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China NASA Space Politics

Scientists Boycott NASA Conference Because of Ban On Chinese Participants 283

Posted by timothy
from the for-discriminating-tastes dept.
New submitter Eunuchswear writes "Congress has passed laws forbidding NASA from allowing Chinese nationals on its premises, so NASA was forced to reject applications from Chinese scientists to attend the upcoming meeting on the Kepler space telescope next month. This ban extends even to Chinese scientists and students working in the USA, angering many American scientists. Geoff Marcy, known for his work on exoplanets, is reported to be boycotting the conference. 'In good conscience, I cannot attend a meeting that discriminates in this way. The meeting is about planets located trillions of miles away, with no national security implications.' he said in an email to the conference organisers."
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Scientists Boycott NASA Conference Because of Ban On Chinese Participants

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  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @06:13PM (#45047231)
    Once the Chinese start colonizing other planets in advance of Americans, they will simply ban Americans from visiting those planets in exchange. ;-)
  • Due to Frank Wolf (Score:5, Informative)

    by mbone (558574) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @06:21PM (#45047285)

    This is the responsibility of Frank Wolf, R-VA, of the Virginia 10th District. If you should live in the 10th District [wikipedia.org] (in N. Virginia), contact him [house.gov] and let him know what you think about this.

    I have met him several times, but have no idea what he really thinks he is accomplishing here.

    • In all honesty, the bill did have to pass with a majority in both houses and be signed into law by Obama. He may have written or sponsored the original bill, but it's not like Frank Wolf did this on his own.

      • According to an earlier poster, it wasn't a stand-alone bill, it was included in H.R. 933: Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013. So, yet another chance to take a bill required to operate the government used for an unrelated political purpose.

        • by mbone (558574)

          Apparently, this was part of the 2013 Appropriations bill and has be be renewed [politico.com] to stay in force, so anyone has a chance to contact their representative and try and get it changed.

          From the article

          A portion of a new 2014 spending bill, authored by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), would require IT vendors to certify their independence from the Chinese government before they can sell to select U.S. federal agencies. It’s the second time Wolf has backed such language over the objections of critics who say it cou

    • by SeaFox (739806)

      I have met him several times, but have no idea what he really thinks he is accomplishing here.

      Doesn't sound too productive to contact him then, does it?

      • by mbone (558574)

        I don't live in his district.

      • by mbone (558574)

        Also, if I did live in his district, I would certainly contact him and tell him what I think, regardless of what I thought about what he thinks; that's how representative democracy works.

    • by Dunbal (464142) * on Saturday October 05, 2013 @06:31PM (#45047343)
      He didn't need to know what he was accomplishing, he just needed to know how much he was going to get paid for it.
    • Wolf thinks he's accomplishing pandering to the conservative majority of his district, and he's absolutely right. Remember, politicians and bureacrats most often make decisions that serve their own interests, not the interests of those they ostensibly represent or the public at large. There's a whole school of economic thought called "public choice" [wikipedia.org] that studies this phenomenon.

  • by mpthompson (457482) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @06:23PM (#45047291)

    ... so I guess this will teach them a lesson about spying on other countries.

    Of course, the irony of "the pot calling the kettle black" doesn't go unnoticed.

    I'll file this under, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. -- Mahatma Gandhi"

    • The whole world isn't "blind" since pretty much every country spies on other countries, including China, Russia, Iran, Europe (North, South, East, and West), South American, the US, Canada, India, take your pick.

  • This should not be accepatable that the US is closing many of its telescopes [slashdot.org] (temporarily) that were doing long term observations and now doing stupid things like politicizing one of the fronteers of human exploration (the search for other planets like our own). Maybe there need to be more people to write to politicians to let them know that there are voters out there that value these things?

  • by istartedi (132515) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @06:39PM (#45047383) Journal

    So. Let me get this straight. A Pfc has access to diplomatic cables and other documents with TS classifications; but a Chinese scientist can't attend a conference where the results are likely to be published in papers with no classification at all.

    OK, I haven't read TFA (this is Slashdot) but the summary certainly makes it sound like total incompetence. I wish I could say I was surprised.

    I bet I can explain this though. It probably has something to do with what happened at Los Alamos, where a Chinese scientist walked off with some sensitive information. The way to fix that problem was to make sure the sensitive information there was properly classified and restricted to people with the proper clearance. Instead it sounds like they decided to classify... a lot of science. Once again, incompetent.

    • by wmac1 (2478314)

      Same has been going on with Iranian scientists.

      Iranian scientists which work for government organizations have been banned from publishing in American journals and those journals which do business in the US. As an example science direct and others.

