Disabled people and other campaigners have reacted with shock, anger and concern to government proposals to consider forcing all sick and disabled people on out-of-work disability benefits to take part in “mandatory” activity.Disability News Service (DNS) revealed last week that the new work, health and disability green paper suggests that all claimants of employment and support allowance (ESA) with the highest support needs could be told to stay in regular touch with their local jobcentre, or risk having their benefits sanctioned.The green paper, Improving Lives, says ministers “could consider implementing a ‘keep-in-touch’ discussion with work coaches” for all people in the ESA support group, which “could provide an opportunity for work coaches to offer appropriate support tailored to the individual’s current circumstances” and “could be explored as a voluntary or mandatory requirement”.Paragraph 114 of the green paper goes on to say that such contact could use “digital and telephone channels in addition to face-to-face contact, depending on which was more appropriate for the individual and their circumstances”.Penny Mordaunt (pictured), minister for disabled people, appeared to confirm the proposal in the Commons this week, after she was asked about the future provision of employment advice for people in the support group.She told MPs the government was “consulting to establish if a ‘keep in touch’ discussion would be of benefit for this group, and if so, how and by whom should it be delivered, to ensure it meets the needs of individuals in this group”.Many disabled people reacted with horror to the story on the DNS website.Guy Stewart said: “Sanctions! Making us believe that our inability to gain work is our fault, when it absolutely is not, is cruel, but neatly fits into a government that constantly initiates dogma driven policy, rather then evidence driven policy.”“Sparkz_” said: “Will people have to phone from their hospital bed to keep in touch?”In response to Sparkz_, Jeffrey Davies said: “Been there done that, Atos at its best, in the high [dependency] unit. Ouch.”Rowan Farmer said: “I’m now wishing my life away, I’m 61 and thanks to the government I have another five years of stress and worry about assessments, appeals, benefits sanctions, poverty and homelessness, so much so that I’m actually looking forward to reaching 66 just to get rid of the added stress on top of several chronic, deteriorating and very painful illnesses!”Brian Mcardle added: “Now you know why [Theresa] May wants rid of the Human Rights Act.”Among those to comment on the story on Facebook was Erika Garratt, who encouraged other disabled people to take part in the consultation*.She said: “Filled in the form to tell them how ridiculous this idea is. We should all do this. “I am in the support group and this scares me so much.”Keith Evans, who is also in the ESA support group, said: “I’d rather jack ESA in than be forced to work that surely would kill me.”Beth Von Black replied to Evans: “That’s what they want. They want to scare us so much that we stop claiming what we’re entitled to!”She added later: “I’ve answered a few questions in the consultation and sent it off; angry that us long term disabled are being hounded into employment regardless of the fact that we cannot work!”There was also strong opposition to the proposal on Twitter.Professor Susan L Parish, professor of disability policy at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, in the United States, said: “This failed miserably in the #USA, so they’ll try it in the #UK.”Tracey Herrington said: “What a surprise – another unethical u turn. Who are they actually kidding when talking about personalised support… This is a direct attack.”Rick Meister tweeted: “Are the Tories about 2 sink 2 yet another low re chronically ill/disabled? Any such scheme must be voluntary… help, not threats!”Warren Belcher said: “This is so devastating, I can’t begin to think of the consequences and I’m dreading the impact this will have for so many people I care about.”And Hannah Smith tweeted: “How is this even ethical? Surely defeats the whole point [of] ESA in the first place.”Disability Rights UK (DR UK) said the green paper would “pave the way for success only if it leads to a complete overhaul” of the work capability assessment, one which produces “a system that encourages and supports people to try work where they feel they can, rather than threatening people with sanctions if they do not comply with (sometimes meaningless) activities”.It said the government would only be able to halve the disability employment gap if employers changed their behaviour, but it pointed to the green paper’s failure to announce any new incentives or requirements on employers, such as requiring the public sector to award contracts to companies with a good track record in employing disabled people, or providing a “comprehensive” helpline for small employers.It called for “more enforcement of the Equality Act in relation to those employers who simply continue to discriminate”, and said that the government’s strategy “will only work if employers are nudged and required to employ disabled people in greater numbers”.It welcome proposals such as expanding employment-related peer support, more tailored job support and work experience for young disabled people.But DR UK warned that research by the Employment Related Service Association (ERSA) suggested a cut in funding – in the move from the current Work Programme and Work Choice to the new Work and Health Programme – from £750 million in 2013-14 to less than £130 million in 2017-18.The ERSA research suggests this will lead to a drop in the number of disabled people accessing such support from 300,000 from 2012-15 to 160,000 from 2017-20.Although DR UK said it was “absolutely opposed” to plans to cut payments to new claimants in the ESA work-related activity group from next April, it said that investing all of the savings from this policy into employment support “could help strengthen the support offer to disabled people”.Philip Connolly, DR UK’s policy and development manager, said: “We have waited almost three years for this green paper and disabled people deserve a plan as ambitious as the government’s manifesto commitment [on halving the disability employment gap]; the green paper isn’t that plan.