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China Unveils the World’s First Female AI News Anchor

China's state-run media outlet Xinhua adds a female AI news anchor to its news team, and she'll make her professional debut in March.

A New Woman

On Tuesday, China’s state-run news outlet Xinhua announced the latest addition to its news team: Xin Xiaomeng.

But Xin never went to journalism school — or any school — because “she” is not a real person. Instead, she’s an artificial intelligence created by Xinhua and search engine Sogou — making her the world’s first female AI news anchor.

Two Sessions, Three AIs

Xin will make her professional debut during March’s Two Sessions, the name given to a pair of annual meetings featuring China’s legislature and its top political advisory body.

She won’t be the only AI news anchor covering the event either.

In November, Xinhua and Sogou unveiled the first AI news anchors of any gender, a pair of male AIs trained to deliver the news in either English or Chinese.

The same day they unveiled Xin, Xinhua and Sogou announced that they’d given these AI anchors the ability to stand and talk simultaneously, and they’ll show off that new ability while covering the Two Sessions alongside their female counterpart.

Hard Workers

When Xinhua debuted their first AI anchors in November, the news agency claimed that each anchor could “work 24 hours a day on its official website and various social media platforms, reducing news production costs and improving efficiency.”

Since then, the anchors have delivered 3,400 news reports while logging 10,000 minutes of screen time, according to Tencent News.

Clearly, Xinhua plans to actually put its AIs to work, and the addition of another anchor to the news team should only serve to increase production.

READ MORE: Chinese State Media’s Latest Innovation Is an AI Female News Anchor [Quartz]

More on AI anchors: Meet the World’s First AI News Anchor

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China Unveils the World’s First Female AI News Anchor

Watch a Self-Driving Car Obey Police Hand Signals

self-driving car company Waymo recently shared a video showing one of its autonomous vehicles being waved through an intersection where the light was out.

Palm Reading

For autonomous vehicles that rely on smooth roads and clear signals, a broken traffic light could conceivably pose a major problem.

To get around the problem of a missing green light, self-driving car company Waymo trained its vehicles’ artificial intelligence to detect and respond to the arm movements of a traffic cop as they wave traffic through an intersection, according to CNET — and you can watch it on YouTube.

Long Time Coming

Waymo first claimed that its autonomous vehicles could respond to hand signals from nearby cyclists back in 2016. That particular research treated cyclists, from the vehicle’s perspective, as obstacles to track and avoid.

A new video published by Waymo on Wednesday is the first that shows its vehicles responding to gesture commands — especially in the absence of the traffic lights on which it would normally rely — and obeying police orders. The video, which runs at three times normal speed, shows a picture-in-picture display of the car’s digital perspective and a video camera as it goes through an intersection.

Computer Vision

The video shows the car approach the intersection where a virtual red wall blocks off the road, suggesting that the computer’s software responds to the absence of a green light at an intersection the same way as it might to an illuminated red light.

The cop in the video, represented by a small prism, teeters across the virtual representation of the intersection before finally waving the Waymo vehicle’s vehicle through the intersection and along its way.

READ MORE: Waymo self-driving cars can now respond to traffic cops’ hand signals [CNET]

More on Waymo: Expert Slams Waymo Safety Data: “They Obviously Do Not Trust These Numbers”

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Watch a Self-Driving Car Obey Police Hand Signals

“Holy Herb” Shows Promise as Alzheimer’s Treatment

Yerba santa, a plant dubbed the

Old Medicine

The name native California tribes gave to the plant Eriodictyon californicum — “Yerba santa” — translates to “holy herb” in English, and the moniker is a testament to the tribes’ respect for the plant, which they used to treat everything from headaches to sore muscles.

Now, in a heartening old-meets-new finding, scientists think they may have discovered yet another ailment Yerba santa has the potential to treat: Alzheimer’s disease.