      Isn't that pure B.S.?

    • by Dunbal (464142) *

      makes it sound like total incompetence.

      That's government. Now roll your eyes at all the people who are madly in love with their savior and protector, the government. Where do you think America's money problems come from? The PEOPLE aren't paying "their fair share"? No, the government is pissing money away as if their life depended on it. Half of them are trying to encourage people to do stuff that the other half is working actively to stop them from doing. Too many years of complacency, of fattening. Too total a victory in World War II. Nuclear

  • by mysidia (191772) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @06:44PM (#45047409)

    Forbidding NASA from allowing Chinese nationals on the premises clearly has a disparate impact against people of Chinese ethnicity; therefore, this is discrimination based on race.

    Under the latest interpretations of the Civil rights act; any disparate impact is discrimination.

    The courts should be having a field day with this....

    • by sumdumass (711423)

      More like Nationality instead of race. However, Foreign nationals are not typically privileged to all aspects of US law.

      Besides, a previous law cannot bar a future law from being passed if they are on the same legislative hierarchy (State verses state, federal verses federal). Only a constitutional amendment can do that and it is limited insofar as another constitutional amendment can undo it. The courts will likely ignore it.

    • by xlsior (524145)
      Federal laws prohibit discrimination not just on race, but also "national origin" -- which would include "from china", regardless of what race a person happens to be.
      • by swillden (191260)

        Federal laws prohibit discrimination not just on race, but also "national origin"

        But not on citizenship. A Chinese national who acquired, say, Swedish citizenship could attend. A Swede who moved to China and became a Chinese citizen could not. Therefore, it's not discrimination on race or national origin.

        • But not on citizenship. A Chinese national who acquired, say, Swedish citizenship could attend. A Swede who moved to China and became a Chinese citizen could not. Therefore, it's not discrimination on race or national origin.

          Your examples are spot-on, but you're missing how the Civil Rights Act is interpreted.

          One test that's applied is whether a government action disproportionately impacts a protected group, whether that's the intent or not. That's what gives things like VoterID law challenges some feet -

      • Federal laws prohibit discrimination not just on race, but also "national origin"

        "National origin" refers to what country a person, or a person's ancestors, are from. What we're talking about here is country of citizenship. By your reasoning, it's discrimination to say that only US citizens can vote in US elections.

    • by retchdog (1319261)

      Uh, it still only applies to citizens which, one notes, Chinese nationals are not.

    • by Trogre (513942)

      What courts? Didn't they shut down too?

  • by msauve (701917) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @07:08PM (#45047555)
    Instead of having it at NASA, can't they just have it at the local Holiday Inn?
    • by djupedal (584558)

      Instead of having it at NASA, can't they just have it at the local Holiday Inn?

      Good question/point - my guess is NASA is too worried about staying relevant. Might be time to shake things up a bit so science can benefit for a change.

    • Even better, hold it at the local Walmart . . . all the technology there is made in China . . . so nobody will have to worry about anyone from China stealing anything.

    • A few issues here:

      1. The Holiday Inn costs money, which they likely didn't budget for.
      2. Due to the rules that kicked in because of sequestration and other agencies wasting money on conferences, there are a ton of new rules regarding attending meetings ... and meetings at a government facility don't have the same restrictions as a that at other locations.
      3. There are a lot of NASA people involved in this particular field ... and one of those other restrictions is no more than ~50-60 people from an agency at a give
      • by msauve (701917)
        "Holiday Inn" is a placeholder. Make it the local community college. Create a teleconference, so the Chinese don't have to be on site, and NASA doesn't have to spend money flying people around. For rocket scientists, they don't seem very creative.
        • by Dunbal (464142) *
          You can't un-insult someone after you've insulted them. Just a friendly word of advice. I'm sure those scientists won't be back. Ever.
  • by nimbius (983462) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @07:20PM (#45047623) Homepage
    From TFA:
    The recent Congressional action refers to a broader law passed in July which prohibits Nasa funds from being used to participate or collaborate with China in any way. The law has raised fears among some Nasa-funded scientists that they will have to sever ties with their Chinese collaborators, and no longer take on Chinese students. weve embraced this schitzophrenic notion that theyre both an ally as well as an enemy. our Frienemy manufacture entire lifestyles for americans, from phones to computers and even the next great bridge to replace the golden gate
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_span_replacement_of_the_San_Francisco%E2%80%93Oakland_Bay_Bridge [wikipedia.org]
    To insist your second largest trading partner is so prone to espionage as to warrant eviction from, historically, a great font of collaborative international scientific research of the modern era, misses the point entirely. to insist somehow they might glean some kernel of knowledge from NASA that they would not otherwise discover as a nation that manufactures supercomputers, high speed maglev transportation, and the worlds largest power plant ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Gorges_Dam [wikipedia.org] ) is laughable.

