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Mediators Condemn South Sudanese Attack After Talks Progress

The Power of Fantasy: Bioterrorism, ISIS and Ebola Mania

Canada: Decoding Harper’s Terror Game. Beneath the Masks and Diversions

WHO: Ebola decline in Liberia could be real trend

Mediators Condemn South Sudanese Attack After Talks Progress

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By William Davison and Mading Ngor, October 30

East African mediators condemned an attack by rebels on the capital of South Sudan’s Unity state, amid talks on a power-sharing agreement to end more than 10 months of fighting.

Insurgents loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar should immediately cease hostilities after they attacked in and around Bentiu yesterday, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, known as IGAD, said in an e-mailed statement. The attack was repelled, army spokesman Philip Aguer said. Rebels said they didn’t start the latest round of fighting.

South Sudan’s government split after a dispute between President Salva Kiir and Machar erupted into conflict in December. East African regional group IGAD has been seeking to broker an accord to end the violence, which has left thousands of people dead and forced more than 1.8 million to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.

Fighting flared again earlier this week, with a rebel attack near oilfields north of Bentiu, according to the government. The clashes show that the rebel forces have “yet to abandon the option of war,” even though “significant progress” was made in the latest talks this month, IGAD said.

The latest fighting began three days ago with government attacks, Lul Ruai Koang, a spokesman for the rebel army, said by phone yesterday from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. He said rebels repulsed the advance and are “currently in control of Bentiu.”

Final Warning

There may have been a “high number” of casualties as the insurgents unsuccessfully attacked Bentiu, South Sudanese Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth told reporters today in Addis Ababa. The government will go on the offensive if attacked again by rebels who’ve opted for war, he said.

“We are here giving the final warning,” Lueth said. “Whatever efforts they make again, we will not tolerate it, we will give them hot pursuit wherever they go, even if they enter another country.”

As part of the effort to agree on a transitional administration, the government will allow a rebel nominee for a new prime ministerial position to stand for election at the end of a proposed 36-month interim period, Lueth said.

A “breakthrough” has been made in talks as Machar and Kiir have agreed to meet at a regional leaders’ summit that could be held this week to discuss “critical issues of sharing power in the top executive” during a transition, IGAD’s chief envoy Seyoum Mesfin said today.

“They will be the ones to negotiate what would be the power that they would share, or define the duties and obligations and powers of the president, the vice president, of the prime minister and deputy prime ministers, or even shatter this structure,” he told reporters in Addis Ababa.

The government won’t continue with negotiations while rebels pursue a military solution, Lueth said. “If rebels believe that only way to bring peace to South Sudan is through war then we can do it,” he said.

admin @ October 31, 2014

The Power of Fantasy: Bioterrorism, ISIS and Ebola Mania

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Bioterrorism, ISIS and Ebola Mania

Global Research, October 28, 2014

 

Does demagoguery have an inventive side? Only if you assume semi-literacy is virtuous, and that imagination lies in the name of the manipulative. The combination of both Ebola and terrorism are the evil twins of the same security dilemma. It is manufactured. It is a confection. And it is, at the end, worthless in what it actually suggests. The effects of it are, however, dangerous. They suggest that politicians can be skimpy with the evidence yet credible in the vote.

Historically, disease and culture share the same bed of significance. Notions of purity prevail in these considerations. Bioterrorism has become, rather appropriately, another mutation in the debate on how foreign fighters arriving in a country might behave. Individuals such as Jim Carafano, vice president of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation, continue insisting on the need for presidential administrations to form a “national bioterrorism watch system”.

“While [Ebola] is a dangerous disease that Washington needs to take seriously,” writes David Inserra of The Daily Signal, “America could face an even greater medical threat in the future: the threat of bioterrorism.”[1] While the language here seems to draw distinctions – that those suffering Ebola pose one set of problems, while the use of a bioterrorist agent is another – the ease of placing the two side by side is virtually irresistible.

