MIT, US Space Force to explore opportunities for research and workforce development

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Advancing human understanding and exploration in space is a long-standing pursuit of researchers and students at MIT. For the U.S. military, space technologies and discovery have wide-ranging implications on national security. With that history and context in mind, the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro) hosted an on-campus event on Aug. 31, marking a new research engagement between MIT and the United States Space Force (USSF) to explore mutual interests and identify opportunities in research and education.

As global access to space increases, so does the need to protect the systems in Earth orbit that power much of the technology modern society relies on, such as GPS, telecommunication, and more.

"This engagement will lead to exciting advances in space systems and technology through research, a diverse educational pipeline of students who become guardians, and so much more. The sky is not our limit as we pursue these mutual interests together," says Daniel Hastings, associate dean of engineering for diversity, equity, and inclusion, head of AeroAstro, and Cecil and Ida Green Education Professor. "This marks an exciting first step to apply our commitment to technical excellence and our passion for space to contribute to national security. This new arrangement is a win-win for all of us — for AeroAstro, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and the U.S. Space Force."

Gen. John W. "Jay" Raymond, chief of space operations for the USSF, met with Hastings, members of AeroAstro faculty, representatives of MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and MIT Provost Martin Schmidt to discuss the importance of space as a domain for national defense, the USSF's newly-created University Partnership Program, and MIT's ongoing interest in space research, education, and innovation. During the event, Raymond and Schmidt signed a memorandum of understanding between MIT and the USSF to explore opportunities for engagement.

"MIT's relationship with the military is a fundamental element of its history," said Schmidt during his opening remarks. "While the challenges and technologies have changed over time, MIT's commitment to military research partnerships has not. Our work together has helped to keep America safe while holding to the Institute's core mission and values."

When the USSF was established as an independent military branch in late 2019, one of the highest priorities was building out the workforce to carry out its strategic mission. But to meet the complex, highly technical challenges inherent to the space environment, the guardians — military and civilian employees of the Space Force — that comprise their workforce would require specialized education and training to operate in a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-focused domain.

To address this need, the USSF created the University Partnership Program, which aims "to recruit, educate, develop, and retain a competent, diverse, and inclusive workforce who possess the technical expertise to develop, field, and operate the world's most advanced systems," according to USSF promotional material. MIT is one of 11 academic institutions from around the country selected for the inaugural cohort of participants in the program based on the quality of STEM degree offerings and space-related research programs; a strong ROTC presence; a diverse student population; and degrees and programming designed to support military veterans and their families.

In addition to AeroAstro, MIT is a hub for space-relevant research and education. Lincoln Laboratory, a Department of Defense federally-funded research and development center, is outfitted with secure facilities to support classified projects. In addition, the Center for International Studies has a policy-related Security Studies Program. The Institute's culture of interdisciplinary collaboration also creates the opportunity to leverage expertise in a wide range of relevant fields such as computer science, communications, cybersecurity, nuclear science, materials science, design, and artificial intelligence.

"We are trying to custom-build the first new military service since 1947 when the Air Force became independent from the Army. We knew we needed to up our STEM focus, and in my opinion, there is no better place to do that than MIT," said Raymond. "We look forward to exploring this relationship together, and we can't thank MIT enough for what this collaboration is going to mean to us in the future."

To conclude his visit, Raymond met with cadets from the MIT Air Force Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) and spoke with them about his career and his personal experience in the ROTC. He also fielded questions about leadership and the challenges and opportunities of building a new branch of the military.

Source: MIT, US Space Force to explore opportunities for research and workforce development

Money Is Tight Right Now. Here’s How 9 People Are Getting By

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From a mechanic whose six-figure salary has been halved to a hairstylist who has lost her home, readers across the US gave us a look at their financial reality.

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Source: Money Is Tight Right Now. Here’s How 9 People Are Getting By

Anna Wintour Isn’t Going To Cancel Herself

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Vogue’s editor is now promising to do better for Black employees and readers. Does she not realize that she, largely alone, had all the power all along?

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Source: Anna Wintour Isn’t Going To Cancel Herself

What’s the next chapter in Afghanistan?

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After nearly 20 years, the U.S. has withdrawn its troops from Afghanistan, and the Taliban has regained control over the country. In light of those developments, a panel of foreign-policy experts on Tuesday addressed two separate but related questions: Why did the U.S. military action in Afghanistan fall short, and what comes next for the strife-ridden country?