Brain Protector

In a study published in the journal Redox Biology on Wednesday, researchers from the Salk Institute detail their discovery that Yerba santa could be useful for treating Alzheimer’s.

They started by screening 400 plant extracts known to have pharmacological properties for signs of anti-inflammatory or neuroprotective properties. This led them to the Yerba santa compound sterubin.

The researchers found through additional testing that “the compound was effective against multiple inducers of cell death in the nerve cells,” according to a press release.

It had an anti-inflammatory impact on certain brain cells, and it was also effective at removing iron, which is known to add to the damage of nerve cells in people with neurodegenerative diseases.

Dramatic Drug

The researchers now plan to test sterubin in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease. After that, they’ll set out to determine the compound’s toxicity levels in animals and other characteristics.

Human testing could follow, but as researcher Pamela Maher pointed out in a press release, the team would likely created a synthetic derivative of sterubin rather than use sterubin drawn from a plant.

Ultimately, this wouldn’t be the first medicine with its roots in nature — aspirin and morphine are two well-known examples — but given the ever-growing number of people suffering and dying from Alzheimer’s, the “holy herb” has the potential to be one that has an immediate and dramatic impact.

READ MORE: Native California Medicinal Plant May Hold Promise for Treating Alzheimer’s [Salk Institute]

More on Alzheimer’s: Americans Are Living Longer. That Will Mean More People With Alzheimer’s.

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NASA Warns SpaceX and Boeing About Safety Flaws in Spacecraft

NASA commissioned SpaceX and Boeing to develop shuttles for crewed missions. Upcoming test flights may be delayed as NASA found several safety flaws.

Back to the Basics

Both Boeing and SpaceX are working to develop tools for NASA to use in upcoming crewed missions from the International Space Station.

While NASA planned on launching test flights over the next few months, the whole program may be delayed as the government agency has found over 30 technical flaws or safety hazards for each company’s system, according to Reuters — a startling rebuke of the efforts of two premier private spaceflight companies to do work for the U.S. government.

“SpaceX and Boeing both have challenges, both comparable, from a safety perspective,” a source from within the government told Reuters.

Plan B

In the past, NASA has paid Russia’s space agency to shuttle astronauts but is currently leaning on private industry to develop alternative options.

NASA spokesperson Joshua Finch told Reuters that the agency was willing to delay missions as long as is necessary to make sure that astronauts will actually reach the space station safely.

Geronimo!

For SpaceX, NASA reported concerns over how the rocket is presently fueled with astronauts already on board. NASA also found problems with how SpaceX rockets orient themselves when landing in water.

Meanwhile, it said, Boeing capsules may not be structurally sound. And both companies, according to Reuters, may not have adequate parachute systems to ensure a safe landing.

READ MORE: Exclusive: SpaceX, Boeing design risks threaten new delays for U.S. space program [Reuters]

More on NASA: Apollo Astronaut: It Would Be “Stupid” to Send People to Mars

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Cryptocurrency News: This Week on Bitfinex, Tether, Coinbase, & More

Cryptocurrency News
On the whole, cryptocurrency prices are down from our previous report on cryptos, with the market slipping on news of an exchange being hacked and a report about Bitcoin manipulation.

However, there have been two bright spots: 1) an official from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said that Ethereum is not a security, and 2) Coinbase is expanding its selection of tokens.

Let’s start with the good news.
SEC Says ETH Is Not a Security
Investors have some reason to cheer this week. A high-ranking SEC official told attendees of the Yahoo! All Markets Summit: Crypto that Ethereum and Bitcoin are not.

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Cryptocurrency News: This Week on Bitfinex, Tether, Coinbase, & More

Ripple Price Forecast: XRP vs SWIFT, SEC Updates, and More

Ripple vs SWIFT: The War Begins
While most criticisms of XRP do nothing to curb my bullish Ripple price forecast, there is one obstacle that nags at my conscience. Its name is SWIFT.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) is the king of international payments.

