'I didn't really think this would work' - Elon Musk's massive doubts over launch of world's most powerful rocket

SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk has reveled he had massive doubts when first embarking on the development of the world's most powerful rocket, Falcon Heavy, which he impressively launched on its first test flight today.

In a press conference following the home-run Falcon Heavy launch today in Florida, Musk said he couldn't help seeing the countless things that could have possibly gone wrong.

"It taught me crazy things can come true because, you could say, I didn't really think this would work," Musk said.

"When I see the rocket lift off I see a thousand things that could not work and it's amazing when they do.

"You could imagine large numbers of those just coming in, landing, taking off, landing, doing many flights per day, so I think it gives me a lot of faith for our next architecture." 

The Falcon Heavy rocket blasted off today from the same Florida launch pad used by NASA nearly 50 years ago to send men to the moon.

With liftoff, the Heavy became the most powerful rocket in use today.

Its three boosters and 27 engines roared to life at Kennedy Space Center.

Not only did the rocket lift a red sports car into orbit — with a dummy "Starman" at the wheel — two of the three boosters came back and landed upright at Cape Canaveral.

The 15-story boosters landed at the same time, side by side.

The centre booster of the Falcon Heavy slammed into the Atlantic at 300 mp/h, missing the floating landing platform.

Musk says it hit the water with such force that shrapnel flew onto the droneship's deck and took out two engines.

Despite the loss, Musk revelled in today's successful launch of the powerful Falcon Heavy and the recovery of the two side boosters.

He said watching the simultaneous side-by-side touchdowns of those two boosters at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was probably the most exciting thing he's ever seen.

If the cameras on the ocean platform were not wiped out, Musk says he'll try to salvage the video and add the images to his greatest bloopers' reel of exploding rockets.

'An unbearable smell in the air': NZ's role in the Malaysian plastics dumping ground

Thousands of tonnes of plastic that New Zealand used to send to China for recycling is now going to Malaysia, where illegal factories are burning and dumping the waste they can’t process.

Nita Blake-Persen travelled to Malaysia for Insight to investigate how the lives of local people and the environment are being affected.

As night falls in Malaysia, plumes of toxic smoke begin to waft across the across the town of Jenjarom.

Nearby residents wake to the smell of burning plastic that seeps into their homes – closing the doors and windows doesn’t help.

The smell, and the accompanying headaches and coughing, have become familiar for them in recent months, as more and more illegal plastic recycling factories have popped up in the area.

About an hour’s drive from the capital Kuala Lumpur, the town has been traditionally focused on agriculture, with palm oil plantations lining most roads.

But these days the factories, which recycle thousands of tonnes of waste from countries all around the world, are doing a roaring trade.

They have been multiplying at an alarming rate since China banned plastic imports at the start of the year.

Having previously taken around 50 percent of the world’s waste, the ban has meant many countries have scrambled to find a new market to export their unwanted plastics to.

Malaysia has become a popular alternative for the UK, Australia and New Zealand – New Zealand's exports there tripled in the first six months of this year.

Nearly 40 factories are now operating in the district of Kuala Langat, where Jenjarom is located.

Most are hidden in the Palm Oil plantations, which the factory owners rent because they are cheap and accessible to waterways.

That way they can easily dump the contaminated water they use to clean the filthy plastics before they process them.

In the past two months, several fish and prawn ponds operating nearby have lost all of their stock, and the owners suspect they were poisoned by the toxic wastewater coming from the factories.

The plastic that can't be recycled - either because it's too contaminated or it's just not economical to do so - is either dumped, or burned.

That’s having a devastating effect on the environment, and the health of those living nearby.

'An unbearable smell in the air'

Lay Peng Pua, a chemist, has lived in the area most of her life. She says the factories have been a disaster for Jenjarom.

"Since February of this year we felt very bad and [there's been] an unbearable smell in the air, especially at night and in the morning.

"But we didn't realise... the source until we gradually found there were more and more recycling factories around us, but due to their high fencing design we couldn't see anything."