In the wake of the Ebola outbreak, that old horse of potential bioterrorism has emerged with a convenient vengeance. This is not surprising, given the spectre of WMD fantasies that captivated the Bush administration in 2003. It is not sufficient that there are terrorists with a low probability of waging actual attacks on home soil, be they returning citizens, or simply foreign fighters wishing to stir up a good deal of fuss. Throwing in the disease component is hard to resist.

Rep. Mike Jelly of Pennsylvania decided to direct the bioterror genie the way of Islamic State fighters, suggesting that returning jihadists might cause Washington a good deal of headaches, not merely by their radicalisation, but by carrying the virus as a strategic weapon of infliction. “Think about the job they could do, the harm they could inflict on the American people by bringing this deadly disease into our cities, into schools, into our towns, and into our homes. Horrible, horrible.”[2]

This exotic lunacy was also appealing to Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who even suggested that Hamas fighters might be daft enough to infect themselves with Ebola and make a journey to freedom land in order to engage in acts of infectious mayhem. Their venue of safe passage would be from the South, where the evils of an open border with Mexico risk allowing a dangerous pathogen into the country. Now that, dear readers, is exactly what such figures think about Mexico.

The moral calculus operating with Wilson is that of irrational, dangerous death – those who “value death more than you value life”. Those with such a creed are bound to get up to any old and lethal mischief. “It would promote their creed. And all of this could be avoided by sealing the border, thoroughly. C’mon, this is the 21st century.”[3]

As to whether the idea of using such an agent would be feasible is quite something else. Weaponising such a pathogen has proven to be a formidable challenge. Such groups as the Aum Shinrikyo cult attempted to collect the virus while ostensibly on a medical mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was a failure of some magnitude. As Dina Fine Maron argues, the “financial and logistical challenges of transforming Ebola into a tool of bioterror makes the concern seem overblown – at least as far as widespread devastation is concerned.”[4] Even the FBI’s James Corney suggests that evidence of Islamic State’s involvement in an Ebola program is highly dubious.

This tends to get away from that old problem that the biggest of trouble makers in the business of death remain states rather than non-state ideologues. States have done more than their fair share of dabbling in the business of rearing microbes of death in the armoury. Be it small pox, botulism, and tularaemia, these have found their way into inventories and laboratories with disturbing normality.

Much of this has also been allowed to get away because of the Obama administration’s open confusion on the subject of how to handle the Ebola problem. The excitement has become feverish (dare one say pathological?) in the US, suggesting the double bind that the Obama administration finds itself. The President did not do himself any favours by on the one hand denying there was a grave threat, and then proceeding to appoint an “Ebola Czar” by the name of Ron Klain. This was classic bureaucracy in action – we create positions of unimportance to supposedly fight the unimportant, while admitting their gravity in creating such positions.

Certainly, the President found himself railroaded by events with the unilateral decisions of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) to implement mandatory 21-day quarantines for those returning from Ebola “hot zones”. This has always been the federal, and one might even say federalist headache: what is done in the White House and Washington often stays there. The response by states can often have a foreign sense to them. The US Centres for Disease and Control and Prevention has regarded such quarantine measures as unnecessary, but the CDC’s attempt to defuse the situation has not worked.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest had to face the music of disease on Monday, with a reporter suggesting that, if Klain was actually an “Ebola response coordinator”, it seemed “that you have a need for some coordinating here.”[5]

William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University, a long time student of infectious diseases, sees this as a matter of information, in so far as the more one gets, the less anxious one is bound to feel. “I would like not to call it irrational. When people are just learning about something, something that they regard as a threat, and they haven’t integrated all of this information still into their thought process, their sense of anxiety obviously increases.”[6]

Schaffner is unduly wedded to the rather unfashionable belief that knowledge somehow enlightens. But it is not knowledge that is driving this debate, but supposition. Facts are the enemy, and they continue to play the roles of silent, some might even say murdered witnesses.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: [email protected]

admin @ October 30, 2014

Canada: Decoding Harper’s Terror Game. Beneath the Masks and Diversions

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Global Research, October 28, 2014

 

Stephen Harper is the most deeply reviled Prime Minister in Canada’s history. On the world stage, he is the servant of Big Oil boiling oil out of tar-sands to destroy major river systems and pollute the planet with dirty oil, while his attack dog John Baird leads the warmongering and bullying of nations like Iran and Syria targeted by the US-Israeli axis.

