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The Laws That Destroyed Mafiosi Turn Against Big Oil



The flood-prone city of Hoboken, New Jersey, southern Exxon, Chevron and other oil companies three years ago, hoping to put them on trial for defrauding the public. Like other lawsuits brought by “Exxon knew“During the investigation, Hoboken proved that they violated state consumer protection laws by hiding the risks of burning fossil fuels.

But recently the lawsuit has taken a new turn. Hoboken Lawyers changed complaint in late April, alleging that Big Oil violated the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO, first reported by the accountability website. ExxonKnews. New Jersey’s state statute is modeled after the 1970 federal RICO law aimed at combating organized crime. These racketeering lawsuits are no longer just about the mafia; they were also successful against tobacco companiessuch as Philip Morris and pharmaceutical executives associated with the opioid epidemic.

This could be the start of a new wave of climate lawsuits, according to Corey Silverman-Roaty, an associate at Columbia Law School. Thirty-three states and two US territories have RICO laws, and judgments in these cases can award plaintiffs triple the damages. The use of RICO is another sign that cities and states are trying to learn from the “successes and failures of the tobacco and opioid litigation movement,” Silverman-Roaty said.

This is already proving to be a big year for climate court cases. Last month, the Supreme Court dismissed petitions from Chevron, Shell, BP and others in a slew of cases filed by cities and states, setting up lawsuits in state courts that have been stuck in limbo for years. This week the court allowed the Hoboken cause to move forward, potentially to a jury trial. City seeks to make oil giants pay hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade local infrastructure to withstand stronger storms, rising sea levels and other impacts of climate change.

Hoboken’s lawsuit is the second alleging that Big Oil engaged in a “fraudulent scheme” to cover up how their products contribute to climate change. In November, Puerto Rico cities accused Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and other fossil fuel companies of violating the federal RICO law. Cities are seeking to force companies to pay billions of dollars for massive damage caused by hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017.

Both lawsuits allege evidence of a conspiracy goes back to 1989, when governments around the world began talking about curbing global warming. That same year, ExxonMobil, Shell, and the industry’s largest trade group, the American Petroleum Institute, helped form a climate blocking group, audaciously called the Global Climate Coalition. While these companies have privately understood the risks of climate change for decades, they have launched a powerful public relations campaign that has questioned the science. The corporate coalition lobbied politicians, reviewed international climate science reports, and gave the industry a voice in global climate negotiations.

Recent lawsuits also point to the creation by the American Petroleum Institute in 1998 of a front group called the Global Climate Science Liaison Team, reflecting the tobacco industry’s efforts to discredit the science linking cigarette smoke to cancer. (There was not a single scientist on the “scientific” team of the oil industry.) stated purpose get most Americans to acknowledge that “there are significant uncertainties in climate science” by declaring that “victory will be won” when uncertainty becomes part of “general opinion”.

“They made it easier to prove,” Melissa Sims, an attorney for Milberg, a Tennessee law firm that represents cities in Puerto Rico, told Grist earlier this year, “because, unlike all the other racketeering cases that were in the dossier, none none of them had a written battle plan with a detailed division of labor on how they were going to carry out their deception.”

In response, oil companies say that courtrooms are not the right place to address the serious issue of climate change. After filing a lawsuit by Puerto Rico, a Chevron lawyer told Reuters stated that it was “an unreasonable distraction from the serious problem of global climate change, and not an attempt to find an effective solution.” An Exxon spokesman said these sorts of cases “waste millions of dollars of taxpayer money.”

Hoboken, on the other hand, says the deception campaign that began 40 years ago has never stopped. Today, ads showing oil companies’ clean energy ventures “deceive consumers into believing they are committed to tackling climate change,” the city’s complaint says.

Both RICO lawsuits highlight “this decades-old practice where fossil fuel companies know their products are harmful by deceptively advertising them to the public as safe, and then the public communities receive huge sums to pay for that harm,” Silverman said. Roti said. “It’s really a way of highlighting the formulaic aspect of behavior, the conspiracy aspect of behavior, and linking that to criminal offenses like cheating.”


NASA Selects Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin for Artemis Moon Mission



On the second try, Jeff Bezos and his rocket company won the contract to take NASA astronauts to the moon.

NASA announced Friday that it has awarded a contract to Mr. Bezos’ company, Blue Origin, to provide a lunar lander for a lunar mission scheduled to launch in 2029. NASA agreed to pay $3.4 billion for a 50-foot spacecraft. a spacecraft called the Blue Moon that can take four astronauts to the surface of the moon.

The Artemis V mission is another important part of NASA’s Artemis program to send astronauts back to the moon to explore its south pole. The astronauts are to land on the moon on a spacecraft built by SpaceX for the Artemis III and IV missions.

John Coulouris, Blue Origin’s vice president of lunar transportation, said the company is contributing “well north” of NASA’s contract value to the development effort and that it, not NASA, will cover any cost overruns. In the past, some members of Congress have complained about giving Blue Origin taxpayer money given Mr. Bezos’ fortune.