The event occurred as observers are still digesting the rapid collapse of the U.S.-backed national government in Afghanistan, which could not maintain power as the U.S. undertook its military withdrawal.

“Even I didn’t think they would go down in 10 days,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown PhD ’07, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology.

The virtual event, “U.S., Afghanistan, 9/11: Finished or Unfinished Business?” was the latest in the Starr Forum series held by MIT’s Center for International Studies, which examines key foreign-policy and international issues. Barry Posen, the Ford International Professor of Political Science at MIT, moderated the event.

As to why the U.S. could not help build a more solid state in Afghanistan given 20 years, the panelists offered multiple answers.

Juan Cole, a professor of history at University of Michigan who specializes in the Middle East, suggested that large-scale military ambitions in Afghanistan constituted a case of strategic overreach. The Taliban controlled much of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, providing a haven for the Al Qaeda terrorist group that carried out the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. But any military activities beyond those aimed at dismantling Al Qaeda, he stated, were likely to be quixotic.

“The initial U.S. attack on Afghanistan could be justified,” Cole said. “Al Qaeda had training camps there which were used to plot out 9/11, and so destroying those camps, making sure they couldn’t continue to operate, was a legitimate military mission.”

However, Cole proposed, “occupying an entire country of millions of people, and a difficult country to run and occupy” was “foredoomed to fail.” The U.S. inevitably worked more closely with some ethnic groups and not others; local elites siphoned off foreign aid; and some militarized factions who had been aligned with the U.S. reacted strongly against seeing foreign troops in the country. All this meant U.S. expectations were soon “met with reality on the ground,” Cole said.

Felbab-Brown emphasized two long-running factors that helped undermine U.S. efforts to build a new Afghan state. For one thing, she noted, neither the U.S. nor any other country could reorient neighboring Pakistan away from its decades-long alignment with the Taliban.

“Essentially, the United States never resolved how to dissuade Pakistan from providing multifaceted support for the Taliban, down to the last days of July and August … and throughout the entire 20 years, the material support, safe havens, and all kinds of other support,” she said.

Secondly, in a country where 40 to 50 percent of income in the last two decades has come from foreign aid, Felhab-Brown noted, the U.S. and its allies were not able to determine “how to persude local governing elites to moderate their role” and create more satisfactory habits of local administration.  

All that said, Felbab-Brown pointed to positive consequences of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan over the last 20 years, including economic benefits and educational gains for women in particular.

“There is still a big difference between the poverty of today [in Afghanistan] and the mass starvation and huge degradation of civil and human rights that was the case in the 1990s,” Felhab-Brown said.

So, where is Afghanistan headed, assuming the Taliban consolidate control over most or all of the country?

“The worst outcome is rule that over time will come to look like the 1990s,” Felhab-Brown said, referring to the highly repressive Taliban policies that provided virtually no rights for women and massive restrictions on cultural activity.

Alternately, Felhab-Brown suggested, “The best outcome is an Iran-like system, with both the political structures of Iran … and a set of political freedoms where women can have education, can have jobs, can leave a house without a guardian, a crucial condition.” That would still represent a restrictive state by Western standards, and as Felhab-Brown suggested, it is also possible that the Taliban will settle on a more restrictive set of policies.

The international-relations repercussions of a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan remain uncertain as well, noted Carol Saivetz, a senior advisor and Russia specialist with the MIT Security Studies Program. She observed that while some in Russia might take satisfaction in watching the U.S. struggle while departing Afghanistan, Russia itself has long-running concerns about the spread of radical Islamic groups in its sphere of influence.

“I think that it’s a short-term gain … that longer-term I think could be very problematic for the Russians,” Saivetz said. “I think they are really scared of any kind of threat of Islamist terrorism overtaking Russia again.”

Saivetz also observed that the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, which lasted from 1979 to 1989, indicated the difficulties of trying to transform the country, especially in its rural settings.

“The Soviet experience in Afghanistan was really very similar to ours,” Saivetz said.

In his concluding thoughts, Posen called the winding up of the U.S. military presence “a tragic chapter in a 20-year book” and noted that with so much of the Afghanistan economy having consisted of foreign aid programs now seemingly about to end, outside countries still have difficult decisions to make about what sort of relationship they might pursue with the country’s new leaders.

