On Sunday, after the failure of three of its four thrusters, SpaceX's Dragon capsule successfully docked with the International Space Station. The Dragon is a cargo capsule that delivered 1,200 pounds of supplies for use on the ISS. The technical difficulty that resulted in the loss of power from three of the Dragon's thruster pods was said to be a problem with the propellant valve. However, this problem was corrected with plenty of time to easily reach the ISS. 

This successful mission is a step forward for the privatization of spaceflight. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, hopes to make a big impact on the future of space technology with his new company. SpaceX has a contract with NASA, and will execute ten more missions on their behalf. SpaceX, along with Virgin Galactic, is a new generation of private space businesses that will make a tremendous impact on the future of spaceflight. 

As most know, NASA retired its orbiter (space shuttle) fleet last year and hopes to enlist the help of private companies like SpaceX in Earth orbit missions. NASA has begun work on new rocket technologies that could reach the Moon by 2020. Although private companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic may have an impact on suborbital flight, NASA plans to keep its control of deep space exploration. The ISS, with its experimentation aging, will be decommissioned in the near future. The focus is moving away from Earth and to a possible Mars settlement. The influence of private companies like SpaceX on the future of space exploration could range from negligible to significant.

Officials have released evidence that suggests that Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, "was obsessed" with mass murderers. After finding news reports of the  2011 Norwegian shooting that killed 69 in Lanza's room, investigators suggested that Lanza could have been trying to outdo Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian gunman. According to the sources, Lanza chose Sandy Hook because it was the "easiest target" and had the "largest cluster of people."

Officials also linked violent video games to Lanza's deadly actions. Evidence suggests that Lanza's shooting spree was an attempt to reenact the vision of a video game in real life. A lieutenant on the Connecticut State Police force dismissed this investigation, saying it is just speculation because the shooter is dead. Detectives and government officials are looking very closely at the whole case, however, and a report is expected to appear this summer. 

Breivik, the Norwegian shooter, believed himself to be an ultranationalist who killed to fight multiculturalism. Before shooting 69 people at a youth camp, Breivik detonated a bomb outside the prime minister's office. Breivik was judged to be sane, and sentenced to 21 years in prison. 

Last Thursday President Obama spoke to House Democrats about a long-term deal that would end this recent "governance by crisis." Obama wants to reach a deal that would provide a permanent solution to the national debt and financial crisis, rather than addressing these crises as they pop up. One of the President's major goals was to urge Congress to put off the spending cuts that were going to be put in place next month. Obama also stated that the solution to the debt cannot be levied on the seniors or students. He said, "It should not just be on the backs of parents who are trying to give their kids a better start in life." Obama also spoke with Democratic senators about his plan for his second term. In his plan, Obama has placed priority on immigration reform and gun control. Obama also wants to create an energy agenda will make America less dependent on foreign oil. 

In the near future are many legislative decisions that will include negotiating between the White House and the Republican House of Representatives. Many issues, like gun control and immigration, will bring out clashes between the parties. Obama conceded to his fellow Democrats that there would be times in the future "where you guys are mad at me." However, Obama is optimistic about the future and the possibilities of bipartisan progress. He told the Congressmen that as long as they remember why they came to Washington in the first place, that he believes positive work can continue to be done. 


This past Friday, just hours before the Sandy Hook shooting in Conneticut, a young man walked into an elementary school and attacked over 22 children. The difference between this attack and the Sandy Hook massacre was that this one took place in China, and the attacker was using a knife, not a gun. Although several of the young children had to receive immediate medical attention, all 22 survived the attack. One can't help but notice the gap between gun laws in the U.S. and China. The U.S., which has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, suffered 9,000 gun-related deaths last year. Countries with stricter gun laws, like Canada, don't have nearly as many (150 in Canada last year). 
The remarkable similarity between the attack in China and Conneticut makes the difference in death toll more blatant. As Dr. Ding Xueliang, a Harvard-educated sociologist, says, " The huge difference between this case and the U.S. is not the suspect, nor the situation, but the simple fact he did not have an effective weapon." Although both attacks were horrific, its is obvious to most that a knife is just not as deadly as a gun. 
There are 88.8 guns per 100 people in America. Nancy Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter's mother, was just another American who owned several firearms (including an automatic rifle that was used by Adam Lanza). Although opponents to gun laws will state that guns save more lives than they take, the Lanza household made it simple for a young man to kill innocent children, as well as his own mother. In China, and many other countries, these acts against innocent civilians do happen, but not with the loss of life like we've seen in the U.S. This particular incident in China shows how these harrowing attacks in America could have been far less costly if guns were not involved.

pine trees in Utah, dying from beetle infestation, caused by shorter winters/CNN

Although it is obvious to suspect dry regions of forests to struggle to cope with increasing temperatures and longer droughts, new studies show that climate change may have a more widely spread deadly impact than previously foreseen. The new study, published in Nature, looked at 226 species of tree from 81 spots around the globe. The research showed that 70% of tree species adapted closely to the rainfall amount of the region. This means that when short-lived, drastic climate changes affect a region, the trees will not be able to survive. Each time a tree survives a period of drought, small air bubbles form in the vascular tubes of the tree (embolisms) prohibiting the transport of water. If these droughts increase, the embolisms will make it impossible for the tree to sustain itself and it will die. Another downside of drought stress is carbon emissions. Drought-stressed trees cannot absorb C02 as effectively, adding to the greenhouse effect and further climate fluctuations. This causes a self-destructive cycle, in which loss of tree species adds to the greenhouse effect and the increasing amount of drought-stressed trees. A program that would provide funding for forest protection (REDD+, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) is being put on hold because the U.S. and China will not commit to emissions reductions. If the major polluting nations do not agree to reduce carbon emissions, other countries will not put forth money for REDD+.



House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told Fox News today that "Congress is never going to give up" control of the debt ceiling to the president. With the fiscal cliff looming, the executive branch is trying to pass a new legislation that would allow for more spending cuts and tax rate increases on the wealthy. This fiscal cliff deal includes the transfer of debt ceiling powers to the executive branch. Current law states that only Congress can raise the debt limit. This new plan would allow the White House to raise the debt ceiling if necessary. This deal, proposed on Thursday, calls for $1.6 trillion in tax increases and $400 billion in Medicare cuts over the next ten years. Today, Boehner called this proposal "nonserious" on Fox, and the Republican party is dismissing it. He also said on Sunday that he told Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, "you can't be serious."

John Boehner/Huffington Post