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Musk urges US funds for satellite network in Ukraine

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Elon Musk

The Defense Department has gotten a request from SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk to take over funding for his satellite network that has provided crucial battlefield communications for Ukrainian military forces since almost the beginning of its war with Russia, US authorities said Friday, 14 October.

The authorities, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter not yet made public, reported the issue has been discussed in meetings and senior leaders are investigating the matter. There have been no decisions.

In a disclosure later Friday, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said, “We can confirm the Department received correspondence from SpaceX about the funding of Starlink, their satellite communications product in Ukraine. We remain in communication with SpaceX about this and other topics.”

During a Pentagon briefing, she declined to provide any details about the communication or say to whom the correspondence was sent and when the communications with Musk began.

Musk started delivering Starlink satellite dishes to Ukraine just days after Russia invaded in February. On February 28, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov tweeted a photo of the first Starlink kits arriving on the back of a truck.

Musk’s generosity was hailed by Ukrainians and seen as a game changer in war tactics — the Russians could try to cut Ukrainian ground communications but they could not control space.

The Starlink system of more than 2,200 low-orbiting satellites has provided broadband internet to more than 150,000 Ukrainian ground stations. Prior Friday, Musk tweeted that it was costing SpaceX $20 million a month to support Ukraine’s communications needs.

In addition to the terminals, he tweeted that the company has to create, launch, maintain and replenish satellites and ground stations.

The Starlink satellite internet’s vital role in Ukraine’s defense cannot be overstated. It has, for example, assisted front-line reconnaissance drone operators in targeting artillery strikes on key Russian assets. A senior military authority on Friday made it clear that the US believes the system has proven exceptionally effective on the battlefield. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to provide US assessment of the Ukrainian battlefield.

In a tweet on Friday, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhail Podolyak said Ukraine will find a solution to keep Starlink working.

“Let’s be honest. Like it or not, @elonmusk helped us survive the most critical moments of war. The business has the right to its own strategies,” he tweeted. “We expect that the company will provide stable connection till the end of negotiations.”

In response to multiple questions during the briefing, Singh said the Pentagon was working with the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. “We know that there is this demand, and (satellite communications) capability … is needed and we want to be able to ensure that there are stable communications for the Ukrainian forces and for Ukraine.”

The request from the world’s richest man to have the Pentagon take over the hundreds of millions of dollars he says the system is costing comes on the heels of a Twitter war between Musk and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. And in tweets overnight Musk referred to the friction, suggesting it may affect his decision to end his company’s largesse in funding the systems.

In a Twitter exchange last week, Musk argued that to reach peace Russia should be allowed to keep the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized in 2014. He also said Ukraine should adopt a neutral status, dropping a bid to join NATO.

Musk also started a Twitter poll asking whether “the will of the people” should decide if seized regions remain part of Ukraine or become part of Russia.

In a sarcastic response, Zelensky shared a Twitter poll of his own asking “which Elon Musk do you like more?”: “One who supports Ukraine” or “One who supports Russia.” Musk replied to Zelensky that “I still very much support Ukraine, but am convinced that massive escalation of the war will cause great harm to Ukraine and possibly the world.”

Andrij Melnyk, the outgoing Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, responded to Musk’s original tweet with an obscenity.

It’s not clear how much of the cost of deploying Starlink satellite uplinks in Ukraine has been covered by US funding. In April, the US Agency for International Development said it had delivered 5,000 of the terminals. The Pentagon had no response to that question.

Musk’s commitment to spend $44 billion to purchase Twitter “has to factor into his decision that he can no longer afford to do this for free,” said retired Army Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, a non-resident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Musk’s request that the Pentagon begin to pick up the tab comes as the Space Force and Pentagon have been looking at how commercial vendors will play a role in national security. Musk’s threat to withdraw highlights the risk of leaning too much on commercial capabilities, Ferrari said.

“Commercial vendors always get to change their mind, ” Ferrari said, adding that the reliance on Starlink to provide communications for Ukraine also serves as a reminder that the Pentagon has to expand this service beyond SpaceX, he said.

“The government needs many vendors for key capabilities, of course, that often means more money, but it is an insurance policy and insurance costs money,” Ferrari said.

In March, commander of US Space Command Army Gen. James Dickinson said that having vendors provide needed capabilities, such as Maxar’s satellite imagery of stalled Russian convoys, has become essential because it frees up limited military satellite assets to focus on other things.

In his tweets, Musk also raised a question that various vendors and the Pentagon are considering as space becomes a more critical part of wartime operations: If a commercial vendor is assisting the U.S. and is targeted, does the U.S. owe it protection?

“We’ve also had to defend against cyberattacks & jamming, which are getting harder,” Musk tweeted.

 

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Economy

Tesla shareholders voting yes for Musk’s $56 bln pay package, CEO says on X

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Tesla

Tesla shareholders are voting to approve a $56 billion pay package for Elon Musk and to move the electric vehicle maker’s legal home to Texas, Musk said on social media platform X on Wednesday, adding that passage was by wide margins.