“The government’s response to its consultation on the green paper is the chance to really deliver on a plan.”Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green party, and the father of a disabled son, was highly critical of the green paper.He said: “It is extremely concerning that the DWP is considering forcing ‘mandatory activity’ on all sick and disabled people.“It is barbaric to expect someone with a terminal illness, or who has no chance of getting better, to maintain contact with a ‘work coach’.“The Green party believes society should care for those who are most in need, not place damaging and unnecessary demands on them.“We call on the Labour party and the Lib Dems to join us in opposing these proposals.”A DWP spokesman repeatedly refused to clarify the meaning of paragraph 114, but said: “People in the support group have limited capability for work-related activity, but this does not mean that they should be left without any support at all.“And we want to hear views from as broad a range of disabled people, disability charities, and anyone else with something to contribute, on what more can be done to support this group.”*A consultation on the green paper will run until 17 February 2017, and among the ways to comment are via an online survey and by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
The government has accepted just three of 23 recommendations made by a committee of MPs that were aimed at improving disabled people’s access to the built environment.The women and equalities committee concluded in its report last April that disabled people were too often finding their lives “needlessly restricted by features of the built environment”.It had heard evidence from disabled witnesses of a catalogue of barriers, including the shortage of accessible homes; public and commercial buildings without step-free access or with poor signage; and inaccessible workplaces.The Building for Equality report said the burden of ensuring an accessible environment “falls too heavily at present on individual disabled people” and that the government should “act to more visibly lead the charge in improving access and inclusion in the built environment”.It also called for “more ambition” in the standards of accessibility the government sets for new homes and said that “much more” could be done to “make the public realm and public buildings more accessible”.But the government’s response, from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), has dismissed nearly all the report’s recommendations for improving the accessibility of new homes, and access to public buildings and public spaces.Among the recommendations the government has rejected are: to ensure that all new public buildings meet strict inclusive design and access standards; to consider granting VAT exemptions for building work that improves access; and to force public bodies to publish access information about their buildings.The government also rejected the suggestion that planning permission for a development should only be given by a local authority if there was evidence that it made “sufficient provision for accessibility and inclusion”; and that the government should put pressure on councils that do not do enough to improve the supply of accessible housing in their local plans.It also dismissed a recommendation to remove the controversial requirement that local authorities must prove there is an immediate need for accessible housing if they want to apply optional access standards to new housing developments.And it rejected the latest attempt to persuade it to use licensing laws to ensure basic levels of access to licensed premises such as pubs and restaurants.Another recommendation rejected was to require local authorities to halt all controversial shared space street developments.MHCLG agreed just three recommendations.It says it will issue new planning guidance, which has drawn on “stakeholder engagement”, particularly with “disabled people and the groups that represent them”.It has also agreed to look again at building regulations on disability access; and to fund and support training and development activities by the built environment industry.Ellen Clifford, campaigns and policy manager for Inclusion London, which gave evidence to the committee’s inquiry, said the government’s response was “overwhelmingly disappointing”.She said: “The intention of the committee’s inquiry was to find solutions to urgent situations such as the lack of accessible housing supply or barriers to disabled people’s participation in the community, based on a social model approach to removing the burden of enforcement away from individual disabled people.“The government’s response shows an unwillingness to hold local authorities, developers and licensees to account on accessibility, despite all evidence that without this there will be no improvement and disabled people’s exclusion will continue.”One leading disabled access consultant, Tracey Proudlock, of Proudlock Associates, said she was “shocked and disappointed” that the government had accepted only three of the committee’s recommendations.She also criticised the government’s references to inclusive design being “best practice” rather than a statutory requirement, and to the need to have “consultation with” disabled people rather than “having disabled people involved at the heart of the processes that ultimately create inclusive design”.She said: “We are currently working on a development based on the principles of co-production – with local disabled people as part of the design team – and we know from our experience how important a step this is to take on the road to equality. “The government should be far more on-board with this.“Indeed, more should be done to improve inclusive design at every opportunity, both in regulations and in legislation and licensing. “Laws prohibiting development without improvement are currently full of gaps and at best unclear, especially where smaller commercial buildings are concerned.