“We want more competition,” Bill Nelson, NASA administrator, said during an announcement Friday at NASA headquarters in Washington. “It means you have reliability. Do you have backups?

Lisa Watson-Morgan, NASA’s Human Landing System Program Manager, said the second lander “also helps us with a more diversified industrial base and this will help us drive innovation in the future.”

Winning the contract could be the start of a promising year of recovery for Blue Origin after a series of delays and setbacks, including the failure of one of its New Shepard spacecraft, which flies into space but not into orbit, during a launch last September during which experiments were carried out. but no passengers. Blue Origin has identified the cause and hopes to resume New Shepard flights with both space tourists and science payloads later this year.

And some equipment made by Blue Origin could finally be used in an orbital mission in the coming months. The company has built engines for the upper stage of the Vulcan rocket being developed by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Blue Origin can also provide some insight into the New Glenn, a much larger rocket designed to launch payloads into orbit.

In the lunar lander contract, Blue Origin, in collaboration with other aerospace companies such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, defeated a second team led by Dynetics, a defense company based in Huntsville, Alabama.

“The feeling is absolutely fantastic,” Mr. Koulouris said. “However, this is Step 1. We have a lot of work to do before we successfully land and get the astronauts back.”

The Blue Moon lander is designed to fit the diameter of the 23-foot-wide Blue Origin New Glenn rocket and will weigh over 45 metric tons when filled with fuel.

For Artemis V, the lander will first dock with the Gateway, a small outpost in orbit around the Moon. Four astronauts will travel to the Gate on another spacecraft, NASA’s Orion capsule. They will then transfer to the Blue Moon lander and stay near the moon’s south pole for about a week.

After their visit to the Moon, the lander will take off and return to the Gate, while the Orion capsule will take all four astronauts back to Earth. The same lander could be used for multiple missions.

A second Blue Origin spacecraft will be required to transport liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen from Earth to lunar orbit to replenish Blue Moon’s fuel tanks. Transport of propellants in the near-weightless space environment, especially ultracold liquid hydrogen, is complex and has not yet been demonstrated on a large scale.

Mr Cooulouris said Blue Origin will conduct a demonstration flight of the uncrewed lander in 2028, a year before it is used for astronauts.

“We fully expect to meet NASA’s schedule,” Mr. Koulouris said.

Mr Koulouris said the lunar lander could also be configured to carry 30 metric tons of cargo instead of passengers “to form the basis for living quarters and other permanent infrastructure” on the lunar surface.

The Artemis V mission was Mr. Bezos’ company’s second claim to land on the moon. In 2021, Blue Origin and Dynetics were disappointed when NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion fixed contract to build a variant of its giant Starship that will land astronauts on the moon for the first time in more than half a century.

Both companies protested the decision, especially as NASA officials initially sought two contracts.

This would parallel the successful efforts of NASA, which outsourced the transport of cargo and crew to the International Space Station to private companies. But NASA officials said at the time that there was not enough money in their budget for a second lander. SpaceX’s $2.9 billion offer was the lowest offer to date. Blue Origin’s proposed design cost $6 billion, and Dynetics’ proposal was even more expensive.

The Federal Government Accountability Office dismissed the two companies’ protests. Blue Origin then sued in federal court and lost again.

Last September, after receiving a larger budget from Congress, NASA launched a competition for a second lunar lander. Dynetics and Blue Origin once again decided to compete, although there has been some shuffling of the companies involved in this effort. Northrop Grumman, which was part of Blue Origin’s original offering, switched to the Dynetics team.

Blue Origin added Boeing to its team; Astrobotic, a small Pittsburgh-based company developing automated lunar landers; and Honeybee Robotics, a space technology company that Blue Origin bought last year.

The design of the spacecraft has also changed, fuel transfer in space has been added.

But it will not reach the moon for a long time.

SpaceX’s original $2.9 billion contract was to provide a lander for the first moon landing on Artemis III, currently scheduled for late 2025 but likely to be pushed back to 2026 or later. In November, NASA exercised a $1.15 billion option on this SpaceX contract to also provide a lander for Artemis IV, a mission scheduled for 2028.

After Artemis V, NASA will be able to choose between SpaceX and Blue Origin projects for later missions.

After all, companies and people outside of NASA could also buy Blue Moon rides. “We have a number of interested organizations,” Mr. Koulouris said.

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James Webb Telescope Finds Evidence of “Heavenly Monster” Stars The Size of 10,000 Suns Lurking at the Dawn of Time



The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has found the first evidence that millions of supermassive stars, 10,000 times the mass of the Sun, may be lurking at the dawn of the universe.

Born just 440 million years after big Bang, the stars may shed light on how our universe was first seeded with heavy elements. The researchers, who called the giant stars “heavenly monsters”, published their findings May 5 in the journal. Astronomy and astrophysics.

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