The new British Prime Minister Theresa May announced six members of her cabinet today.

Amid a sweeping crackdown on dissent in Egypt, security forces have forcibly disappeared hundreds of people since the beginning of 2015, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

It's an "unprecedented spike," the group says, with an average of three or four people disappeared every day.

The Republican Party, as it prepares for its convention next week has checked off item No. 1 on its housekeeping list — drafting a party platform. The document reflects the conservative views of its authors, many of whom are party activists. So don't look for any concessions to changing views among the broader public on key social issues.

Many public figures who took to Twitter and Facebook following the murder of five police officers in Dallas have faced public blowback and, in some cases, found their employers less than forgiving about inflammatory and sometimes hateful online comments.

As Venezuela unravels — with shortages of food and medicine, as well as runaway inflation — President Nicolas Maduro is increasingly unpopular. But he's still holding onto power.

"The truth in Venezuela is there is real hunger. We are hungry," says a man who has invited me into his house in the northwestern city of Maracaibo, but doesn't want his name used for fear of reprisals by the government.

The wiry man paces angrily as he speaks. It wasn't always this way, he says, showing how loose his pants are now.

Ask a typical teenage girl about the latest slang and girl crushes and you might get answers like "spilling the tea" and Taylor Swift. But at the Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., the answers were "intersectional feminism" — the idea that there's no one-size-fits-all definition of feminism — and U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit


U.S. 'Space Fence' Will Cease To Operate, Site Says

Aug 8, 2013
Originally published on August 8, 2013 4:54 pm

A U.S. radar system that tracks thousands of objects orbiting Earth — from satellites to harmful debris — has been slated for shutdown, according to the Space News site. The ground-based network known as the "Space Fence" may cease to operate in October.

"This is your notice to begin preparing the sites for closure," a memo from Air Force Space Command told the contractor that operates the arrays last week. The memo obtained by Space News continues, "A specific list of action items will be provided as soon as it is finalized. A specific date to turn off the mission system has not been established yet, but will be provided to you immediately upon determination."

The pending shutdown is being blamed on the government's sequestration cuts and on the Strategic Choices and Management Review that the Pentagon is using to find areas of potential savings. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered that broad review several months ago.

Efforts to award a contract to build an updated version of the Space Fence system, parts of which date from the 1960s, have been held up by budgetary concerns.

At a meeting with congressional lawmakers last month, Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, said his division is ready to award the contract to build a new Space Fence, but it hasn't been able to make the decision official due to the review process.

"I can tell you from a personal perspective it's a high priority for Air Force Space Command, and I think for the nation in terms of space situational awareness," Shelton added. "So we're hopeful that we'll get authority to award that contract very shortly."

As Space News notes, the very high frequency (VHF) radar arrays that make up the Space Fence are only one part of a U.S. network that tracks objects in orbit.

But, the site adds, "It is responsible for approximately 40 percent of all observations performed by the Air Force-run Space Surveillance Network," citing the Secure World Foundation's technical adviser, Brian Weeden.

In case you're wondering just how much material is whizzing around the Earth, here's the most recent data we could find, from NASA:

"More than 21,000 orbital debris larger than 10 cm are known to exist. The estimated population of particles between 1 and 10 cm in diameter is approximately 500,000. The number of particles smaller than 1 cm exceeds 100 million."

Update at 4:20 p.m. ET: Space Station Concerns

Writing to us from Colorado, satellite watcher Mike Coletta, who runs the website, reminds us that the International Space Station and other projects use data from tracking systems to avoid potential troubles.

"I do not think there is a system that can detect all objects orbiting over [the continental United States] and then determine an orbital path as the Space Fence does now," Coletta says. "It is a 24/7 system that gathers data without having to be tasked, something most other space radars don't do."

Coletta notes that the signals of the Space Fence are out there for all of us to hear — and many ham radio enthusiasts do just that. The three transmitters in the system, which are in Arizona, Texas and Alabama, operate at around 216.98 MHz.

If you'd like to hear a live audio feed, Space Weather Radio has it for you. Or for a "greatest hits" of one day of recordings, that's on YouTube.

Our original post continues:

Last spring, NASA came close "to losing its $500 million Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope in a narrowly averted collision with a defunct, Cold War-era Soviet spy satellite," as The Two-Way reported.

And in what may be one of the most fastidious reasons ever to aspire to a mission in orbit, Switzerland said in 2012 that it had begun a project with the goal of tidying up the junk-strewn space around our planet.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit