates the full range of space technology programs and activities including budget formulation and execution, and represents the program to appropriate officials within and outside the agency.

Previously, Vogel was appointed as the director of space architectures within the Office of the Administrator at NASA Headquarters, a role he has served since July 19, 2021.

He joined the agency with 34 years of government experience, primarily in the Department of Defense.

Prior to his NASA appointment, Vogel served for six years at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), leading innovative research in stealth technology, electronic warfare, air-space integration, and space control systems. He managed a portfolio of classified, state-of-the-art, high-risk programs that spanned multiple DARPA offices.

Before joining DARPA, Vogel led research and development efforts at the Air Force Research Lab’s Systems Technology Office where he directed a Defense Department science and technology portfolio. He also served as the acting chief technologist for the National Reconnaissance Office’s Survivability Assurance Office. He retired from active duty in 2010 after serving more than 21 years in the U.S. Air Force in both the air and space domains.

Vogel holds a Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Science in Astronautical Engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy. He is a member of the national honor societies for both engineering and aerospace engineering.

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