It coordinates wire transfers across 11,000 banks in more than 200 countries and territories, meaning that in order for XRP prices to ascend to $10.00, Ripple needs to launch a successful coup. That is, and always has been, an unwritten part of Ripple’s story.

We’ve seen a lot of progress on that score. In the last three years, Ripple wooed more than 100 financial firms onto its.

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Ripple Price Forecast: XRP vs SWIFT, SEC Updates, and More

Cryptocurrency Price Forecast: Trust Is Growing, But Prices Are Falling

Trust Is Growing…
Before we get to this week’s cryptocurrency news, analysis, and our cryptocurrency price forecast, I want to share an experience from this past week. I was at home watching the NBA playoffs, trying to ignore the commercials, when a strange advertisement caught my eye.

It followed a tomato from its birth on the vine to its end on the dinner table (where it was served as a bolognese sauce), and a diamond from its dusty beginnings to when it sparkled atop an engagement ring.

The voiceover said: “This is a shipment passed 200 times, transparently tracked from port to port. This is the IBM blockchain.”

Let that sink in—IBM.

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Cryptocurrency Price Forecast: Trust Is Growing, But Prices Are Falling

Cryptocurrency News: XRP Validators, Malta, and Practical Tokens

Cryptocurrency News & Market Summary
Investors finally saw some light at the end of the tunnel last week, with cryptos soaring across the board. No one quite knows what kicked off the rally—as it could have been any of the stories we discuss below—but the net result was positive.

Of course, prices won’t stay on this rocket ride forever. I expect to see a resurgence of volatility in short order, because the market is moving as a single unit. Everything is rising in tandem.

This tells me that investors are simply “buying the dip” rather than identifying which cryptos have enough real-world value to outlive the crash.

So if you want to know when.

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Cryptocurrency News: Bitcoin ETFs, Andreessen Horowitz, and Contradictions in Crypto

Cryptocurrency News
This was a bloody week for cryptocurrencies. Everything was covered in red, from Ethereum (ETH) on down to the Basic Attention Token (BAT).

Some investors claim it was inevitable. Others say that price manipulation is to blame.

We think the answers are more complicated than either side has to offer, because our research reveals deep contradictions between the price of cryptos and the underlying development of blockchain projects.

For instance, a leading venture capital (VC) firm launched a $300.0-million crypto investment fund, yet liquidity continues to dry up in crypto markets.

Another example is the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s.

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Cryptocurrency News: Bitcoin ETFs, Andreessen Horowitz, and Contradictions in Crypto

Cryptocurrency News: Looking Past the Bithumb Crypto Hack

Another Crypto Hack Derails Recovery
Since our last report, hackers broke into yet another cryptocurrency exchange. This time the target was Bithumb, a Korean exchange known for high-flying prices and ultra-active traders.

While the hackers made off with approximately $31.5 million in funds, the exchange is working with relevant authorities to return the stolen tokens to their respective owners. In the event that some is still missing, the exchange will cover the losses. (Source: “Bithumb Working With Other Crypto Exchanges to Recover Hacked Funds,”.

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Cryptocurrency News: What You Need to Know This Week

Cryptocurrency News
Cryptocurrencies traded sideways since our last report on cryptos. However, I noticed something interesting when playing around with Yahoo! Finance’s cryptocurrency screener: There are profitable pockets in this market.

Incidentally, Yahoo’s screener is far superior to the one on CoinMarketCap, so if you’re looking to compare digital assets, I highly recommend it.

But let’s get back to my epiphany.

In the last month, at one point or another, most crypto assets on our favorites list saw double-digit increases. It’s true that each upswing was followed by a hard crash, but investors who rode the trend would have made a.

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Cryptocurrency News: Bitcoin ETF Rejection, AMD Microchip Sales, and Hedge Funds

Cryptocurrency News
Although cryptocurrency prices were heating up last week (Bitcoin, especially), regulators poured cold water on the rally by rejecting calls for a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF). This is the second time that the proposal fell on deaf ears. (More on that below.)