He is the most despotic and toxic first minister in the life of our country. His administration defunds every social program and life protective system it can. It strips the country of its public information infrastructures at every level – including now the gagging of non-profit NGO’s by eliminating their charitable status if they question any policy of his regime.

Just as his friend George Bush Jr., Harper holds government by big-money backing, continual lies, attack ads, and life-blind policies to enrich the already rich. Canada’s neo-con political class may have its head on backwards, but Harper is very cunning in skirting, subverting and perverting the law to abuse power at every level. He is the poster boy of the global corporate agenda of wrecking society and its common life support systems.

Harper also owes his political life to the RCMP. After a after non-confidence vote triggered the 2006 election, RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli instructed his staff to include former Liberal finance minister Ralph Goodale’s name in a news release announcing a criminal investigation. This reversed the stench of the Harper regime’s continuous scandals and corruption onto the Liberals by a false RCMP smear. As a former top insider of the Tory party advised me, “the RCMP won the election for Harper”. The re-elected Harper regime then surrounded the RCMP with blocks to silence all facts – the signature operation – so the truly deepest scandal of the era proceeded with impunity to the present day. So it is not surprising that CSIS, the RCMP and Harper are collaborating to get more secret powers for the police and spooks in return for serving Harper’s underlying agenda.

How “Acts of Terrorism” Fit the Known M.O.

Harper certainly needs an accepted domestic enemy to save him from the rising revulsion of the thinking public against his rule. His regime’s record of destroying the life substance of Canada piece by piece cannot be denied. One already knew what was coming when Harper immediately called the crazed run-over of soldiers in Quebec on October 20 “a terrorist act” about which he was “deeply worried”. In fact, it was the act of a criminally insane loner run amok in a small Quebec town without any evident objective as required under the law’s definition of terrorism. But with the foreknowledge of his addled Islam by the RCMP and CSIS, he seems to have been an ideal patsy for Harper’s home “terrorism” claim. He had already been arrested and his passport cancelled in June. We can imagine how an effective undercover agent might have whipped him into a Jihad frenzy knowing he would soon be full of holes and unable to report what happened.

One can more clearly see such a scenario in the case of the clinically insane, drug-addicted petty criminal living in a homeless shelter in Ottawa who had warned a judge in front of the police back in 2011:”‘If you can’t keep me in, I’m going to do something”. Who could have been a better tool for the events to come? On October 22 after the first “As a “radicalized terrorist” attack, a double-barrelled shotgun impossible to hide that no-one saw before ended up in the hands of Micheal Zebaf-Bibeau. The rest is history. He went on a killing spree with no known blood testing afterwards for the drugs he was evidently driven by in the video record of his frenzied and super-charged behaviour, just as there was no known test of the body of crazed drive-over killer, Martin Couture-Rouleau. How extraordinary. How unspoken in the lavish profusion of other details and official false connection to ISIS.

“Terrorist” stops the mind, and “jihadist” locks it in. Harper’s first invocation of the mind-stopper was, as always, strategic. Although blood tests for a substance-abuse driving offense are automatic, none was reported although the videos show every sign of chemical possession. Bibeau too went crazy and was dead with countless bullets through him before any questions could be asked. All such strange coincidences are part of the now familiar covert-state MO.