“The West has a lot of deep ethical choices to make here, about its relationship, not just with the Taliban, but the Afghan people,” Posen said.

Source: What’s the next chapter in Afghanistan?

Aliens board game is another ho-hum dungeon crawler

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Ripley defending Newt.

Enlarge / Ripley defending Newt.

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at

Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps is a peculiar release. Aliens, James Cameron’s follow-up to the sci-fi classic Alien is frankly one of the best action films ever made, so the excitement around this new cardboard adaptation is not surprising. The problem? We’ve seen it all before.

Aliens first received a tabletop implementation with a strong 1989 design published by Leading Edge. The spirit of the film was further embodied in Games Workshop’s classic Space Hulk, a game that was Aliens in all but name. Space Hulk influenced hundreds of tabletop dungeon crawlers since, each paying homage to their predecessors and re-wrapping that core tense experience with minute deviations.

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Source: Aliens board game is another ho-hum dungeon crawler

Reflecting on September 11, 20 years later

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The 20th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001, is an occasion to look back on the American response to the atrocities, how and why they occurred, and what the implications are for future global policy dealing with terrorist groups. The long war in Afghanistan, a war-torn country that harbored Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, and the subsequent war in Iraq took hundreds of thousands of lives, among them several thousand American military, and ushered in a global war on terror that by most reckonings has had doubtful results. 

Steven Simon, the Robert E Wilhelm Fellow at the MIT Center for International Studies, is one of the people who observed the unfolding of the war on terror from the vantage points of the White House staff and as a scholar and writer. He served as the National Security Council senior director for the Middle East and North Africa during the Obama Administration and as the council's senior director for counterterrorism in the Clinton White House. These assignments followed a 15-year career at the U.S. Department of State. Between government appointments, he worked in the private sector and in academia. He comes to MIT from Colby College, where he was professor of the practice of international relations. Simon has co-authored books on the U.S. response to 9/11, including The Next Attack: The Failure of the War on Terror and a Strategy for Getting it Right, which was a finalist for the Lionel Gelber Prize and listed among the best books of the year on this topic in The Washington Post and Financial Times.

In this interview, Simon reflects on the 9/11 catastrophe, and offers some advice on where we can go from here.

Q: Looking back at events leading to September 11, it is often noted that a lack of communication between the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation contributed to the execution of the attacks. Based on your experience at the White House before 9/11, do you agree that this was the most significant intelligence failure?                       

A: As with many surprise attacks, 9/11 entailed an interlocking series of both intelligence and policy failures. In the intelligence domain, there was no question that the failure of the CIA to inform the FBI of the entry into the United States of two key hijackers, who were tracked by CIA there from an Al Qaeda meeting in Kuala Lumpur, was a consequential blunder. There are legitimate questions regarding how well the FBI would have performed even if they had been told. For example, another conspirator who was present at the Kuala Lumpur meeting, Zacharious Moussaoui, had been arrested shortly before 9/11 on an immigration violation. The local FBI field office concluded that he was part of an impending attack, but its request for a warrant to exploit Moussaoui’s computer was declined by headquarters in DC. There was, in any case, a longstanding reluctance among CIA personnel to share intelligence with law enforcement. Such information would ultimately be used by prosecutors who would reveal it, thereby jeopardizing sources and methods and continued access to intelligence from important sources and assets.

Perhaps even more damaging was the failure of both agencies to detect the methodical creation by employees of the Saudi government of a support infrastructure in the United States to facilitate the entry of the hijackers and get them embedded, funded, housed, and equipped with driver's licenses and so forth. It is probable that many others in the Saudi government were aware of the diversion of resources to support of Al Qaeda even as the U.S. had designated the group as a terrorist organization that had repeatedly attacked the U.S. (There’s no evidence that the Al Saud themselves were aware of this activity.) The policy errors revolved around the conviction of a new administration that the key challenges to the U.S. emanated from adversarial nation states, rather than sub-state actors operating autonomously on the basis of religious justifications for violence. Hence, [then U.S. national security advisor] Condoleezza Rice’s oft quoted statement that President [George W.] Bush refused to be distracted from important work by having to "swat flies.” Unfortunately, 19 of those flies destroyed the World Trade Center towers, wrecked a large part of the Pentagon, and massacred the passengers and crew on four commercial aircraft, propelling the Bush administration into a bloody 20-year war.