“What can’t be achieved by licensing must be met another way and it should be up to the government to find that means, not to turn down suggestions.”She added: “It is a continuing failure that so many people still do not have adequate access to buildings, in particular homes, work places and to heritage buildings. “In particular, we do not feel that housing standards should require research into local need before being applied, as good inclusive design enshrined in the right national standards should meet everyone’s needs and desires.”Sue Bott, deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “The government response is very disappointing.”She said there was “little to cheer about”, except the government’s decision [although this was not in response to a recommendation of the committee] to commence long-awaited measures in the Equality Act 2010 that will impose a duty on landlords to allow reasonable access improvements to be made to the common parts of blocks of flats, such as entrances and stairs (see separate story). She added: “There’s much ‘we are committed’, ‘we share the committee’s view’, etc, but very little tangible action. “It seems that access to the built environment is anyone and everyone’s responsibility except the government’s.”The women and equalities committee said it was too early to comment on the government’s response.Asked why the government had rejected so many recommendations, an MHCLG spokesman agreed that the government had accepted just three of the report’s recommendations.But he said: “We fully recognise the importance of accessibility and inclusion when making decisions relating to the built environment.“We expect councils to consider this when making planning decisions, and we are taking action on a number of areas identified by the committee.”Picture: Zara Todd giving evidence on behalf of Inclusion London during the committee’s inquiry
How does a harmonium end up at Burning Man – twice?It all began with a phone call to long time Mission resident, Jim Tyler’s Harmonium and reed organ shop. Robert Hoehn had found a dusty, inoperable, but adorable 100 year old Chicago Cottage harmonium. He asked Jim if the instrument could be operable in time for Burning Man. Jim said, “yes” and offered to do the work for free.Robert had been given a commission to build a wind operated music pavilion. He designed the wind sound sanctuary with the old Chicago Cottage organ as it’s centerpiece. The combination was a real success.Photo by Expresso Buz 0% Robert said “the old girl sang everything from Bach to jazz.” And the music went on all night long. She sang her heart out, literally. At the end of the burn pedal straps were broken and one pull had been yanked off. As you could imagine the instrument was covered with the finest of playa dust. Once again she was speechless.Sputtering dust she returned to Venice, California her new home. For a year Robert carefully cleaned and repaired the instrument. Jim found a replacement stop to be mated with the stump protruding from her stop action.The Cottage Organ is now up and running just in time to return to the playa. This time she is adorned with instructions like “Gently pull the stops don’t twist them.” Also the sound board has been carefully “mic-ed” so musicians won’t feel it necessary to pump too hard in an effort to boost the sound. Once again she is ready for Burning Man and her classic sound will once again rock the playa. Stop by the Wind Sound Sanctuary and take a 100 year old harmonium for a twirlRobert HoehnPhoto by Expresso BuzPhoto by Robert Hoehn Tags: Burning Man Share this: FacebookTwitterRedditemail,0%
“During my youth, we sold cigarettes and we sold malt liquor and we sold Doritos and Hostess and all the shit you can imagine,” he said. “It was very different. It wasn’t a fresh food store, we didn’t sell any fresh meat or fish or fresh cheeses.”And it was one of the only food places on the block. Pay ‘n Save Grocery had on the corner of 18th and Guerrero since his childhood, Mogannam says, and Dolores Park Cafe had just opened the year before in 1997. But Faye’s was just transitioning from being a laundromat, and neither Delfina nor Tartine were yet open.“This is one of the magical things about the synergy that has happened on this block of 18th Street,” Mogannam said. After opening in 1998, he was congratulated by the future owners of Delfina, Craig and Annie Stoll, and told them about a restaurant space down the block.“Well they went, got some information – there was a paper napkin that had been written on it with an ink pen that said ‘For sale’ with a phone number, and they still have that napkin – and they bought the restaurant within a week,” he said.A few years later Tartine opened, and along with Dolores Park Cafe, Delfina, Pay ‘n Save, and Bi-Rite, formed a corridor of food in the middle of the Mission, a sort of entrance to Dolores Park and a frequent stop for park-goers.“It’s like an ecosystem,” said Shakirah Simley, Bi-Rite’s community programs manager. She said employees often go into the different 18th Street food spots and greet one another, and that some even work different shifts at the different eateries on the block.After its opening, Mogannam stepped up Bi-Rite’s food ethics. He “started going to farmer’s markets to buy ingredients” and conversed with farmers and ranchers about “how good food should be grown… and the ethics around meat,” eventually building the organic, ethical reputation Bi-Rite now enjoys.Mogannam’s focus on community has inspired others. When Little Mission Studio founder, Matt Rupert, was asked why he stressed reaching out to the community on Mission Local’s radio show, Rupert said it was something he had learned “from Sam” while working as a clerk at Bi-Rite.Mogannam also started the non-profit 18 Reasons back in 2008 as a space for community cooking, hosting some 300 food classes annually and serving more than 3,000 individuals from “underserved communities” throughout the Bay Area under its Cooking Matters program. “There’s classes happening in Concord and in Palo Alto and in the North Bay,” he said. “They’re all happening in the turf of these underserved communities, in churches and in clinics and in schools, places where people feel comfortable going.”The new b-corp certification for Bi-Rite Market will help it measure the success of practices it has been implementing for years, though for Mogannam it was also a nice pat on the back.