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Saturday, February 17


Saturday, February 17



SpaceX launches test satellites in race for orbit-based internet


SpaceX will send the Falcon 9 rocket into space today, carrying a Spanish satellite along with two smaller experimental satellites, the latter a part of Elon Musk’s mission to provide space-based internet service.

The plan, dubbed Starlink, would position over 10,000 small satellites around Earth by 2024. Earlier this week, Chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission Ajit Pai endorsed the goal, citing its potential to supply low-cost broadband connection to rural communities unreachable by cables and towers.

Such a network has the potential to be worth billions because it bypasses ground-based complications such as trenches and property rights. This has drawn other companies such as OneWeb, which recently struck a deal with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, into the race to supply cheap high-speed internet.

However, SpaceX is in a good position after its successful Falcon Heavy launch that promises to lower costs of space flight dramatically. Expect the coming years to bring a rapid increase in the number of private satellites in orbit, further shifting space away from government control.


SPD prepares for party vote on coalition deal

Photo: Reuters

Today, Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) begins the process for its 440,000 party members to vote upon a grand coalition agreement with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Combatting enormous internal opposition to the coalition agreement between senior and grassroots members alike, SPD leadership have looked to highlight the significant compromises struck with Chancellor Merkel. These include control over the finance and foreign ministries along with concessions on labour, health and migration policy. With electoral results and public approval at historic lows, the SPD is hoping its power over these key ministries and attempts at progressive Eurozone reform will improve the outlook of its electoral profile. For party leader Martin Schulz, questions over his role in the SPD’s current situation is likely to lead to his replacement and fuel renewed resentment towards the coalition agreement.

Regardless of how SPD members’ vote, the outcome may increase uncertainty regarding the future of both the SPD and the CDU. However, with 2018 looking to be a year of major EU reform, the SPD’s control of Germany’s powerful finance ministry should aid their prospects in Germany and Europe.

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Campaigning gets underway in Russian presidential elections

Photo: Sputnik/Ramil Sitdikov

The Russian election campaign will start in earnest today, just 28 days before the March 18 vote. Incumbent President Vladimir Putin looks set to win an unprecedented fourth term in office.

The latest polling has Putin at 71%, while the only serious opposition figure, Alexei Navalny, is barred from running and is calling for a boycott of the vote. In recent weeks, he was arrested at a protest, saw his offices raided and had his website blocked in what he says are efforts by authorities to torpedo his boycott efforts. Approved opposition candidates, such as TV personality Ksenia Sobchak, will likely vie to steal Navalny’s voters.

Navalny will aim to replicate the low voter turnout of 47% at the 2017 local and regional elections. Participation is normally higher at presidential elections, but a sub-65% figure may secretly be deemed by the Kremlin as a dent to Putin’s legitimacy. Post-election, expect the disparate opposition forces to get a morale boost and unite behind Navalny’s party if they consider the voter turnout to be a success. Otherwise, the opposition will remain split.

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