Joining the Dots

Since Harper publicly claimed an “act of terrorism” two days before the sensational Ottawa murder and crashing of Parliament and as soon as the Quebec killing occurred, questions arise. The normally zipper-lip Harper did so long before any forensic facts were in, and before the idea even occurred to anyone else. Why? Revealingly the federal security state had been running war games exercises depicting just such attacks weeks before the crazed murders (Canadian Authorities Ran War Game Drills Depicting ISIS Attack Scenarios Brandon Martinez, Global Research, October 24, 2014). Lone-wolf nut cases, killings out of nowhere, unknown motivators and arming, and the state leader most profiting from mutation of the demented murders into “terrorist acts” before anyone else – – who joins the dots? It is taboo to think through such situations, and this too is known beforehand. Sure enough within the day, the RCMP and CSIS get the new extraordinary powers they sought, and for the first time in office the robotic Harper is behaving with a warmth not even extended to his young son with whom he shakes hands in farewell. He is hugging opposition leaders in Parliament to show a new human side to complete the image makeover in motion.

Harper is happy because he thinks his next election is saved. But the first forensic question in acts of murderous crimes is again never asked. The hypnotic trance of “terrorism” in sedate Ottawa holds the narrative unchallenged. Cui bono? Who benefits from these unbelievable closed-case murders in two days which have the media headlining “terrorism” and “anti-terrorist legislation” everywhere Canadians look, and Harper now as the strong hand in charge. The top banner headline of the weekend Globe screamed “How far should we go?”

Home-Grown Terror for Harper’s Re-Election

The first function of the terrorist claim is the standard one – diversion from the ailing economy and the majority’s growing revulsion of the leader and his party. Harper has made enemies of every thinking Canadian in the country by his stripping of the country’s public life and knowledge bases, and reversing the country’s global reputation as an agent of peace, social conscience and reverence for nature. Diversion to a constructed Enemy is the oldest strategy in the book of despised heads of state, and Harper is in unprecedented need for distraction to another target to uplift him at the same time. Bush Jr. ran on this formula for eight years.

If the stratagem is not seen through, the second big boost to Harper will be to justify the despotic rule and quasi-police state he has built with ever more prisons amidst declining crime, ever more ant-terrorist rhetoric and legislation, ever more cuts to life support systems and protections (the very ones which would have prevented these murderous rampages), and ever more war-mongering and war-criminal behaviours abroad. The evil regime of despotic control and life oppression he has instituted surpasses any ill rule in the nation’s history. As the US prototype of the life-blind right wing has taught him, the greatest justification of one’s rule is knee-jerk hatred of a safe Enemy. But in Canada, that does not work over time. So the domestic “acts of terrorism” in Quebec and Ottawa itself provide the needed Enemy within Canada to justify anything with ever new pomp, mandatory agreement of others, and ruling power at centre stage.

Diagnosing the Drive to Total Control

The rest follows. The “New Terrorist Laws” in execution were already the feature news headline on Oct 25, allowing for any new surveillance and control of citizens. Keep in mind our already-installed totalitarian airport regime that deprives people of water and hygiene products, dehumanizes all, and undresses millions with no questions allowed any step of the way. It is a synecdoche of the larger total rule advancing with the Harper gang in charge further than ever before. “Nothing can be the same again” cheer the corporate media in choral support.

More favours to the Harper regime from the RCMP and CSIS may be in store – for example, false allegations and naming of even the most honest opponents like Ralph Goodale who spent “the worst year of my life” recovering from the RCMP smear that kept Harper in power. It is a bit like the War Measures Act – new capacity to lock down any city at any time with armed-force control pervading the streets and police-army powers in the glory of mass-controlling armed command and kill license. It has already happened in Ottawa with a lone crazy, and the lock-down was infinitely more heavy-handed than in 1970 Montreal which I observed first hand. Keep in mind the trumped-up cause for it – one likely-drugged and managed murderous homeless mental case dead before any questions could be asked.

Observe too how the language changes to fit the agenda of total control. The keys are “terrorists” for lone individuals driven crazy with no more social supports for them, and “radicalization” with no modifier as the ultimate problem of thought behind the terror. What deprived group or oppositional rethinking cannot be so labelled? These psych-ops are already in full motion now. They have been minted into ruling group-mind by the mocked-up “terrorists attacks” at home, and Harper rule can only go further by such trances of normalized stupefaction now reinforced with Canadian blood.

