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SpaceX’s next launch attempt prompts blast warnings from Texas police

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A small community of people at the southern tip of Texas just received what some of its residents are calling a “shocking” and “concerning” warning about SpaceX’s upcoming launch attempt of a Mars rocket ship prototype.

Residents told Business Insider a county sheriff went door-to-door on Saturday night to hand-deliver printed notices to the community, where approximately 20 people own homes. Known as Boca Chica Village or Kopernik Shores, the hamlet has in recent years become flanked by a rocket launch and development site.

A public safety notice issued to residents of Boca Chica, Texas, on August 24, 2019.
Courtesy of Cheryl Stevens

The notice says “action required” and warns of “potential risk to health and safety” during SpaceX’s upcoming launch attempt of Starhopper: a stubby yet roughly 60-foot-tall (18-meter-tall) steel prototype with a single, truck-size Raptor rocket engine. The vehicle is a test-bed for an ambitious new launch system called Starship. If realized, Starship may tower about 400 feet (122 meters), be fully reusable, and take people and cargo into orbit, to the moon, and eventually on to Mars.

Starhopper’s launch is planned for Monday, and company founder Elon Musk says it will be the prototype’s final flight. In late July, the vehicle rocketed to about 60 feet (18 meters) off the ground and landed back on its launch pad. This week’s plan is to fly the vehicle no more than about 650 feet (200 meters) then land back on its launchpad.

The notice issued to residents says police will sound their sirens to warn residents about 10 minutes before liftoff. According to the notice, a roughly 15-minute flight window will open at 5 p.m. ET (4 p.m. CT) on Monday night.

The notice then says:

“There is a risk that a malfunction of the SpaceX vehicle during flight will create an overpressure event that can break windows. Therefore, in order to protect Public Health and Safety, it is recommended that you consider temporarily vacating yourself, other occupants, and pets, from the area during the Space Flight Activities. At a minimum, you must exit your home or structure and be outside of any building on your property when you hear the police sirens which will be activated at the time of the Space Flight Activity to avoid or minimize the risk of injury.”

An “overpressure event” is a blastwave that’s often caused by a rapid explosion.

‘I feel like we are in a war zone’

An overview of the Boca Chica area in south Texas circa 2017.
Google Earth

Nearly all Boca Chica homes are within about two miles of the rocket company’s launchpad, which sits just west of Boca Chica Beach. This suggests that if Starhopper explodes — which is unlikely yet possible due to its experimental design — its blastwave may be powerful enough to significantly damage the residential buildings from a distance.

While the notice included no contact information, residents say the sheriff told them to contact Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr. if they had any questions. Treviño, Jr. is also responsible for issuing road closures for Highway 4, which is the only road that connects the large city of Brownsville to the hamlet and public beach — and now SpaceX’s new launch site.

Read more: Elon Musk is building SpaceX’s Mars rockets in a tiny Texas hamlet. But getting them off the ground there may be harder than he imagined.

During previous Starhopper launches, the road has been closed with a “hard” checkpoint located about 1.5 miles west of the launchpad and a “soft” checkpoint a couple of miles farther down the road.

Saturday’s notice is an unusual departure, and to some residents — most of whom are retirees who’ve lived in the area years or decades before SpaceX’s arrival — represents a worrisome new phase of their relationship with the company, local and state officials, and federal agencies.

“I’m very angry. I feel like we are in a war zone running out of our houses so they won’t collapse on us,” Celia Johnson, a part-time resident since 1992 who’s planning to retire in her home, told Business Insider. “I feel like my hands are tied with no one to turn to for help. Our rights have been terminated by money, greed, and politics.”

Cheryl Stevens, who sometimes rents her house in Boca Chica but was home to receive the notice, expressed similar worries.

“I am shocked, angry, and concerned about what kind of damage I might sustain,” Stevens told Business Insider. “Also bewildered as far as what to do that day. I don’t know how to prepare for this. I plan to call the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] on Monday to discuss the civil rights violations among other things.”

SpaceX gained permission to build a commercial launch site in the area after a years-long process with the FAA and various stakeholders. Establishings safety zones before a rocket takes off is also a typical practice in the launch industry.

What is unusual in the case of SpaceX’s South Texas launch site is that people (and nearly all of them not by choice) reside within that critical area.

The FAA and Judge Treviño, Jr. did not immediately respond to requests for a statement and more details about the notice and its origins. SpaceX did not provide comment prior to publication of this story.