“When a third party steps in and says ‘You guys are kicking ass’ – it felt good, it felt really good,” he said.He’s happiest for the economic support Bi-Rite gives to vendors and staff, however. Being “one of the biggest vendors for a lot of farmers” and seeing them “succeed and feed their families” (to say nothing of the “really healthy 401(k) plans” he says his staff have) is cause enough for celebration, Mogannam says.“It honestly feels great, I’m really proud,” he said. “Reconnecting people much more closely to where their food comes from – that makes me happy, man.” “This one we all felt was really important to celebrate,” said Mogannam, who told those assembled he doesn’t usually like to celebrate such things. “Especially with a rapidly changing San Francisco, that there’s a space, a building, that hasn’t changed since 1940…[that] also maintains the same mission that they started with of serving food to a community with the intent of feeding it, to feed it well.”Mogannam’s father and uncle bought the neighborhood store in 1964 from a family that had run it since 1940 and was also present at the anniversary lunch. It then went through a brief period of other management from 1989 to 1997 before it was passed onto Mogannam.Mogannam’s ethical food focus – gained from his years as a chef in which “if you fuck up, you can make somebody sick” – only became a staple after he stepped in, he says. 0% Tags: Bi-Rite Market • food Share this: FacebookTwitterRedditemail,0% Bi-Rite Market celebrated its 75th anniversary with an intimate lunch on Friday, in which its owner spoke of how the Mission has changed since his childhood and the pride he has for the market’s ethical stance.“[The neighborhood] is really important, it’s where I grew up,” said Sam Mogannam, whose family has owned the grocery store since 1964. “I started working here when I was six.…I’d walk down from 17th and Church by Mission High School as a little boy, by Dolores Park, which was a pit; my father never let me go to Dolores Park when I was a kid. I got mugged twice and while I was at work I had a gun put to my head once.”“It was different,” he continued. “But it’s where my roots are, and for me to have taken so much of who I am and that history of what’s shaped me as a child, to be back in it, and to continue to tweak it and shape it…it excites me.”The lunch was a gathering of close family and friends celebrating both the store’s recent certification as a b-corporation (one that has a positive impact on society or the environment) and its continuous presence. It has been in its 18th Street building since 1940 and under a few different owners has maintained its facade mostly unchanged in those 75 years.
A Slice of El Salvador on 24th Street from Mission Local on Vimeo. The hike comes as Guerra’s five-year lease is set to expire, she said. Before she signed the five-year lease, she had been paying $4,000 for the space.Her landlord, Andrew Kong, bought the building three years ago in March.Diana Ponce De Leon, a liaison between the neighborhood and the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, is attempting to negotiate with Kong, Guerra said.Kong has neglected to do maintenance on the building, such as fixing a water heater that leaks into one of the restaurant’s hallways, as well as a crumbling wall at the exterior of the building, Guerra said.“If you want to raise the rent, you have to fix what’s broken,” she said.Kong could not be reached for comment.Guerra said she does not plan on closing immediately if Kong doesn’t budge. She said she’ll try to survive by raising the restaurant’s prices, as Kong had suggested after she asked him not to raise the rent, she said.She also said she might try hosting events more often, but wasn’t sure. “I don’t know,” she said. “But I don’t want to go.”Guerra started the restaurant in 2005 after working for a long time in the food industry. “This is my dream,” she said. “When I was working in restaurants, it was my dream to have my own place.” It has also been a space for community events like music and poetry, as well as a meeting place for local organizations.“Now, if I close, it closes a place for the community, too,” she said. Tags: 24th Street • Business • displacement Share this: FacebookTwitterRedditemail,0% Sunrise Restaurant on 24th Street is facing a $3,000 rent hike, leaving its owner unsure if she can stay in the space.It’s unclear if the hike will displace the restaurant immediately, but its owner, Alba Guerra, says paying such high rent will be a struggle. “We want to try to stay here,” she said.On April 1, 2018, the restaurant’s rent will rise from $4,800 to $7,800 per month, Guerra said.Sunrise has been serving Latin American breakfast and brunch on 24th Street for 13 years. 0%
The State of Texas(Daily)A daily digest of Texas news, plus the latest from Texas Monthly Sign UpI agree to the terms and conditions. Why am I seeing this? Subscribe now, or to get 10 days of free access, sign up with your email. Cancel anytime. MARKUSIC: We ended up crashing three rockets there, and part of that was probably from lack of discipline. But it was a learning experience. There was just such a dramatic contrast between what we were doing out there and my real job. Elon was there pretty much full-time, and I was just inspired by his belief that it was all going to work perfectly. It was very clear that this guy expects, one hundred percent, that this thing’s going to launch and it’s going to be great. There’s something magnetic about that. These guys were charting an entirely new path to space, this lower-cost, higher-frequency access. As soon as I got back to the States, I got an offer to leave NASA and run SpaceX’s Texas engine-testing facility, in McGregor. My wife was eight months pregnant at the time, but it just felt right.TM: But eventually you left SpaceX. Why?MARKUSIC: After having worked for them for about five years and crawling through rockets and taking every little nut and bolt apart, I learned everything about launch vehicles to the point where I could design one myself. And by then it was clear to me that not only was SpaceX for real, but this whole New Space thing