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Biden announces Pentagon task force to examine China strategy

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Biden announces Pentagon task force to examine China strategy

WASHINGTON — A new Department of Defense task force will examine the US-China military posture and it’s “growing challenges,” President Biden announced Wednesday during his first visit to the Pentagon as commander in chief.

The panel will work quickly to present Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin with recommendations on military strategy as relations between Washington and Beijing grow increasingly strained in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and a years-long trade war.

“We need to meet the growing challenges posed by China to keep peace and defend our interests in the Indo-Pacific and globally,” Biden said, referring to a region which includes the heavily-contested South China Sea.

“Today, I was briefed on a new DOD China Task Force that Secretary Austin is standing up to look at our strategy and operational concepts, technology and force posture and so much more,” Biden continued.

“The task force will work quickly drawn on civilian and military experts across the department to provide within the next few months recommendations to Secretary Austin on key priorities and decision points, so that we can chart a strong path forward on China related matters,” he said.

“It’s going to require a whole government effort, bipartisan cooperation in Congress, and strong alliances and partnerships. That’s how we’ll meet the China challenge and ensure the American people win the competition of the future.”

The shifting US-China alliance poses one of the greatest foreign policy challenges to Biden’s presidency.

Under uncompromising predecessor Donald Trump, the US slapped Chinese goods with steep tariffs, took President Xi Jinping to task for the country’s mishandling of the first cases of the coronavirus pandemic, and condemned human rights abuses against Uighurs.

In an interview with CBS News over the weekend, Biden acknowledged China was a growing rival to the US in terms of economic power and military might, but said he would handle matters differently than Trump.

“There’s going to be extreme competition and I’m not going to do it the way that he knows,” Biden said of Jinping.

“I’m not going to do it the way Trump did. We’re going to focus on international rules of the road,” he went on, insisting that there did not need to be conflict between the two countries.

While Communist Beijing described the new Biden administration as “a new window of hope” for US relations, the relationship is off to a rocky start.

China’s foreign ministry dismissed Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s appeals to work together on climate change after he said he agreed that the Chinese government’s treatment of Uighur Muslims amounted to “genocide.” 

“It is impossible to ask for China’s support in global affairs while interfering in its domestic affairs and undermining its interests,” a statement read.

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NASA releases 3D video of Ingenuity Mars Helicopter flight

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NASA releases 3D video of Ingenuity Mars Helicopter flight

NASA released a video this week giving viewers the chance to witness the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s historic third flight in 3D.

In a release on Wednesday, the agency said that the video was meant to approximate standing on the Martian planet and witnessing the action “firsthand.”

“When NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter took to the Martian skies on its third flight on April 25, the agency’s Perseverance rover was there to capture the historic moment. Now NASA engineers have rendered the flight in 3D, lending dramatic depth to the flight as the helicopter ascends, hovers, then zooms laterally off-screen before returning for a pinpoint landing,” the agency said.

The Perseverance Mars rover’s zoomable dual-camera Mastcam-Z instrument produced the video and other images NASA says provide “key data” for navigation and aids in scientists’ efforts to locate rocket targets – and potentially ancient microbial life.

NASA also announced Tuesday that the rover’s robotic arm had begun conducting science operations, including a close examination of the planet’s terrain and environment. 

The Mastcam-Z imager took shots of reddish-brown Martian rocks that the team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California is trying to classify as sedimentary or igneous, or formed by volcanic activity.

JPL imaging scientist Justin Maki led the team that put together the video of the rotorcraft’s flight, according to the release, which noted that frames of the video had been reprojected to optimize viewing in an anaglyph.

The video was a first for Maki, who had reportedly been creating 3D imaging of Mars since his days as a graduate student. 

“The Mastcam-Z video capability was inherited from the Mars Science Laboratory MARDI (Mars Descent Imager) camera,” he said. “To be reusing this capability on a new mission by acquiring 3D video of a helicopter flying above the surface of Mars is just spectacular.” 

Perseverance’s drivers and arm operators reportedly use a “more sophisticated” 3D system, but Maki’s team members have also been reviewing still 3D images to map out rover drives.

“A helicopter flying on Mars opens a new era for Mars exploration. It’s a great demonstration of a new technology for exploration,” he said. “With each flight we open up more possibilities.”

Ingenuity’s April 25 flight was one of five successful experimental endeavors – with one failed attempt.

In April, NASA announced that the helicopter would enter a new operations demonstration phase, having already proven that powered, controlled flight is possible on the red planet.

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Today is tax deadline day for 2021

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Today is tax deadline day for 2021

The tax man cometh. 

Monday is the deadline for filing federal taxes without incurring a penalty, unless you seek an extension. 

This past spring, the IRS pushed back its usual April 15 deadline by more than a month, saying it wanted to be understanding given the coronavirus pandemic. 

“This continues to be a tough time for many people, and the IRS wants to continue to do everything possible to help taxpayers navigate the unusual circumstances related to the pandemic,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement at the time.

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Jeffrey Epstein gave advice to Bill Gates about ending his marriage

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Jeffrey Epstein gave advice to Bill Gates about ending his marriage

Jeffrey Epstein reportedly gave advice to Bill Gates about ending his marriage with his now-estranged wife Melinda during meetings the two had at the pedophile’s Manhattan townhouse.

Epstein, who killed himself in August 2019 in a lower Manhattan jail cell, gave some pointers to Gates about what the Microsoft co-founder called his “toxic” marriage to Melinda, two sources told The Daily Beast.

Epstein and Gates met dozens of times from 2011 to 2014, the report said, with Gates treating the get-togethers as an escape, a person who attended some of the meetings told the publication.

Most of the gatherings occurred at Epstein’s Upper East Side pad.

“[It’s] not an overstatement. Going to Jeffrey’s was a respite from his marriage. It was a way of getting away from Melinda,” a source told the outlet.

During some of the meetings, Gates spoke to Epstein about possibly getting involved with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the report said.

A spokesperson for Bill Gates refuted the allegations in a statement to The Daily Beast.

“Bill never received or solicited personal advice of any kind from Epstein — on marriage or anything else. Bill never complained about Melinda or his marriage to Epstein,” the spokesperson said.

“Your characterization of his meetings with Epstein and others about philanthropy is inaccurate, including who participated,” the spokesperson said to the outlet.

The rep also said Gates never spoke with Epstein about him possibly getting involved with the foundation.

Bill and Melinda Gates said they were ending their 27-year marriage earlier this month, saying, “We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.” In a divorce petition, Melinda said their marriage was “irretrievably broken.”

Melinda reportedly hired divorce attorneys in 2019, after her husband’s ties to Epstein were made public, setting in motion the couple’s divorce announcement.

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