SpaceX has plans to launch even bigger rockets from South Texas

Brush fires burn in the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Refuge near Boca Chica Village, Texas, following SpaceX’s first flight of its Starhopper rocket ship prototype.
Maria Pointer

The public health and safety notice comes about a month after SpaceX’s most recent launch of Starhopper to about 60 feet (18 meters). That launch inadvertently ignited a fire that burned through more than 100 acres of coastal wildlife refuge, thousands of acres of which surround the launch site and hamlet.

SpaceX responded to the incident by putting together a better fire-prevention and response plan, according to Bryan Winton, manager of the Lower Rio Grande Valley national wildlife refuge at the US Fish and Wildlife Service. SpaceX is now coordinating more closely with local agencies on its launch and fire safety, has installed five new remote-control water cannons on its launchpad (there used to be only one), is helping perform controlled burns, and more, Winton told Business Insider on Thursday.

But SpaceX is working toward launching a larger prototype, called Starship Mk1, that will use three Raptor rocket engines and be capable of flying around Earth from the Texas site. The rocket company is also building a similar yet competing prototype in Florida called Starship Mk2.

Before SpaceX can launch either rudimentary rocket ship, or any full-scale Starships, the company needs sign-off from the FAA.

“Working on regulatory approval for both Boca Chica, Texas, and Cape Kennedy, Florida,” Musk tweeted in March. “Will also be building Starship & Super Heavy simultaneously in both locations.”

As of now, SpaceX has yet to secure the necessary permissions to launch the orbital-class vehicles.



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Bernie Sanders wins Nevada caucuses: live updated results, vote counts

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  • Sanders wins the Nevada caucus with 87% of the results reporting as of 7 p.m. Pacific Time and 10 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday, February 23. 
  • The Vermont senator has now officially won the popular vote in the first three primary contests of Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. 
  • Results have been released slowly by the Nevada Democratic party to avoid a similar situation from Iowa.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Nevada’s caution in reporting results meant that only about 60% of results were announced the day of the caucus, leaving Democrats waiting for the final outcome and complete delegate reckoning.

Sanders holds a decisive lead over his opponents with 87% of precincts reporting — to see how his performance is translating to delegates, follow along with our live delegate tracker here. 

Nevada Democratic caucus live results 

Here are the returns from the final ballot results:

 

Here are the results from the first ballot, or alignment:

 

The third — and most important — set of results are the county convention delegate equivalents, which will be converted into national pledged delegates.

 

These will update live over the course of the day as we get new results. 

Here’s how Democrats will elect their presidential nominee over the next several months

Catch up on live coverage from the caucuses: 

Caucus coverage:

Pre-caucus:

What’s at stake in the Nevada caucuses: 

Nevada only accounts for 36, or 0.9% of the delegates allocated throughout the nomination process, but holds disproportionate importance by virtue of being the first state with a significant non-white population to express its voting preferences. 

Sanders has won nine and former Vice President Joe Biden has won two out of Nevada’s 36 pledged delegates so far with 23% of the precinct caucus results reporting as of 8 p.m. Pacific Time.

The first two states in the process, Iowa and New Hampshire, are both over 93% white. In Nevada, however, just 49% of the population is non-Hispanic white, compared to 29% that is Hispanic or Latino of any race, 10% that is African-American, and 9% that is Asian. 

Of Nevada’s 36 national pledged delegates:

  • 23 are allocated proportionally between the state’s four congressional districts. The first district gets five delegates, and the three others are allocated six delegates each. 
  • 8 at-large and 5 PLEO (party leader and elected official) delegates will be decided and allocated based on the statewide popular vote. 

nv delegates by cd



Ruobing Su/Business Insider


Like in most other states, candidates must break 15% of the vote in a given district or voting area to win any delegates at all. 

Unlike a regular primary, Nevada is a caucus, meaning that people will gather in communal locations to express their preferences for president. The caucuses have two rounds of preference expression, or alignments, meaning caucusgoers have an opportunity to shift their support. 

Caucusgoers whose first-choice candidate does not meet the 15% viability threshold in the first alignment can either switch their support to a candidate who is viable, try to make their chosen candidate viable on the second round, or be uncommitted, meaning the final results could be unpredictable. 

DELEGATE COUNT: Here’s who’s winning the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination

The results of Saturday’s Democratic primary are likely to be particularly crucial for Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden, both of whom are hoping for a strong comeback after their fourth- and fifth-place finishes in New Hampshire.

Who does the polling say is ahead?

The state of Nevada and its presidential caucuses, in particular, are notoriously difficult and expensive to accurately poll.