Behind all the public psych-ops is the operation of reverse projection long perfected by the US war-machine. Blame the opposition for what you are doing as the reason for attacking them. At the Canada level, the reverse projections define the Harper regime. He is punitively and vindictively despotic, rigidly and vengefully doctrinaire, intolerant of deviation, shames and slanders at will, and overrides every democratic constraint to his insatiable drive to total control. Narrow and life-blind absolutism, indifference to others’ suffering, and certitude of virtue while destroying people and common life support systems complete the unseen rule of terror at work. A coterie of mediocre and corrupt subordinates surround and serve him to allow no shard of light in on the ruling mission of society destruction.

With most people not yet suspecting it, Harper rule is an Americanada mirror image of the jihad-fascism he uses to multiply his and his corporate allies’ rights and powers. Behind him lies the transnational money-sequence cancer he embodies in every policy line.

Prof. John McMurtry is the author of The Cancer Stage of Capitalism/ From Crisis to Cure

admin @ October 30, 2014

WHO: Ebola decline in Liberia could be real trend

Posted in: AFRICA, HEALTH | Comments (0)

By SARAH DiLORENZO

The Associated Press

DAKAR, Senegal —

The rate of new Ebola infections in Liberia appears to be declining and could represent a genuine trend, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, but the epidemic is far from over.

The disease is still raging in parts of Sierra Leone and there is still a risk that the decline in Liberia won’t be sustained, Dr. Bruce Aylward, an assistant director-general for WHO, warned reporters.

Several times during the outbreak officials have thought the disease’s spread was slowing, only to surge again later. Officials have often blamed those false lulls on cases hidden because people were too afraid to seek treatment, wanted to bury their relatives themselves or simply weren’t in contact with authorities.

But now there are some positive signs: There are empty beds in treatment centers in Liberia and the number of burials has declined. There may be as much as a 25 percent week-on-week reduction in cases in Liberia, Aylward said.

Throughout the Ebola outbreak, WHO has warned that its figures have been incomplete and the number of cases are likely vastly underreported. That is still a concern, Aylward said, but the trend nonetheless appears to be real.

“The epidemic (in Liberia) may be slowing down,” he said during a telephone press conference from Geneva. The slowdown could be attributable to a rapid increase in safe burials of Ebola victims, an uptick in the number of sick people being isolated and major public awareness campaigns on how to stop transmission.

So far, more than 13,700 people have been sickened in the outbreak, which has hit Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone hardest. That figure, released Wednesday by the World Health Organization, includes cases from earlier in the outbreak that were recently found in patient databases but had never been reported.

In yet another sign of the difficulty of providing real-time, accurate data, the WHO figures showed that Liberia’s total death toll dropped to around 2,400 deaths from the 2,700 reported a few days ago. Dan Epstein, a spokesman for the agency, said that was because laboratory investigations showed that cases previously thought to be Ebola were not.

In all, the disease is believed to have killed nearly 5,000 people.

Cautioning against reading too much into the decline in Liberia, Aylward said that any let-up in the response could allow the disease to surge again.

“Am I hopeful? I’m terrified the information will be misinterpreted and people would start to think, oh great, this is under control,” he said. “That’s like saying your pet tiger is under control.”

Liberia’s Red Cross said Tuesday that teams collected 117 bodies last week from the county that includes Monrovia, down from the high of 315 in one week in September, and the government reported last week that only about half of the available beds in treatment centers were occupied.

Others were more reluctant to call the decline a trend.

Ebola outbreaks come in waves, warned Benoit Carpentier, a spokesman for the International Federation of the Red Cross. Red Cross figures show deaths are still increasing outside Monrovia, he noted.

It’s possible that at least some of the decline is because cases are being hidden — a phenomenon that has plagued the response to the outbreak since the beginning, said Ella Watson-Stryker, a health promotion manager for Doctors Without Borders in Liberia.

She said her team has heard of people doing their own burials in order to avoid a government order that Ebola victims in Monrovia be cremated; the government has also cited fear of cremation, a practice deeply at odds with Liberian tradition, as a reason beds are empty in treatment centers. Watson-Stryker added that people may be staying away from such centers because they are still confused about what kind of care is given at them.

However the decline is characterized, Aylward said the response must not relax.

“This hasn’t dropped off a cliff. … There’s a huge risk it wouldn’t be sustained,” said Aylward. “It would be a huge mistake … to think we can scale down the response.”

Instead, experts should redouble their efforts to track all of the people with whom the sick have come into contact — a task that has been nearly impossible in many parts of the outbreak because of the sheer number of infections.

There’s also tremendous work still to be done outside Liberia.

The western areas of Sierra Leone, near the capital, have seen a particularly steady increase in cases lately.

On Wednesday, the government numbers showed 10 new confirmed cases reported in the country’s western districts, which include Freetown, during the previous 24 hours. Recent days have seen those districts report more than two dozen new confirmed cases in a single day.

Sierra Leone leader: change behavior to end Ebola

Health workers place the body of a man into a grave, as he is suspected of contracting and dying from the Ebola virus on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, Monday, Oct. 27, 2014. The United States will help fight Ebola over “the long haul,” the American ambassador to the United Nations said on a trip to the West African countries hit by the outbreak.(AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)

“We are in a crisis situation, which is going to get worse,” said Palo Conteh, the newly appointed head of Sierra Leone’s national Ebola Response Center. “Ebola is right ahead of us and it is running fast.”

He urged areas of the country experiencing increases in cases to follow the example of areas where the disease’s spread is declining: avoid contact with the sick, bury the dead properly and seek quick treatment for fevers.

The top U.N. official on Ebola, Anthony Banbury said Wednesday that the tremendous international response was beginning to pay off.

But Samantha Power, the American ambassador to the U.N., called on countries — especially those that had promised aid but not yet delivered — to do more. WHO said Wednesday it had received about half of the $260 million it needs to meet its objectives, and more had been pledged, leaving a gap of about 35 percent.

“The U.S. is not running away from Ebola but walking toward the burning building,” she said, as she urged others to do the same. Power spoke alongside Banbury in Ghana, where the U.N. mission on Ebola has its headquarters.

___

Cheng reported from London. Associated Press writers Francis Kokutse in Accra, Ghana, and Clarence Roy-Macaulay in Freetown, Sierra Leone, contributed to this report.

Copyright The Associated Press

admin @ October 30, 2014

Rocket explosion setback for commercial space

Posted in: AFRICA, NORTH AFRICA, WORLD NEWS | Comments (0)

By BROCK VERGAKIS

The Associated Press

Russians deliver space station cargo after US flop

This image provided by NASA shows the Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, as it suffers a catastrophic anomaly moments after launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad OA, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The Cygnus spacecraft was filled with about 5,000 pounds of supplies slated for the International Space Station, including science experiments, experiment hardware, spare parts, and crew provisions. (AP Photo/NASA, Joel Kowsky)

CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. —

Crews searched for scorched wreckage along the Virginia coast Wednesday in hopes of figuring out why an unmanned commercial rocket exploded in a blow to NASA‘s strategy of using private companies to fly supplies and, eventually, astronauts to the International Space Station.

The 140-foot Antares rocket, operated by Orbital Sciences Corp., blew up 15 seconds after lifting off for the space station Tuesday, lighting up the night sky and raining flaming debris on the launch site. No one was injured, but the $200 million-plus mission was a total loss.

The blast not only incinerated the cargo — 2½ tons of space station food, clothes, equipment and science experiments dreamed up by schoolchildren — but dealt a setback to the commercial spaceflight effort championed by NASA and the White House even before the shuttle was retired.

It was the first failure after an unbroken string of successful commercial cargo flights to the space station since 2012 — three by Orbital and five by SpaceX, the other U.S. company hired by NASA to deliver supplies.

Although the cause of the blast is still unknown, several outside experts cast suspicion on the 1960s-era Russian-built engines used in the rocket’s first stage. Orbital Sciences chairman David Thompson himself said the Russian engines had presented “some serious technical and supply challenges in the past.”

He said he expects the investigation to zero in on the cause within a week or so. The launch pad on Wallops Island appeared to have been spared major damage.

As for launching again, Thompson said he expects a delay of at least three months in the company’s next flight to the space station, which had been set for April.

“We are certainly disappointed by this failure, but in no way are we discouraged or dissuaded from our objectives,” he told investors in a phone conference.

Former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, who helped spearhead the commercial cargo effort, noted that the Antares rocket was still in development. He and others associated with the space agency went into the program knowing that failures were likely.

“It’s obviously tragic and upsetting, but we’ll move on,” Griffin told The Associated Press.

In another few years, NASA hopes to launch astronauts again from U.S. soil — aboard commercially supplied spacecraft.

Orbital Sciences has never intended to fly anything more for NASA than cargo. The political fallout from the blast is more likely to affect SpaceX and Boeing, both of which are under NASAcontract to fly Americans to the space station by 2017.

“We can’t allow the one incident of the Antares vehicle loss to smear space commercialization in Washington and on the Hill,” Boston-based space analyst Charles Lurio said in an email.

The mood was somber 260 miles up, according to space station astronaut Butch Wilmore. He and his five crewmates were watching a live video feed of the launch and saw the whole thing.

“It’s a great loss,” Wilmore said, quickly adding that the station pantry contains four to six months’ worth of food and that there is plenty of research to go around.

Debris — potentially hazardous because of fuel — plummeted into the Atlantic and onto the launch site, igniting fires. Helicopters took to the air at first light Wednesday to track down remnants. Authorities warned people to avoid touching any debris that might wash ashore.

Ash and other debris covered Chrissy Mullen’s house, patio and yard on Chincoteague Island a few miles away. She spent the morning cleaning up.

“We thought it was raining, but then we’re getting particles out of our hair,” she said. “The ash, the debris that was hitting our head was a little freaky.”

Carolyn Dalton watched the launch from the mainland while chaperoning four middle-school students from Colleton County, South Carolina, who had a milk-spoiling experiment aboard the rocket.

“People were screaming, people were crying, people were in shock,” Dalton said.

Just hours after the accident, Russia launched a supply ship from Kazakhstan on a previously scheduled flight to the space station, and it docked smoothly. Another load of supplies should be on the way in December, delivered by SpaceX from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

NASA is paying $1.9 billion to Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences for eight cargo hauls and $1.6 billion to California’s SpaceX for 12 shipments. Tuesday’s flight was insured.

Even before Tuesday’s failure, Orbital Sciences had been reviewing alternatives to the Russian-made engines, Thompson said. The company recently had selected a different main propulsion system for use in a couple of years, and the switch may be accelerated if the Russian engines prove to be the culprit, he said.

The AJ26 engines — modified and tested in the U.S. — originally were designed for the massive Soviet rockets meant to take cosmonauts to the moon during the late 1960s.

Three years ago, an AJ26 leaked kerosene fuel and ignited on the test stand at a NASA center in Mississippi. Just this past May, another of the engines exploded during a test firing there.

In 2012, SpaceX’s billionaire founder and CEO, Elon Musk, called the Antares rocket “a punchline to a joke” because of the Russian engines. SpaceX, by contrast, makes its own rocket parts.

“I mean they start with engines that were literally made in the ’60s and, like, packed away in Siberia somewhere,” Musk said in an interview with Wired magazine.

___

Associated Press writer Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this story. Dunn reported from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

___

Online:

Orbital Sciences: https://www.orbital.com

NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/offices/c3po/home

Copyright The Associated Press

admin @ October 30, 2014