News Briefs – April 8, 2019


House votes to end support for Yemen war, rebuffing Trump

The House has voted to end American involvement in the Yemen war, rebuffing the Trump administration’s support for the military campaign led by Saudi Arabia.
The bill now heads to President Donald Trump, who’s expected to veto it. The White House says the bill raises “serious constitutional concerns.”
It’s the first time Congress has invoked the decades-old War Powers Resolution to try and stop a foreign conflict.
The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee — New York Rep. Eliot Engel — says Congress “is no longer going to ignore its constitutional obligations when it comes to foreign policy.”
The war is in its fifth year. Thousands have been killed and millions are on the brink of starvation, creating what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. AP

Pentagon to do new review of Niger attack

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has appointed a four-star officer to take another look at the military’s investigation into the 2017 attack in Niger that killed four U.S. soldiers and review whether additional punishments should be meted out.
The Pentagon says the investigating officer will do a narrow review and give Shanahan recommendations on whether reprimands already made were appropriate.
Officials have said nine individuals have been held accountable for lapses in training and other mission preparedness. The punishments have largely been letters of reprimand. But officials and members of Congress have questioned whether more senior officers should be disciplined. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel actions.
The initial investigation found multiple failures leading up to the October 2017 ambush, but none that directly caused the attack. AP

Japan space probe drops explosive on asteroid to make crater

Japan’s space agency said its Hayabusa2 spacecraft released an explosive onto an asteroid to make a crater on its surface and collect underground samples to find possible clues to the origin of the solar system.
The April 5 crater mission is the riskiest for Hayabusa2, as it had to immediately get away so it won’t get hit by flying shards from the blast.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, said that Hayabusa2 dropped a “small carry-on impactor” made of copper onto the asteroid Friday morning, and that the spacecraft safely evacuated and remained intact. JAXA is analyzing further details.
The copper explosive is the size of a baseball weighing 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds).
JAXA plans to send Hayabusa2 back to the site later, when the dust and debris settle, for observations from above and to collect samples from underground that have not been exposed to the sun or space rays. Scientists hope the samples will be crucial to determine the history of the asteroid and our planet.
If successful, it would be the first time for a spacecraft to take such materials. In a 2005 “deep impact” mission to a comet, NASA observed fragments after blasting the surface but did not collect them.
After dropping the impactor, the spacecraft was to move quickly to the other side of the asteroid to avoid flying shards from the blast. While moving away, Hayabusa2 was also to leave a camera to capture the outcome, which would take time to reach Earth for analysis.
Hayabusa2 successfully touched down on a tiny flat surface on the boulder-rich asteroid in February, when the spacecraft also collected some surface dust and small debris.
The craft is scheduled to leave the asteroid at the end of 2019 and bring surface fragments and underground samples back to Earth in late 2020.
The asteroid, named Ryugu after an undersea palace in a Japanese folktale, is about 180 million miles from Earth. AP

Boeing cutting production rate of troubled 737 Max jet

Boeing is cutting production of its grounded Max airliner this month to focus on fixing flight-control software and getting the planes back in the air.
The company said April 5 that starting in mid-April it will cut production of the 737 Max from 52 to 42 planes per month.
The move is not that surprising. Boeing had already suspended deliveries of the Max after regulators around the world grounded the jet following deadly crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
In each case, preliminary reports say faulty sensor readings erroneously triggered an anti-stall system that pushed the plane’s nose down. Pilots of each plane struggled in vain to regain control over the automated system. In all, 346 people died in the crashes.
The announcement to cut production comes one day after Boeing acknowledged another software issue that needs fixing on its 737 Max jets, and the discovery explains why the aircraft maker is delaying its schedule for getting the planes back in the air.
A Boeing spokesman on April 5 called it a “relatively minor issue” and said the plane maker already has a fix in the works.
The spokesman, Charles Bickers, said the latest issue is not part of flight-control software that Boeing has been working to upgrade for months. AP