As Vox recently reported, a higher-than-average proportion of the electorate in Nevada works in the casino and nightlife industry, meaning that their population has higher turnover and is more fluid than in most states, giving pollsters a small base of registered or likely voters to work with.

And many of those with jobs on the Vegas Strip or in other nightlife or hospitality-related careers work night shifts or outside the bounds of a typical nine-to-five schedule, making them much harder to reach by telephone. 

On top of that, Nevada only started using presidential caucuses instead of primaries in 2008, meaning that pollsters have somewhat limited data with which to build accurate models and weights for their caucus surveys, a problem compounded by the fluctuating population in Nevada.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s aggregated tracker of Nevada polls, Sanders currently holds a comfortable lead, polling at 30% on average with the other candidates mostly far behind. On the day of the caucuses, Buttigieg is at 15.3%, Biden is at 14.4%, Warren is at 12%, Steyer at 10.2%, and Klobuchar is at 9%.

But the additional unpredictability of caucus turnout, the ranked-choice system used in early voting, and the re-alignment process in the caucuses themselves mean that the final result could be quite different from what initial polls indicate. 

While Nevada was once a battleground state, it’s been swinging into solid Democratic territory for the past several election cycles. Former Democratic nominees President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton comfortably carried the state in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 general elections, and five out the state’s six congressional representatives are now Democrats. 

In 2016, former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won the Nevada caucuses with 52.6% of the vote compared to 47.3% for Sen. Bernie Sanders. 

Read more:

Bernie Sanders suggests Russia might be behind the ‘ugly’ online attacks from ‘Bernie Bros’

US officials told Bernie Sanders Russia is trying to help him win the Democratic nomination

Watch the top 5 moments of Nevada’s combative Democratic debate

Here’s who will be onstage for the February 25 Democratic presidential debate in South Carolina and how to watch it



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9-year-old Colorado boy asked Pete Buttigieg how to come out as gay

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  • Pete Buttigieg counseled a nine-year old boy who wanted advice on coming out as gay to everyone.
  • “Would you help me tell the world I’m gay, too? I want to be brave like you,” Zachary Ro asked Buttigieg at a campaign rally in Colorado.
  • “I don’t think you need a lot of advice from me on bravery, you seem pretty strong,” Buttigieg responded.
  • Then the former mayor lauded the nine-year-old and said others would benefit from his courage to come out.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg had an emotional moment on Saturday night with a nine-year old boy who asked him for help to come out as gay. 

During a Q&A session where questions were drawn from a fishbowl, the boy, later identified as, Zachary Ro, thanked the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana for his bravery and sought help from Buttigieg on coming out.

“Would you help me tell the world I’m gay, too?” Ro asked the first openly gay presidential candidate, adding, “I want to be brave like you.” 

 

The Democratic hopeful lauded Ro’s emotional strength and cited his own turbulent journey to share the truth with loved ones about his identity.

“I don’t think you need a lot of advice from me on bravery, you seem pretty strong,” Buttigieg responded.  “It took me a long time to figure out how to tell even my best friend that I was gay, let alone go out there and tell the world. And to see you willing to come to terms with you who you are in a room full of thousands of people you never met, that’s really something.”

Then the former mayor offered advice to Ro.

“Let me tell you a couple things that might be useful. The first thing is that it won’t always be easy, but that’s okay because you know who you are.,” Buttigieg said. ” And that’s really important because when you know who you are you have a center of gravity that can hold you together when all kinds of chaos is happening around you.” 

Buttigieg also told Ro that others would benefit from his courage.

“The second thing I want you to know is that you will never know who’s taking their lead from you, who’s watching you and deciding that they can be a little braver because you have been brave.” 

The Colorado Sun reported that Ro decided to ask Buttigieg the question at the last minute, but was happy he did so.

“It was exciting, and I felt really happy,” the boy told the paper after the rally. “I was glad I was able to tell everyone in the audience that I’m gay.”





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Products that are a waste of money you should stop buying immediately

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  • Some items we’re used to buying every day can actually be a huge waste of money.
  • Store-bought greeting cards, physical books, cable TV, and premium gasoline are just a few examples.
  • Bigger purchases, such as a boat or a time-share, often aren’t worth the cost either.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Waste not, want not.

We make so many purchases that we don’t always realize what we are buying — and how we could be saving money. If we take a step back and think about all of our additional costs, we could cut a few out of our lives. 

These 24 products can often be a huge waste of money:

Matthew Michaels contributed to the original version of this article.



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