could be very real. So I thought I should try to help other companies, to further the movement. I went to Blue Origin and was there very, very briefly [for just two months]. SpaceX had been just brutal and fast-paced, and I thrived in that environment, but Blue Origin felt much more like a rich man’s hobby. It was a shock to my system, and while I was there, I got a call from Richard Branson, at Virgin Galactic, asking me to help get his spaceship going. So I left to develop rocket engines for him for about three years. TM: What was the opportunity you saw to leave and start Firefly? MARKUSIC: Everything in those companies was about going to Mars [and colonizing space]. But it was clear to me that there was a need for a smaller rocket to serve the market for launching a new generation of small satellites into low-Earth orbit. I came to this crossroads where it was like, “I know how to do this. If I had a group of people and money, I could build this machine. I know I can. Let’s go make a rocket company.” That was at the end of 2013. TM: Speaking of money, who do you turn to when you decide you want to start building rockets? MARKUSIC: I was able to put in $1 million. My two business partners put in comparable amounts. And then we started talking to friends and family and our professional networks—a few hundred thousand dollars here, a few hundred thousand there. TM: But that doesn’t get you super far. MARKUSIC: You start to spend serious money when you’re hiring and making stuff. I think we eventually raised $20 million that way, the hard way, in small increments. That’s what was consuming all of my time. And when you’re burning through more than $1 million a week, as we were, you’re always just racing toward the cliff. I pitched every venture capitalist in Silicon Valley in that period, but those folks are used to funding app companies that have, you know, five guys and some programmers in India or something. They have a low probability of success but also low initial funding requirements and a very high potential payoff. So the venture capitalists can make a hundred bets on those kinds of companies for the price of funding one rocket company, which is also super risky. TM: Which is why it makes sense that billionaires like Bezos, Musk, and Branson are the type of people who start rocket companies. MARKUSIC: Right. You have to have a backer who has a passion for space, the resources, and a broader vision. TM: So what happened? The company was living hand-to-mouth, essentially. How did you break out of that cycle? MARKUSIC: We didn’t. We encountered a perfect hurricane of circumstances. We had finally put together a $30 million investment deal. One investor was a European company, and one was an American individual. It was the summer of 2016, and then Brexit happened and sent shock waves through Europe, which made the European company back out. Around the same time, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket blew up on the launchpad and spooked the American investor. We ran out of money. Firefly Space Systems went out of business.Venting liquid oxygen at the Briggs test site.Photograph by Jeff WilsonTM: On a human level, here you were, literally building a rocket ship, and you had to shut it down. That must have been devastating. MARKUSIC: Absolutely miserable. It reminded me of the story of life—you know, you come in by yourself, you go out by yourself. In the end, it was just me sitting down in bankruptcy meetings. The hardest part was laying off 160 people—letting all of those people down— and letting investors down.TM: What’d you do with all the stuff? I mean, there were rocket parts being built here. What happens to a partially built rocket that no longer has a company that’s building the rest of it? MARKUSIC: That was the second-hardest part, looking at all this stuff and thinking that potentially somebody was going to drag it off and cut it up and sell it for scrap metal. So you lock the doors. I still had this office space that whole time and still had the test site in Briggs. I was actually coming in here to work. It was just me, alone, and the rocket parts. TM: What were you working on? MARKUSIC: It became about getting up every day and saying, “What am I going to do to try to turn this around, to bring it back?” And then, you know, things eventually happen.TM: Like what? MARKUSIC: We had learned a lot, and now I had an opportunity to design the absolute right rocket. If we had completed the first Firefly Alpha rocket, it would have been much less competitive than the second generation we’re building now: it was too small by half; the payload capacity was not optimal for the kind of satellites it would take up. I might have had us on a path to long-term failure anyway. So I started redesigning the rocket. The other thing that happened is that I met Max Polyakov, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who’s figured out lots of different ways to make money on the internet. Max saw the stories of us going down, came out here and bought the company’s assets, and we relaunched as Firefly Aerospace six months after we shut down. TM: Recently there was news that you would be building a factory on Florida’s Space Coast and launching at Cape Canaveral—and you previously announced you’d be launching at Vandenberg Air Force Base, in California, as well. Meanwhile, there are several rocket-launch sites in Texas—SpaceX has one near Brownsville, and Blue Origin has one near Van Horn, in West Texas. Why not launch closer to home? MARKUSIC: It has a lot to do with what you’re going to fly over when you launch. You want to be in a place where, if your rocket fails, it’s not going to damage property or people below it. For orbital launches, being near the Gulf is just not as good an option as being near an open ocean. If you launch over the Gulf, you’re going to have to do some evasive maneuvers to go around islands like Cuba, and that wastes rocket fuel. It’s also just easier to use an existing facility. Part of the game here is time and money. There’s a pool of people talking about going to space, and it’s really hard to tell who’s real and who’s not real. So it’s super important to get there and show people you’re real as soon as