Q: Was the initial response — hunting for Osama bin Laden and collapsing the Taliban state — the correct one?

A: Most observers would agree that Al Qaeda could not be allowed to continue to attack the United States and that the Taliban were an indispensable co-conspirator in so far as it had sheltered not just Bin Laden, but also the camps in which the hijackers were trained and indoctrinated. Strategic logic suggested that deterrence could only be restored by destroying both Al Qaeda and its Afghan sponsor. And there was ample justification for this broad course of action in customary international law and the UN charter.           

Q: What advice do you have to the Biden administration going forward? 

A: There are some things that are obvious. First is that terrorism is not going to go away. Grievances will persist, the means will be available, and individuals predisposed to action will continue to circulate. Domestic terrorism conducted by white supremacists is rising, even as the number of jihadists, according to the UN, is at an all time high. Extensive use of chemical weapons in Syria and advances in genome editing against the background of a brutal pandemic will seed the idea of using these weapons against adversaries. Cyberterrorism is perhaps a lesser threat but is feasible, based on criminal models, and potentially costly to the victim.

The prescription usually advanced is societal and infrastructural resilience. But, to coin a phrase, resilience is futile if counter-terrorism policy devolves to yet another partisan tool. Of all challenges, terrorism is mostly likely to spur a dangerously excessive reaction while degrading the state of American politics if the two parties have not cooperated on building and implementing effective defenses. If politics are too broken to permit such preparedness, then a successful strike against the U.S. will be more likely, the partisan blame game more poisonous, and an appropriate response far more difficult to engineer.

Source: Reflecting on September 11, 20 years later

How to road trip with kids, from parents who live in a bus year-round

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Road tripping with children can be challenging, but following this family’s advice could make things easier.

Will and Kristin Watson have been living and traveling around the country in a renovated bus with their 3-year-old daughter Roam since April 2019, making them experts at traveling on the road with kids.

"It’s important to be realistic," Kristin told Fox News Digital about parenting while road tripping. "Sometimes we overshoot. We’ll be like, ‘Let’s go on this six-mile hike’ and expect Roam to be an angel for a six-mile hike… Just know that there are probably going to be meltdowns in the process at some point."

"If they need to slow down and go at their pace, then you need to be realistic and slow down with them and just be compassionate," Kristin added. "Work with them and they’ll work with you. Children are very adaptable.… They want to do the things that you’re doing." 


Another thing that can help those "meltdowns" is an entertainment kit, which the Watsons always have on hand while they travel. 

Kristin told Fox News Digital that theirs has toys Roam can play with in her car seat, coloring books and, as a last resort, an iPad for when "nothing else works." 

"Usually before we do that, we’ll give her some snacks," Kristin said. "Snacks are a must-have."


Kristin said they schedule their driving around Roam’s nap time, "so that way, at least an hour of travel time will be her taking a nap."

The family also limits their driving time to four hours max. 

"We stop multiple times in that four hours to get out and stretch our legs, and eat snacks and run around, and things like that." Kristin said. 

She added: "You’ve just got to go slow, enjoy the journey, and it is what it is with kids. You’re going to be working around them."


Kristin said Roam is actually "pretty good" – though, of course, she’s accustomed to traveling by now. 

"We moved into the bus when she was 6 months old, so she doesn’t really know anything different," Kristin said. "This is her whole life, and she is a very happy, very good, smart child. We have zero complaints."

"We actually always tell people we think it’s harder to have a kid in a house," Kristin added, saying that whenever they visit friends or family, they’re always looking for Roam.

"She can’t get out of our sight in the bus, so it’s actually easier to live in a tiny space with a baby," Kristin said.


If you want some advice for where to road trip with your kids, here are a few spots recommended by the Watsons.

Casey, Illinois, is famous for being the home of 12 of the World’s Largest Things – including the world’s largest rocking chair – and other "Big Things," according to the town website.

"Roam had a lot of fun there," Kristin said. "We had a lot of fun there, too. It was a really cool, small town."

Cave City, Kentucky, is best known for being close to Mammoth Cave National Park, which has "53,000 acres of natural preserve and the longest cave system in the world with over 4,000 mile of passages and 400 miles of mapped passageways," according to the town website.

Kristin said it also has "lots of really cool outdoor activities," like horseback riding, kayaking and a zipline park.


Will said when they’re out West, the family will go to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and Glacier National Park in Montana, where they spend lots of time outdoors.