    this legislation was concocted by the republican party. Any woman or man of science should remember this as "the party that cant." In the past we hosted 7 astronauts aboard the russian space station MIR. Yet somehow today, the country that hasnt moved missiles into cuba, hasnt started proxy wars, and hasnt ginned up anti-american rhetoric is now so dangerous as to be inadmissable in the eyes of a party that as far as i can tell, stopped researching China after the cold war.
    • weve [sic] embraced this schitzophrenic [sic] notion that theyre [sic] both an ally as well as an enemy.

      Who ever said China was an ally? At best, they're a trade partner. They've taken a provocative stance towards our true long term allies in the Western Pacific.

      our Frienemy manufacture entire lifestyles for americans, from phones to computers and even the next great bridge to replace the golden gate

      Well God bless them. They are ever so nice to us, aren't they? Oddly though, we had phones, computers and bridges before Billy Clinton decided to push for premature and unwarranted PNTR and WTO membership for China. We also had less of a trade imbalance, more engineering and manufacturing jobs, and weren't quite so busy giving away know-how on everyth

      • by Dunbal (464142) * on Saturday October 05, 2013 @11:22PM (#45048667)

        and weren't quite so busy giving away know-how on everything, including such strategically important technologies as jet engines.

        Oh please. You Americans are so full of yourselves. You think the rest of the world is full of idiots. You know people were talking about jet engines in the 1920's, right? You realize the first working prototypes appeared in the 1930's, right? We're talking what, over 80 years ago? You'd think that in 80 years or so a country with almost 2 billion people might be able to produce a few individuals smart enough to work out and advance on these concepts. The only - the ONLY - reason why America has been a source of innovation is because America is where the money was. So brains were attracted to money, and to America. You got the best minds from all over the world wanting to live in your country. Before America it was Germany. Go back in time to: France. Britain. Venice. You know - where the damned money always is. Where stuff is happening.

        But guess what, America? You're out of money. Your country is stagnant. Innovation has gone somewhere else and all you've got left is what once was, and bullshit about how great you guys really think you are. There's plenty of money in Asia. Guess where all the innovation is going to be? You smart enough for that guess? Or you just think there's something magic about your country that makes you guys geniuses and everyone else morons?

        • You know people were talking about jet engines in the 1920's, right? You realize the first working prototypes appeared in the 1930's, right? We're talking what, over 80 years ago?

          You realize that today's jet engines are just a tad better than Frank Whittle's prototype, right? And that that's involved just a tad of development work, right?

          You'd think that in 80 years or so a country with almost 2 billion people might be able to produce a few individuals smart enough to work out and advance on these concepts.

          You might think so, but they haven't.

          BTW, when did 1.3B become "almost 2 billion"? I must be using old math.

          • by Dunbal (464142) *
            I stand corrected, I thought they were at 1.7 not 1.3. Still, actually they do have pretty impressive jets, missiles and rockets. Wait, you're going to tell me they "stole" the rocket tech from you as well, right? lol. ANYTHING can be reverse engineered. Once you know something is possible it's just a matter of money and brainpower to make it happen. Aww hell and you know what? I remember the asian kid from my school days, he was always real shy. And he always got one of the best grades in physics, electron
    • by jandersen (462034)

      ...will have to sever ties with their Chinese collaborators...

      The obvious consequence of this sort of stupidity is that the Chinese will start leaving the US. Meanwhile, EU are investing heavily in research and so is China. Is it difficult to imagine that in a few years' time not only Chinese scientists, but also European and, for that matter, American, scientists, will be looking to work somewhere that is not the US? And unfortunately this is not just a silly hiccup, it is part of a trend that has shut down most of America's space exploration, as well as a lot of hi

  • NASA can't 1) be the space engineering source for DoD and 2) be the open space science community for the world. TFA misses the point that political support for these measures was created when NASA knowingly broke rules on employing foreign nationals on classified projects.

    Like every other scientist, space scientists need to decide how comfortable they are working on secret projects. In the end, if you take the money, you take the restrictions too. NASA should hand anything Congress wants classified over

  • There are several nice conference centers in Canada that are available to host this and in the fall the changing colours of the leaves are really quite nice to see.
  • You know what is better for national security than the most sophisticated and technologically advanced weapons?

    Staying on friendly relations with other countries.

  • ... dumb-asses. Dr. Marcy's observation is typical in not getting it; it isn't about the conference content, it's about the location.

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