In July, local authorities visited 38 factories in the Kuala Langat area but found only three had recycling permits.

Fourteen have been shut down but since then, Ms Pua says four have started operating again - one just hours after it was closed.

She says most of the factories are Chinese owned and operated, with many simply moving their business to Malaysia when the ban came into effect.

Once they salvage what they can for recycling, they ship the plastic pellets they produce back to China to be made into new products.

Ms Pua says many local authorities are paid off by the factory owners to ignore their illegal activities, with enforcement virtually non-existent.

She is hopeful a recent change in government will mean more protections for the environment – and a possible ban on plastic imports.

Maria Chin Abdullah was elected as the MP for Petaling Jaya, a large city that runs into Kuala Lumpur, in May’s general election.

The election brought in the first change in government in the country’s 60-year history, and many MPs and senior staffers are still settling in.

Ms Chin Abdullah says they are determined to make plastic pollution a priority – but change won’t happen overnight.

"We may have changed our government but we are working within an old system. And these civil servants are from the past government and they follow the kind of attitude that is left behind

"I'm not surprised there may be allegations of corruption, and it is still continuing. It's just that we have to set-up the policy and then take action on that."

In July, the government suspended the importing licenses of 114 factories as it tried to verify which businesses were operating properly.

But the suspension is reported to have lapsed less than a month later.

Ms Chin Abdullah wants plastic imports banned all together.

She says Malaysia – which has been named the eighth worst country in the world for plastic pollution - is not even able to cope with its own waste.

But she notes that the responsibility does not just fall on Malaysia – and that while New Zealand exporters are willing to sell their plastic overseas, there will always be buyers wanting it – no matter the impact on people’s health or the environment.

Throughout last year New Zealand sent 6300 tonnes of plastic to Malaysia.

Nearly 6000 tonnes have already been exported there so far this year.

New Zealand recyclers who have plastic piles mounting in their yards say they have no choice but to ship it elsewhere.

Flies are buzzing around bales of waste at the Smart Environmental processing plant in Thames, where waste from 16 councils is waiting to be shipped overseas.

The plant’s manager, Layne Sefton, says since China's ban took effect, the price that they can sell their plastic for has plummeted, and they are losing money exporting it - but they have no choice.

Desperate to recoup costs from collecting and sorting the plastic, Mr Sefton says they will sell it to whoever they can - and if they are approached by an overseas buyer they do not ask many questions about where it is going.

Where does it go?

Tracing exactly where New Zealand's plastic goes when it leaves our ports is incredibly difficult.

Recyclers and councils here typically sell the plastics to a broker, who then sells it to factories across Asia for processing.

Waste Management Ltd, one of the largest recyclers in the country, confirmed they sold plastic to Malaysia but did not have details of where it ended up.

Envirowaste, the other major New Zealand recycler, would not tell Insight anything about their exports.

Wellington City Council, which exports just several hundred tonnes of plastic to Malaysia each year for processing, recently travelled there to ensure it was being properly processed. But they appear to be the only council which has done so.

The government appears to have little information about what is going on with plastic waste being sent overseas. The Ministry for the Environment is studying what result China's change in policy has had on the recycling industry, including what is going on with recycling exports. Both local authorities and industry members are involved.

Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage says she expects a report in a few weeks.

Nita travelled to Malayasia with assistance from the Asia New Zealand Foundation.


Koo Ze Quan (left) and Tan Siew Hoon stand on a mountain of plastic waste at an illegal factory in Jenjarom, Malaysia. Source: rnz.co.nz



Comcast beats Fox in auction, bids $55b for Europe's Sky TV

Comcast has emerged as the top bidder for European broadcaster Sky after a rare auction held by British regulators.

After three rounds of secret bidding yesterday and today, Comcast offered the higher price of 17.28 pounds (NZ$33.79) per share for Sky, the equivalent of nearly 30 billion pounds (NZ$55.6 billion). Rival 21st Century Fox offered 15.67 pounds (NZ$30.64) per share.

Sky shareholders must now decide whether to sell their shares to Comcast. Comcast said it hoped to complete the sale by the end of October.