"The nice thing with that is that there’s dedicated swimming areas and places where we can all hang out in the water as a family," Will said. "Those are a lot of our favorite little things that we can do that don’t really cost money."


Ultimately, Kristin said the destination doesn’t matter.

"We make anywhere work," she said. "We went to Chicago… with Roam, and we walked all around and did all the things in Chicago and she loved it. Most places have parks, so we always just squeeze in a park or something for her."

"That way we get to do the things we want to do, and she gets to do the things she wants do to," the mother added.

Source: How to road trip with kids, from parents who live in a bus year-round

These folks live in vans: here's their list for ultimate road trip essentials

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With Memorial Day weekend upon us, it’s the perfect time for a road trip. 

Fox News Digital previously spoke with several people who live in renovated vans and travel around the country about their essential road trip items and tips, which are perfect for the unofficial first weekend of summer.

Jasmine Wilson moved into her renovated van full time on Dec. 1, 2020, with her dog Ice, and her goal is to visit every national park in the U.S. By last fall, she and Ice had visited about 15 national parks. 


Wilson told Fox News Digital that her best advice to people going on road trips is to be aware of their surroundings and to enjoy the experience, adding that she’s "trying to live in the moment more." 

She also advised road trippers to be super prepared. She prioritizes safety items and snacks so she doesn’t have to stop. 

"It’s better to have more than you need than not enough," Wilson said. "I feel like there’s a limit to where you overpack, but it’s always better to be more prepared."

She added: "I’ve never let my gas go under half because… you never know when you’ll see another [gas station]."


Meanwhile, Will and Kristin Watson – along with their daughter Roam, 3, and their pitbull Rush – have been traveling in their renovated bus since April 2019

Kristin told Fox News Digital that the most important part of a road trip is the plan – and the expectation that things will likely change. 

"They say it’s not an adventure until everything starts to go wrong," Kristin told Fox. 

"We pick a goal and then just go with the flow," she added. "That’s how we get to where our goal destination is at. Because you can find lots of cool things along the way that you might not have even known about."

Meanwhile, Will said road tripping is all about enjoying "the little things along the way."

"It’s the little stops and the little memories and little things that you can do along the way to getting to the main destination that makes the journey better," Will said. 


Here are some "essential" items for road trips, according to Wilson and the Watsons. 

Both Wilson and the Watsons said they always have snacks with them. 

"Snacks are a must-have," Kristin said. 

The Watsons said they usually keep cutie oranges on hand because they don’t have to be refrigerated and they’re healthy. They also recommended keeping water handy.

"As you change altitude or elevation, it’s good to just have water on you and stay hydrated," Will said. 

Kristin specifically recommended water bottles that have filters in them, so it’s easier to get water from any sink. 


Wilson said one of her favorite items in her van is a cooler. Specifically, Wilson has an Icybreeze cooler, which also works as an air conditioner. The cooler runs off a battery and has a vent, which blows out cold air. Wilson said her dog Ice loves it. 

"My dog literally just sits in front of it and keeps cool all day," Wilson said. 

At the top of the Watsons’ list of essential items was roadside assistance, in case of an emergency like a flat tire or running out of gas. 

Kristin said: "It’s just a nice layer of protection to have and you can get it for RV’s or for cars." 

As someone who travels alone, Wilson said having items for self-protection – like mace spray – and emergency situations – like multitools – is key.

"The main two things are being aware of your surroundings and having those safety things within reach," Wilson said. 

The Watsons told Fox News Digital they use the Roadtrippers app to help them plan their journeys. Kristin said they usually pick an "ultimate destination" and the app will help them find other fun and interesting things to do along the way – and it tells them how long they have to drive to get to those spots.


The Watsons also recommended keeping entertainment on hand, both for adults and kids. Kristin said she and Will listen to audiobooks, podcasts or good playlists while they drive. 

Meanwhile, they have toys for Roam to play with before they turn to reading her books or giving her coloring books. 

"As a last resort, she has an iPad and we’ll let her watch that if she’s way too fussy and nothing else works," Kristin said. 


Because Wilson’s van doesn’t have a back window or a rearview mirror, Wilson bought a dash cam rearview mirror, which can also serve as a back-up camera for cars that don’t have that function. 

"It’s been super essential," Wilson said.

Source: These folks live in vans: here's their list for ultimate road trip essentials