Shareholders of the electric-car maker are voting on a proposal to ratify CEO Musk’s 2018 incentive package, valued at up to $56 billion at the time and the largest in US corporate history, after a Delaware judge voided the plan approved by its board “beholden” to Musk.

The result will be announced at a meeting on Thursday.

A person familiar with the preliminary tally confirmed Musk’s post, and said that a combination of big institutional investors and retail investor got the ‘yes’ result over the line.

Shareholders, however, are allowed to change their vote up to the start of the annual meeting.

Tesla shareholders also cast ballots on other proposals including the move of Tesla’s legal headquarters from Delaware to Texas, as well as the re-election of two board members: Musk’s brother Kimbal Musk and James Murdoch.

Musk referred to the resolutions on his pay package and the move in his tweet, thanking shareholders for their support.

Some investors viewed the vote on Musk’s pay as a test of confidence in his leadership. While he is undoubtedly Tesla’s driving force, and is credited with much of its success, the company has recently seen slowing sales and profits.

The board said the world’s richest person deserves the package, because he hit all the ambitious targets on market value, revenue and profitability.

The pay package is also needed to keep Musk devoted to Tesla, the board said, even though the Delaware judge said the 2018 pay plan failed to make sure that Musk committed a substantial amount of time to Tesla.

Musk has threatened to build AI and robotics products outside Tesla, if he fails to gain enough voting control, which requires the 2018 pay package to be approved.

Some large shareholders including Norway’s sovereign wealth fund and California’s two largest pension funds have said they will vote against the compensation, saying the pay is excessive.

Tesla has been drumming up support for Musk’s pay package, especially from retail investors, who make up an unusually high percentage of its ownership base but who often do not vote.

Company executives have posted messages on X, saying Musk is critical to Tesla’s success. Tesla has run social media ads, and Musk has promised a personal tour of Tesla’s factory in Texas to some shareholders who cast votes.

COURT BATTLE

The same package was previously rejected by a Delaware judge who invalidated it as an “unfathomable sum” granted by a conflicted board with close personal and financial ties to its top executive.

The board held the shareholder vote as a way to bolster its appeal of the ruling, in which the judge cited the board’s failure to fully inform shareholders before approving the pay package in 2018.

Musk has to wait months or years to get his pay package restored as appeals wind their way up to Delaware’s Supreme Court.

Tesla could also face more litigation from some shareholders. One of them this month filed a lawsuit challenging the upcoming shareholder vote on Musk’s pay package and the change of domicile.

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Fire in Mangaf Workers’ Accommodation Claims 41 Lives

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mangaf kuwait fire

A devastating fire broke out early Wednesday in a building housing workers in Mangaf, southern Kuwait, resulting in the deaths of at least 41 people, according to Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Fahad Yusuf Saud Al-Sabah.

During his visit to the site, Sheikh Fahad, who also oversees the interior and defense ministries, criticized real estate owners for their violations and greed, attributing these factors to the tragic incident.

“Unfortunately, the greed of real estate owners is what leads to these matters,” Sheikh Fahad stated.

The blaze was reported to authorities at 6:00 a.m. local time (0300 GMT), according to Major General Eid Rashed Hamad.

“The building was used to house a large number of workers. Dozens were rescued, but sadly, many succumbed to smoke inhalation,” a senior police commander informed state television.

He further emphasized the longstanding warnings against overcrowding in worker accommodations, though he did not specify the workers’ occupations or nationalities.

The fire has been contained, and authorities are currently investigating its cause, officials said.

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Baltimore shipping lane fully reopens after bridge collapse

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Baltimore

The Baltimore shipping lane blocked for more than two months after a cargo ship collided with a major bridge in
March, sending it crashing into the water, fully reopened on Monday, authorities said.

The US Army Corps of Engineers, along with Navy salvage divers, restored the channel to its original dimensions by removing about 50,000 tons of debris from the Patapsco River, a statement from the Key Bridge Response Unified Command said.

The riverbed was certified as safe for transit on Monday.

“We are proud of the unified efforts that fully reopened the Federal Channel to port operations,” said Lieutenant General Scott Spellmon, commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers.

“The partnerships that endured through this response made this pivotal mission successful.”

On March 26, the Singapore-flagged M/V Dali lost power and plowed into a support column of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing it to collapse and killing six road workers who had been filling potholes overnight.

The 106,000-ton ship had been headed for Sri Lanka at the time of the accident.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is investigating the incident along with the FBI, has said the ship had two electricity blackouts in the moments before the disaster.

The Dali was refloated last month and towed back into port.

The port of Baltimore is one of America’s busiest ports and a key hub for the auto industry, handling almost 850,000 autos and light trucks last year — more than any other US port, according to state figures.

The full reopening of the shipping channel will allow for two-way traffic, Monday’s statement said.

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