possible. Look at SpaceX. They’ve been using government facilities, and now that they’re established, they’re building their Brownsville facility. I could see us building our own launch site one day, but right now I’ve got to pick our fights.TM: Because small satellites orbit closer to Earth than traditional satellites do, they can transmit data to us more quickly. Why is that such a big opportunity?MARKUSIC: I like to say that space is the next frontier in the information revolution, in both collecting and disseminating information. Take Earth imaging, for example: from low-Earth orbit, you can track how much iron ore China has or deforestation or how many cars are in a mall parking lot at any time. That’s incredibly powerful and valuable information. There are just unlimited use cases. TM: So we’ll basically be getting persistent, high-resolution images of the whole planet? MARKUSIC: It depends on what you want and how frequently you want it. And what region you’re looking at. I mean, we can talk about real-time stuff—say, following your girlfriend, watching where her car is driving from space. TM: That’s creepy. MARKUSIC: I just mean that it’s possible. Then there’s the ability to access markets that are closed. You know, [nearly half] of the people in the world don’t have internet. Giving them access could help lift them up. It’s easier to beam down widespread broadband internet access using satellites than to lay terrestrial cables and fiber. In many cases, it’s faster internet, too. I’ve had people from the biggest financial institutions in the world in here, in their Italian leather shoes, saying, “If you can get me data from India to New York five milliseconds faster than it can go through a fiber-optic cable, it’s worth $250 million to me”—because over fifty percent of trading is high-frequency trading. There’s just so much that’s going to happen. The perception that space exploration is all, like, “one small step for man” type of stuff is not really what’s going on. It’s all a big financial play, which is ultimately what it should be. We’re Americans. We’re a business. We should be about making money. Doing other things like going to the moon is icing on the cake. The interior of Firefly’s Stage 2 Interstage Barrel.Photograph by Jeff WilsonTM: Can you paint me a picture of where Firefly goes in the future? Are small satellites an entry point into a much wider space play: manned interplanetary travel, things like that? MARKUSIC: One thing I would like is for us to become a parts supplier. A big reason this has all been so expensive for us is because I’ve had to develop my own rocket engines, my own valves, all these things. You want to start a rocket company? Here: you can buy rocket engines out of my catalog. I’ll sell you the parts. So the barrier to entry for future companies would go way down because you don’t have to create these technological miracles to get your company started. In the past, parts were unbelievably expensive because they were being primarily sold to the government. If you wanted to buy a space-shuttle main engine, it was tens of millions of dollars. But if you could buy rocket engines for a couple of hundred thousand dollars from this company in Austin? It would totally change the economics.TM: You’ve announced that you will launch a rocket by the end of this year. Is it going to happen? MARKUSIC: People make too many promises in the world, and I’m not a promise type of person, but I can tell you that everyone in this company is working toward 6:30 a.m. on December 16, 2019. And we’re giving it hell. TM: Okay—be honest. How much of what you do is because rockets are just cool? MARKUSIC: I’m a Christian guy. I definitely believe in Providence. I believe there’s a God who built me to do this kind of stuff. And if you’re doing what you’re built to do, it’s just naturally awesome, right? It is awesome.This interview has been edited for clarity and length.This article originally appeared in the July 2019 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Getting to Liftoff.” Subscribe today. Hope you enjoyed your free ride. To get back in the saddle, subscribe! Editor’s Desk(Monthly)A message from the editors at Texas Monthly MARKUSIC: We try to be gentle and not say “Old Space.” We call it heritage space. I think “old” really shortchanges what it is; heritage is important. We’re very much interested in integrating things from the past to make our lives easier. So the foundation that’s been laid is important, but operationally we’re a lot different.TM: How so? MARKUSIC: Faster, cheaper is the big thing, and not being afraid to try different approaches. Firefly’s one-hundred-foot vertical test stand.Photograph by Jeff WilsonTM: A layperson would look at Texas’s history with space and say, “There must be a lot of rocket scientists in Texas, so it makes sense to launch a company like Firefly here.” But is that actually why you’re in Texas? MARKUSIC: Building a great company is not about drawing in a bunch of people who’ve done this sort of stuff before. It’s about drawing in the most talented people possible. Find the smartest, hardest-working, most passionate people you can, and if they don’t have space experience, that’s okay because they’re so good. They’ll learn, and they’ll pass the more experienced people very quickly. That’s the kind of company you’re trying to build in New Space. TM: So you’re not hiring a bunch of NASA people. MARKUSIC: Exactly. TM: Why did you create this company in Texas, then? In a nondescript industrial park in far-north suburban Austin, about 150 people are building spaceships. Covering one wall is a giant portrait of Wernher von Braun, the German rocketry pioneer. In the back, there’s a machine shop where engineers are turning out rocket engines. A giant video screen displays a real-time feed from the company’s engine test site in Briggs, about thirty minutes from headquarters, where more engineers regularly blast fire across the prairie. Both facilities are part of Firefly Aerospace, a maker of unmanned spacecraft and rockets for launching satellites. Tom Markusic, the 49-year-old founder and CEO, has worked for America’s largest public and private space ventures, from NASA to SpaceX. During a recent