Crypto mining ran into similar trouble, as you can see from Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.‘s (NASDAQ:AMD) most recent quarterly earnings. However, it wasn’t all bad news. Investors should, for instance, be cheering the fact that hedge funds are ramping up their involvement in cryptocurrency markets.

Without further ado, here are those stories in greater detail.
ETF Rejection.

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Cryptocurrency News: Vitalik Buterin Doesn’t Care About Bitcoin ETFs

Cryptocurrency News
While headline numbers look devastating this week, investors might take some solace in knowing that cryptocurrencies found their bottom at roughly $189.8 billion in market cap—that was the low point. Since then, investors put more than $20.0 billion back into the market.

During the rout, Ethereum broke below $300.00 and XRP fell below $0.30, marking yearly lows for both tokens. The same was true down the list of the top 100 biggest cryptos.

Altcoins took the brunt of the hit. BTC Dominance, which reveals how tightly investment is concentrated in Bitcoin, rose from 42.62% to 53.27% in just one month, showing that investors either fled altcoins at higher.

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Cryptocurrency News: Vitalik Buterin Doesn’t Care About Bitcoin ETFs

Cryptocurrency News: New Exchanges Could Boost Crypto Liquidity

Cryptocurrency News
Even though the cryptocurrency news was upbeat in recent days, the market tumbled after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rejected calls for a Bitcoin (BTC) exchange-traded fund (ETF).

That news came as a blow to investors, many of whom believe the ETF would open the cryptocurrency industry up to pension funds and other institutional investors. This would create a massive tailwind for cryptos, they say.

So it only follows that a rejection of the Bitcoin ETF should send cryptos tumbling, correct? Well, maybe you can follow that logic. To me, it seems like a dramatic overreaction.

I understand that legitimizing cryptos is important. But.

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Users of Crypto Site Where Dead CEO Lost $196M Are Preparing Suit

QuadrigaCX has about two weeks left to its stay to raise the money it owes before anyone can sue, but a judge just appointed law firms to its customers.

Making Moves

Remember that cryptocurrency exchange that said it lost $196 million of its customers’ money when CEO Gerald Cotten died — prompting conspiracy theories Cotten faked his own death?

Well, those 115,000 customers just lawyered up.

Ticking Clock

Michael Wood, a justice on Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court, issued a ruling Tuesday that QuadrigaCX customers would be represented by two law firms, Miller Thomson as well as Cox & Palmer, in the event of a class-action lawsuit, according to CoinDesk.

So far, no one has filed suit against QuadrigaCX — though the users’ new lawyers can start preparing one, according to CoinDesk. On Feb. 5, the courts approved a 30-day stay at the company’s request. That leaves QuadrigaCX with about two more weeks to settle the matter and come up with $196 million on its own before anyone can sue.

Next Steps

Once the stay expires on March 7, the crypto exchange may try to have it extended. But that appeal would come before Judge Wood.

Given his move to prepare QuadrigaCX customers for a potential lawsuit, Wood may decide that QuadrigaCX was given enough time and open up the floor to any lawsuits.

READ MORE: Judge Appoints Law Firms to Represent QuadrigaCX Customers [CoinDesk]

More on QuadrigaCX: Indian Hospital Fires Back at Rumors That Crypto CEO Faked Death

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Lab-Grown Meat Could Be Worse for the Environment

The benefits of lab-grown meat will depend on scientists' ability to produce it sustainably, and right now, we don't know if that's even possible.

Growing Change

Meat farming is a major contributor of the greenhouse gases driving climate change. To ensure we never have to choose between a livable planet and a juicy hamburger, scientists are attempting to efficiently grow convincing imitation meat in the lab using everything from volcano-dwelling microbes to stem cells.

But new research suggests the efforts of those scientists might be in vain — it turns out that growing meat in the lab might actually do more damage to the environment than producing it the traditional way.