"Sky is a wonderful company with a great platform, tremendous brand and accomplished management team," Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said in a statement. "This acquisition will allow us to quickly, efficiently and meaningfully increase our customer base and expand internationally."

Britain's regulator, the Takeover Panel, set up the auction to reduce uncertainty for Sky after months of offers and counteroffers from the American media giants. Sky is Europe's largest pay-television operator, with 22.5 million customers in seven countries and popular programming including English Premier League soccer and "Game of Thrones."

Fox owns 39 percent of Sky. It now must decide whether to sell its stake or remain a minority shareholder.

Fox had long been trying to acquire the 61 percent of Sky it doesn't already own. Fox founder Rupert Murdoch's last bid sank amid a 2011 phone-hacking scandal, in which journalists working for Murdoch newspapers were accused of gaining illegal access to the voicemail messages of crime victims, celebrities and members of the royal family.

A bidding war emerged last December, when Comcast made an offer for Fox's entertainment assets, which Walt Disney Co. is in the process of buying for about $71 billion. Comcast eventually dropped out of that contest to focus on its acquisition of Sky.

British regulators organized the auction in part to ensure that Sky's value didn't erode during the long bidding process. The last time such an auction took place was in 2007, when Tata beat out CSN to buy Britain's Corus, creating what at the time was one of the world's top five steelmakers.

FILE -This March 29, 2017 file photo shows a sign outside the Comcast Center in Philadelphia. British regulator says Comcast has won an auction to formally bid for broadcaster Sky, on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) Source: Associated Press



Could remote Marshall Islands nuclear wasteland become the 'next Hong Kong'?

More than 5,000 kilometres away from his home in the Marshall Islands, the Mayor of Rongelap atoll, James Matayoshi, addressed hundreds of entrepreneurs, government officials and politicians in Hong Kong.

There, at the Asia World Expo in April, he unveiled his grand design for Rongelap, a remote coral atoll of 61 islets that sits just 3 metres above sea level.

It would become the "Rongelap Atoll Special Administrative Region", a utopia for foreign investment with relaxed tax and visa requirements.

But its attractiveness to wealthy businesspeople would also fuel Mr Matayoshi's own dream - a new city rising out of a former nuclear wasteland, providing local jobs, housing and elevation from the encroaching waters of climate change.

'There is nothing here'

Rongelap was twice evacuated after extensive nuclear tests by the United States from 1946-1958 covered its people in clouds of radioactive white ash, burning them and poisoning them for generations to come.

The US Department of Energy has since given the green light for resettlement but many residents are reluctant to return, wary of a country which said it was safe to return in the 1970s despite lingering contamination.

Most of Rongelap's former population - along with other evacuated atolls in the Marshall Islands - is found in the capital Majuro, or nearby Ebeye, in the Kwajalein atoll.

"Right now, there is nothing here in the Marshall Islands, especially in the outer islands," Mr Matayoshi said in an interview.

A special status for Rongelap would bring it out of isolation and into the "globalised economy", attracting former residents as well as foreign investors, he said.

The proposed legislation is only in draft form and has yet to go before the country's Nitijela, or parliament.

A copy seen by the Marianas Business Journal said the bill will introduce tax incentives, a new tax-free shipping port and services for offshore companies registered in Rongelap.

Crucially for potential investors, the region would also be exempt from two financial provisions of Marshall Islands law, which would streamline funding for projects but has raised concerns it will lead to money laundering.

The proposed laws were confirmed to RNZ Pacific by Mr Matayoshi and John Masek, an attorney working on the project, but they declined to provide a copy of the draft bill, saying it was subject to changes.

Mr Matayoshi and Mr Masek denied that it would enable money laundering or other financial malpractice.

But their proposal - which was to be financed in part by the sale of gold until an investor recently pulled out - follows warnings last week from the International Monetary Fund against the adoption of a legal tender cryptocurrency in the Marshall Islands, after its parliament passed a law in February.

In March, the Marshall Islands was lifted out of an European Union tax haven black list to a "grey list", meaning it is still on notice to change its ways.