conversation at his Cedar Park office, the Ohio native opened up about his company’s roller-coaster journey to launch, the power of “New Space,” and why he’s doing it in Texas. TEXAS MONTHLY: Your company’s tagline is “Making space for everyone.” What do you mean by that? TOM MARKUSIC: That’s just another way of saying “New Space,” as opposed to heritage space, the NASA era. New Space is about dramatically lowering the cost and increasing the access to space. TM: Texas has such a long history in the space industry, specifically in the NASA glory days. Can you contrast Old Space and New Space for me? Subscribe First Name Never Miss a StorySign up for Texas Monthly’s State of Texas newsletter to get stories like this delivered to your inbox daily. MARKUSIC: When Elon [Musk, the founder of SpaceX] came and set up a rocket test site in Texas, I was the first long-term director of it, and I saw things about Texas that were very attractive. Texas offers a great economic and regulatory environment. Low cost of living. Austin has a very tech-focused culture. The environmental regulations are not onerous. Land rights are very free—what you can do on your land allows you to move quickly. Contrast that with California, which I experienced firsthand working for Virgin Galactic. I worked for NASA in Alabama, and I worked in Washington state for [the Jeff Bezos–founded] Blue Origin. I’ve been all over, and when it came time to start my own company, it was pretty self-evident that Texas was the place.TM: I recently saw a stat that said SpaceX built its Falcon 9 rocket with almost $400 million, whereas there was a NASA estimate that it would cost $1.6 billion to build a similar kind of vehicle. Why is it so much cheaper for a private company to do that? MARKUSIC: When you’re doing something in that heritage space way, you’re inheriting a lot of requirements that can drive cost up. It’s a very risk-averse framework. Many things in the government are like, “You just add money and a person. Here are the instructions—do this thing.” That type of approach is usually pretty reliable in getting the result you want, but it’s really expensive. And it’s usually undergirded by contractors who are disincentivized to make things at the lowest cost. With New Space, you’re spending people’s money; you’re not spending this amorphous blob of taxpayer money. That just pervades the whole culture. TM: Let’s talk about how you got here. How does a person decide it’s time to start building spaceships? MARKUSIC: I’m very interested in interstellar travel, and I’ve spent a lot of my life studying the underlying physics of that. I got a PhD from Princeton, where I studied plasma physics. At the time, fire-breathing rockets were something I absolutely turned my nose up at. I thought, “People already figured that out.” I was interested in the really far-out stuff, and that’s what I ended up working on for NASA and the Air Force early in my career. Developing space systems for military purposes, systems to take humans to outer planets, robotic exploration of outer planets. And then I met Elon.TM: Who had just started SpaceX. MARKUSIC: Yeah. NASA kind of pulled the rug out from the R&D stuff that I was working on because they wanted to focus on a new program called Constellation, which just wasn’t for me. So they gave me an opportunity to be a manager. I always like learning new things, so I thought I’d learn about management and how organizations work. I just dug into all the details of that. And at some point they were like, “Hey, there’s this crazy dot-com guy who thinks he’s going to build his own rocket. Why don’t you go out and see what they’re doing and see if there’s anything useful you can learn from them?” So I packed up all my management books and stuff that I was reading—you know, The One-Minute Manager or Who Moved My Cheese?—and I went to Kwajalein.TM: That’s the chain of South Pacific islands where SpaceX was testing its Falcon 1 rocket. MARKUSIC: Yes. And there I found a bunch of guys and women just sweating in T-shirts and drinking a lot and fishing and going between islands on catamarans and putting up this rocket. They were having bonfires and sleeping under the stars and all this stuff—and I was reading my sterile, spiritless management books. I’d been wearing a tie to work, with lots of paper pushers around me. And it became clear to me that the purpose of management books was to sell management books. And here were these people literally building a machine to go to space. I just hit it off with them, and eventually I was like, “Hey, can you hand me a screwdriver?” and I started helping. Markusic at SpaceX’s launch site on Kwajalein Atoll, in early 2006.Courtesy of Tom MarkusicTM: I love the image of a guy with a PhD working on a rocket with a screwdriver. 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WHEN Sydney Roosters come to town next month it will be a repeat of the first ever World Club Challenge match.Saints headed out on tour to Australia in 1976 to take on the Eastern Suburbs – who later became Saints opponents in this year’s World Club Series.The Saints of 1975-76 were dubbed ‘Dad’s Army’ because of a large portion of the squad was over 30-years-old, writes Alex Service.Experience is everything, however, and the team ended the campaign as Challenge Cup winners in the searing heat of Wembley Stadium and later beat First Division Champions Salford in the Premiership final.Captain Kel Coslett and the lads were really buzzing after their achievements and looked forward to a unique three-week tour Down Under to play a match against Queensland at Lang Park, Eastern Suburbs at the Sydney Cricket ground and finish off over in Auckland.Former Saints’ full-back Geoff Pimblett was, quite naturally delighted at the prospect of going to Australia and New Zealand.He says: “It was a fantastic experience for the lads, but it would have been better if we had say, just a week’s rest to recover from our own domestic matches and then jetted off Down Under.