Meat Market

For their study, published Tuesday in the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, researchers from the Oxford Martin School compared the potential impact on the global temperature over the next 1,000 years of three cattle farming methods and four potential methods for growing meat in the lab.

Their comparison revealed that yes, lab-grown meat could be better for the environment — but it won’t be better by default.

“The climate impacts of cultured meat production will depend on what level of sustainable energy generation can be achieved, as well as the efficiency of future culture processes,” researcher John Lynch told the BBC. “If the lab-grown meat is quite energy intensive to produce then they could end up being worse for the climate than cows are.”

Apples and Oranges

The methane emitted by cattle also has a different kind of impact on the environment than the carbon dioxide that scientists might pump into the atmosphere while producing meat in the lab.

“Per tonne emitted, methane has a much larger warming impact than carbon dioxide,” researcher Raymond Pierrehumbert said in a press release. “However, it only remains in the atmosphere for about 12 years whereas carbon dioxide persists and accumulates for millennia.”

Ultimately, this research reveals that it’s still too soon to know whether lab-grown meat could actually solve our agriculture-caused climate woes — which means we might still be headed toward a future in which we need to trade at least some of our steaks for salads.

READ MORE: Cultured Lab Meat May Make Climate Change Worse [BBC]

More on lab-grown meat: To Feed a Hungry Planet, We’re All Going to Need to Eat Less Meat

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Scientists Found a “River of Stars” Flowing Through the Milky Way

New research has uncovered a stellar stream comprising 4,000 stars flowing through the Milky Way remarkably close to the Earth.

Flow On

The Milky Way is home to a variety of star clusters. Most of the time, its gravity quickly pulls these clusters apart, but some clusters have enough mass to remain stuck together, and sometimes the clusters form stellar streams, which are river-like stretches of stars that orbit the galaxy.

Now, researchers have identified a billion-year-old stellar stream comprising nearly 4,000 stars — and it’s remarkably close to our Sun.

Close Encounter

In a study published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics on Thursday, a team from the University of Vienna details its discovery of this new stellar stream, which is approximately 1,300 light-years long and 160 light-years wide.

The team discovered the stream using data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite, and according to researcher João Alves, it’s been hiding in plain sight.

“Astronomers have been looking at, and through, this new stream for a long time, as it covers most of the night sky, but only now realize it is there,” he explained in a press release.

“As soon as we investigated this particular group of stars in more detail, we knew that we had found what we were looking for: A coeval, stream-like structure, stretching for hundreds of parsecs across a third of the entire sky,” researcher Verena Fürnkranz said. “It was so thrilling to be part of a new discovery.”

Down River

The researchers are already looking ahead to what new insights they may be able to glean from this river of stars, positing that it could lead to new information on how galaxies gain their stars, the discovery of new exoplanets, and an improved understanding of the Milky Way’s mass and gravitational field.

“Finding things close to home is very useful,” Alves said. “It means they are not too faint nor too blurred for further detailed exploration, as astronomers dream.”

READ MORE: Astronomers Have Detected a Previously Unnoticed ‘River of Stars’ Flowing Past Earth [Science Alert]

More on stellar streams: Dark Energy Survey Discovers Remnants of Other Galaxies Within Our Own

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Japan Sends Robot Into the Nuclear Hell of the Fukushima Reactor

A robot just physically examined the radioactive fuel at the damaged Fukushima Nuclear Reactor. It's the first step toward an ongoing cleanup mission.

Nuclear Probe

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) just sent a robot into one of the reactors of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which was destroyed by a tsunami back in 2011.

The robot made contact with the melted fuel, picking it up and putting it back down to determine whether it was solid enough to cart away during a future mission, according to Ars Technica.

Image Credit: TEPCO

The Claw

Fukushima won’t be fully decommissioned for another 30 to 40 years. But this robotic mission is the first step toward determining how other robots will go about cleaning it up.