Citizenship for sale

The plans have sparked talk of passports for sale and an easy way to access the United States, through its Compact of Free Association agreement with the Marshall Islands.

The Marianas Business Journal reported the US Embassy in Majuro has raised concerns with the Marshall Islands government about the plan, after it received questions on whether the US government would recognise the region. The embassy did not respond to requests for comment.

Environment Minister David Paul told the Journal that he had received requests to buy passports because of the bill. "This needs to be exposed. It is getting out of hand," he said. Mr Paul did not respond to interview requests.

Online advertisements on Chinese websites claimed as many as 1,000 houses pitched to investors in the proposed scheme have been "sold out".

"For [those] who has successfully ordered the houses, what you get is not only a house but to share the policy benefits of Rongelap Atoll Digital Special Administrative Region," one advertisement said.

Mr Matayoshi and Mr Masek said there were no plans to offer citizenship to visitors and nothing would be for sale until the bill had been passed by parliament.

"Any other speculation about us selling passports or trying to promote passport schemes is all fake news. All we're trying to do is make a more visitor-friendly environment," said Mr Masek.

The project's backers have teamed up with Chinese businessman Cary Yan, who is a Marshallese citizen and is helping to find investment partners, Kenneth Kedi, the parliamentary speaker, and Kessai Note, a former president of the Marshall Islands.

Together, they claim to want to replicate the success of commercial hubs like Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong in Rongelap, which spans 8 square kilometres of mostly ocean.

For Mr Kedi, Hong Kong is a blueprint for Rongelap in more ways than one.

"Through the unique 'one country, two systems', Hong Kong has become China's re-export base and a global financial center in opening up the economy," he told the April expo in Hong Kong, according to the China Daily.

"Hong Kong's success model offers a good reference for the Marshall Islands."

- Reporting by RNZ's Mackenzie Smith


Rongelap Island, one of the Marshall Islands group. Source: rnz.co.nz


Child predator jailed for luring Australian girl to US

An American child predator who built a relationship with a 16-year-old Australian girl over Facebook and then enticed her to fly to Los Angeles so he could sexually abuse her has been sentenced to 35 years' jail in New York.

Sean Price, 40, from Queens, New York, began communicating with the girl in 2016 on Facebook, and in their daily messages he openly discussed the girl's young age and expressed his desire to have sex with her.

Price initially discussed obtaining a fake passport for the girl so she could fly to the US without her parents' knowledge, and talked about imitating her father to get her through airport security.

When the girl told him she did not need parental permission to fly internationally Price responded in a chat they would soon be laughing at her parents and asked: "So you coming to papa?"

US Homeland Security Investigations special agent-in-charge Angel Melendez said Price took advantage of the girl.

"Now a convicted sexual predator, Sean Price admittedly lured a teenage girl from Australia to Queens, taking advantage of her young spirit and susceptibility," Melendez said.

In March, 2017, Price wired the girl more than $US900 (NZ$1,346) to purchase a plane ticket, and a few weeks later the girl flew on a round trip ticket from Sydney to Los Angeles.

Price was waiting for her in Los Angeles and they hired a rental car and drove across the US to Price's home in Jamaica, Queens.

Price admitted they had sex during the cross-country trip and while in New York until a search involving NSW Police, Australian Federal Police and US authorities tracked the girl down four weeks later at his home in Queens.

The girl's mother recounted in a submission to the US District Court the trauma her daughter suffered and how her family continued to struggle with the aftermath of Price's actions.

Price was found guilty at a December 2017 trial in New York of charges including interstate and foreign enticement to engage in sexual activity and attempted sexual exploitation of a child.

Richard Donoghue, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, expressed his appreciation to NSW Police, the AFP and NYPD for their assistance in the investigation and recovering the missing girl.

"Sean Price preyed upon the vulnerabilities of a young teenage girl, luring her across the world and away from her home for his own illicit purposes," Donoghue said.

The new courts in Auckland and Whangārei have been active for the past 18 months.
Source: 1 NEWS