“But we had six weeks’ delay before the trip and we’d lost a bit of momentum by then – a great pity.”The party flew from Heathrow on June 17 to Brisbane with stops at Amsterdam, Vienna, Bahrain and Singapore. The first match was on June 22 at Lang Park, against a Queensland side which included some familiar names such as Greg Veivers, Ross Strudwick and John Lang.Despite holding a nine-point lead at one stage, Saints were a tired team when the Maroons clinched a 21-15 victory in the last few minutes.So on to Sydney and the unofficial World Club Championship match against Eastern Suburbs on June 29, coached by the famous Jack Gibson.Despite some early flurries, the Saints failed to make a real impression on the game and Easts, with the likes of Captain Artie Beetson earning the $5,000 dollar Man-of-the-Match award, were far too good on the night and won 25-2.The crowd numbered 26,856, including a large number of ex-pats, cheering on the visitors.“We had a few chances just before half-time, but we couldn’t take them,” recalls Geoff, “which was a great shame and they dominated after half-time.“We stayed at Bondi Junction and you remember daft things like ordering prawn cocktail for breakfast. It was all-inclusive and you could eat what you wanted, but we hadn’t seen things like that before.”Then it was on to Auckland and the slithering mud of Carlaw Park, before returning home on July 7.“We cut them [Auckland] up time and time again but couldn’t finish them off”, adds Geoff. “We ended up losing 20-13, but we’d had enough by then. If only we could have toured earlier – at our peak. Mind you, what memories, When you can sit in Bradman’s seat at the Sydney Cricket Ground – that’s what it is all about!”Saints will face Sydney Roosters at Langtree Park on Friday February 19 (8pm) as part of the prestigious World Club Series – and tickets are now on sale.They are priced at:Hattons Solicitors West Terrace, East Terrace and Family Stands:Adult – £22.50OAP and Young Adult – £15.50Junior – £10Solarking South and Totally Wicked North Stands:Gold: Adult – £30, OAP and Young Adult – £22.50, Junior – £12Silver: Adult – £28, OAP and Young Adult – £20.50, Junior – £12Bronze: Adult – £25, OAP and Young Adult – £18.50, Junior – £10Tickets can be bought by popping into the Ticket Office at Langtree Park, by calling 01744 455 052 or online here.A package for all three games (Leeds v North Queensland, Wigan v Brisbane) costs £60 and can be purchased by visiting www.rugbyleaguetickets.co.uk or calling the Rugby League Ticket Hotline on 0844 856 1113.
“It was always going to be a tough game, we knew that. To come away with the win is very pleasing.I thought there were a lot of good performances across the park from our boys.Obviously, we started well and I thought we were unlucky to go in at 12-all at half-time.Wigan kept coming back at us. In the second half it was a great defensive effort, we really ramped it up.I thought we showed enough in attack and, in defence we were really strong. To only concede a barge over and an intercept, against a very good Wigan side was really pleasing.”In the end, we came away with a good win. I thought Lachlan Coote was a very calming influence and he reads the game so well. To have Big Al back aswell was fantastic to see.I thought we all worked really hard as a team and I think we are going to get better as our new guys gel more.”
Louie spent four seasons at Harlequins, as they were once called, making close to 100 appearances before signing for Saints in 2011.His Saints debut came against Wigan at the 2011 ‘Millennium Magic’ event and he quickly established himself as a real crowd favourite.And this week, ahead of our clash with London Broncos at the Trailfinders on Sunday (kick off 3pm) he has entertained us all in an interview with his ‘pal’ Kevin Naiqama.Kev thanked Louie for welcoming him to the Saints with open arms, before discussing his injury rehab and return against Wakefield in the Coral Challenge Cup, his time over in London and the threat they will pose on Sunday.Make sure you watch the clip until the end so you don’t miss Kev and Louie’s signature handshake!We are taking over 800 fans to the capital on Sunday and tickets for the match are still available from the Ticket Office, via 01744 455 052 and online here.Tickets for Saints Coral Challenge Cup Semi Final against Halifax, Saturday July 27 (KO 4:30pm) at the University of Bolton Stadium, are also on sale for Members by clicking here.
NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — A shelter specifically for New Hanover County residents opened in Knightdale at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.The shelter is at Knightdale High School located at 100 Bryan Chalk Lane.- Advertisement – Residents of New Hanover County who are planning to go to a shelter are strongly encouraged to relocate to this inland location that is being provided by our state partners. New Hanover County staff will be on site to assist at the shelter.On Wednesday, there will be additional transportation buses to the Knightdale shelter as well as other Wake County shelters at Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School and Garner High School.All buses will depart from the New Hanover County Government Center’s west parking lot at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Residents should arrive at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. respectively.Related Article: NHRMC still assessing damage post stormResidents of Carolina Beach and Kure Beach are under a mandatory evacuation order.Wrightsville Beach will have a mandatory evacuation beginning at 8 a.m. on Wednesday.Residents of Wilmington, and all of New Hanover County who live in low-lying areas where flooding and storm surge are a factor, are strongly encouraged to relocate to locations inland.All New Hanover County residents and visitors should evacuate or be in a safe location before 8 p.m. on Wednesday, September 12.This Knightdale shelter is a pet co-location facility and will accept cats and dogs (no exotic animals). Those seeking emergency shelter should bring their own blankets/pillows, prescription medications and other necessary items. No alcohol, illegal drugs, or weapons are permitted. Pet owners should bring their dog or cat in crates, along with pet food. There will be limited food service available for people seeking shelter.Information on other available shelters in New Hanover County can be found here.