In this case, the robot was able to pick up small chunks of the radioactive fuel at five of the six test sites, all of which were located inside one of the power plant’s three damaged reactors. TEPCO published a video of the process taken by the robot’s built-in camera, in which you can see a robotic claw position itself around and pick up small pieces of fuel.

Catch and Release

None of the radioactive fuel left the reactor along with the robot when the mission was over. But that wasn’t the plan. Rather, this mission marks the first time that a robot has been able to physically examine Fukushima’s fuel.

The team hopes to start retrieving some of the deadly fuel in 2021, now that they know it can be physically lifted.

READ MORE: Japanese utility makes first contact with melted Fukushima fuel [Ars Technica]

More on Fukushima: A $320 Million Ice Wall Still Can’t Contain Radioactive Water Near Fukushima

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WHO Says UN Should Reclassify Marijuana as Less Dangerous

New Class

Marijuana could soon be reclassified on an international scale.

In 1948, the United Nations (UN) established the World Health Organization (WHO) to serve as its conduit to all things health-related. Now, the agency is recommending that the UN reclassify marijuana to a less restrictive narcotics schedule — a move that could have a huge impact on public health worldwide.

Narcotics Treaty

Under the UN’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, an international treaty that regulates the production and sale of certain drugs, cannabis is listed as a Schedule IV drug. Thats the most restrictive class, reserved for drugs that have “particularly dangerous properties.”

Earlier this month, the WHO published new recommendations to the UN regarding the classification of marijuana in the medical journal The BMJAccording to the WHO, there’s growing evidence that cannabis has medical applications, and the UN should reschedule the plant to take into account these applications.

Medical Marijuana

The WHO’s proposal to reclassify marijuana could go before the UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs as soon as March, at which point 53 countries will have the option of voting on it.

Although a vote to reclassify wouldn’t make cannabis legal everywhere overnight, it would mark a major shift in how political leaders view the drug — which could have a huge impact on the drug’s use for medical purposes.

Scientists have already noted potential uses for cannabis to treat everything from psychosis and epilepsy to heart disease and Alzheimer’s, but researching these links hasn’t been easy given marijuana’s legal status.

If governments decide to revisit their cannabis laws in the wake of a UN reclassification, it might be easier for researchers to gain approval — and funding — for their marijuana-focused studies, meaning we could see a dramatic increase in the number of cannabis-based medical treatments in the future.

READ MORE: In Historic Announcement, the World Health Organization (WHO) Proposes Removing Cannabis From Most Dangerous Drug Category [Good News Network]

More on marijuana: New Senate Bill Would Legalize Marijuana Nationwide

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Trump Signs Directive: Space Force Will Be Run By Air Force

President Donald Trump signed Space Policy Directive 4 (SPD-4) today, organizing all military space functions under a new Space Force.

Space Force 2.0

U.S. President Donald Trump signed a directive today that organizes all military space functions under a new Space Force. The Space Force will be run entirely under the current U.S. Air Force — at least for the time being.

That means a future Space Force would function more like the Marine Corps, which is part of the Navy, than an entirely separate branch of the military — which is what the Trump administration first suggested back in June.

A More Popular Approach

The news comes after Trump signed an executive order in December, calling for the creation of a “U.S. Space Command” to streamline and consolidate space operations.

The plans still have to receive Congress approval before its creation, but organizing it under the Air Force could be a way to warm lawmakers up to the idea, as Defense News suggests.

Agreeable Idea

The Washington Post points out that the Directive could also be a more agreeable idea to the Pentagon as it would create far less bureaucracy.

Today’s news doesn’t necessarily rule out future plans for a standalone Space Force military branch. But it could save military officials a headache in the near future.

READ MORE: Trump approves plan to create Space Force, but puts it under Air Force control, as Pentagon officials had wanted [The Washington Post]

More on Space Force: The US May Soon Have The World’s First Space Force

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