"The American public has a right to learn" about UFOs, lawmaker says. A House Oversight subcommittee hearing on Wednesday examined what the government knows about unidentified flying objects, or UFOs.
The hourslong hearing "oscillated between statements of concern about the potential national security threat posed by unknown objects flying close to U.S. military aircraft and more extreme allusions to government conspiracies to hide the existence of alien lifeforms," reports The Washington Post. More:
"We're not bringing little green men or flying saucers into the hearing — sorry to disappoint about half y'all," Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) said. "We're just going to get to the facts. We're going to uncover the cover up."
In response to reported encounters by Navy pilots, the U.S. military and the intelligence community have sought to more closely analyze such incidents. The sightings, including some that are believed to be drones or unmanned craft — like the Chinese surveillance airship shot down in U.S. airspace earlier this year — have fueled concerns that American adversaries could have developed new technologies that pose a threat to U.S. security.
Subcommittee members yesterday called for more transparency from the Department of Defense and intelligence agencies about their findings regarding UFOs—or "unidentified anomalous phenomena" (UAP), the new preferred term.
"The American public has a right to learn about technologies of unknown origins, nonhuman intelligence and unexplainable phenomena," said Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.).
One of the witnesses yesterday was David Grusch, a former Pentagon employee who worked on the UAP task force and now claims the government is secretly storing downed alien vessels.
"I was informed in the course of my official duties of a multidecade UAP crash retrieval and reverse engineering program to which I was denied access," Grusch claimed again yesterday. He also agreed when asked whether he had "personal knowledge of people who've been harmed or injured in efforts to cover up or conceal these extraterrestrial technology."
"Even by the extraordinary standards of contemporary political theater, Wednesday's House Oversight subcommittee hearing on U.F.O.s stood out," writes Helene Cooper at The New York Times:
At one point, two former Navy fighter pilots, David Fravor and Ryan Graves, described encounters with unknown objects — a decade and a continent apart — that they said accelerated like nothing either had seen before. The men first described the incidents to The New York Times in 2017 and 2018 in stories that prompted calls from lawmakers for more government transparency.
Neither of the pilots speculated about the provenance of what they saw. The sightings were reported to the Pentagon's shadowy Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which analyzes radar data, video footage and accounts provided by senior officers.
Some of the objects in videos released by the Pentagon have been explained as optical illusions or drones, but others remain unexplained.
The truth may be out there, as they say in The X Files. But yesterday's hearing doesn't really seem to have gotten us any closer to it. Still, I'm here for the UFO discourse in Congress. It's a heck of a lot more interesting and fun than lawmakers grilling another tech CEO or fomenting another moral panic about vaping or most of the other things that folks in Congress like to hold hearings about. And as the Post pointed out, "one freshman Democrat remarked was the most bipartisan discussion he'd seen in his seven months on Capitol Hill."
Who knows, maybe a big juicy government cover-up involving aliens—even one that's pretty purely speculative at this point—is exactly what American politics in 2023 needs…
Moralism is ruining cultural criticism, suggests Adam Kotsko at The Atlantic. "All mainstream criticism—especially of film and television—is evangelical in form, if not in content," he writes:
Every artwork is imagined to have a clear message; the portrayal of a given behavior or belief is an endorsement and a recommendation; consumption of artwork with a given message will directly result in the behaviors or beliefs portrayed. This is one of the few phenomena where the "both sides" cliché is true: Left-wing critics are just as likely to do this as their right-wing opponents. For every video of a right-wing provocateur like Ben Shapiro decrying the woke excesses of Barbie, there is a review praising the Mattel product tie-in as a feminist fable.
New accessible bathroom rule could raise flight prices. Beginning in 2035, newly built single-aisle aircraft with at least 125 seats will have to include bathrooms that are fully accessible to people in wheelchairs, per a mandate announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday. Existing planes will be unaffected unless they fully replace plane bathrooms after the regulation takes effect.
"We are proud to announce this rule that will make airplane bathrooms larger and more accessible, ensuring travelers in wheelchairs are afforded the same access and dignity as the rest of the traveling public," said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a statement.
By 2026, newly delivered single-aisle airplanes will have to include grab bars and accessible faucets, door locks, and call buttons, as well as minimal obstructions for an onboard wheelchair to get there.
Implementing the new requirements will require planes to have fewer seats and, as a consequence, raise fares for everybody, airline trade groups Airlines for America and the International Air Transport Association told the Transportation Department last year.
Fully compliant solutions would require the loss of at least three seats and possibly six seats, as well as galley capacity and workspace, they said. "Excluding the costs of implementation…the impacts on U.S. passenger airlines" would be "approximately $1.4 billion per year in lost revenue upon total industry-wide implementation" and "the conservatively estimated annual impact on foreign carriers would be approximately $250 million."
Making airline bathrooms accessible to people in wheelchairs is certainly a good thing. But it still falls under the rubric of things that airlines could implement on their own accord (Airlines for America spokesperson Hannah Walden said U.S. airlines had already been "voluntarily working with the disability community, the Department of Transportation and industry stakeholders for seven years on solutions") and with a solution more narrowly tailored, like implementing larger bathrooms on select planes rather than all of them.
The government has no business issuing such a wide-reaching mandate that will raise costs for airline passengers and companies alike.
But the Biden administration has been weirdly fixated on all the rules surrounding air travel. At times it seems like President Joe Biden is trying to situate himself as travel agent in chief. During Biden's State of the Union address back in February, he pledged to make it easier for Americans to "afford that family trip" by doing things like "making airlines show you the full ticket price upfront and refund your money if your flight is canceled or delayed," banning "surprise 'resort fees' that hotels tack on to your bill," and prohibiting airlines "from charging up to $50 roundtrip for families just to sit together."
Desantis said he would not choose RFK Jr as a running mate, but would consider him to be in charge of the FDA or CDC "if he'd be willing to serve." pic.twitter.com/7hHJlHGnQ6
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) July 26, 2023
• The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates by another quarter percentage point. "The hike, the Fed's 11th in its last 12 meetings, set the benchmark overnight interest rate in the 5.25%-5.50% range, a level last seen just prior to the 2007 housing market crash and which has not been consistently exceeded for about 22 years," notes Reuters.
• A judge is questioning a deal that would allow Hunter Biden to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges and avoid prosecution on a gun charge. "The federal judge overseeing the case, Maryellen Noreika, deferred her decision on approving the deal between Mr. Biden and federal prosecutors on Wednesday afternoon," reports The New York Times. But the judge's questions "should not obscure the point that the law he broke is unjust and arguably unconstitutional," writes Reason's Jacob Sullum.
• "The U.K. Parliament is pushing ahead with a sprawling internet regulation bill that will, among other things, undermine the privacy of people around the world," warns the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
• A Circleville, Ohio, police officer "who released his police dog on a black truck driver who was surrendering earlier this month — ignoring clear orders to restrain the animal — has been fired," reports the New York Post.