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Psaki punts reporter’s question about Pres. Biden and U.S. Space Force

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When a reporter asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki during Tuesday’s press briefing if President Joe Biden has made any decisions pertaining to the U.S. Space Force, Psaki appeared surprised, SpaceNews reported.

Specifically, the reporter asked the press secretary if the new president has made any decisions about “keeping, or keeping the scope of, Space Force”.

“Wow, Space Force,” Psaki said, visibly surprised by the question. 

“It’s the plane of today,” she joked.

According to SpaceNews, her “plane” remark is a reference to a question she received during her January 22 briefing about what color scheme the president would prefer for Air Force One. The Hill reported that she said Biden “has not spent a moment” thinking about the color scheme for the commander-in-chief’s official airplane.

As for the question Psaki was asked Tuesday about Space Force, she couldn’t provide an actual answer.

“I am happy to check with our Space Force point of contact,” Psaki said. “I’m not sure who that is. I will find out and see if they have any update on that.”

Click here to watch the full clip of Tuesday’s Space Force segment published by The Hill.

Founded in 2019, the U.S. Space Force is the newest branch of the nation’s military after much public advocacy by then-President Donald Trump. It was the first military branch created in decades, after the U.S. Air Force was established in 1947 after World War II.

Biden has not commented on the Space Force, according to SpaceNews, though the publication noted that the president does not get to choose whether or not to keep the Space Force. This is because Congress created the Space Force through legislation, just as with other armed services, and new legislation would have to be passed in order to get rid of the young military branch. SpaceNews also pointed out that the Space Force has bipartisan support, making any such effort unlikely.

Todd Harrison, a defense and space analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told SpaceNews on Tuesday that Psaki’s response to the Space Force question is a “pretty clear indication that national security space is not a top priority for the White House — at least not right now.”

“They’ve got a lot of other stuff to deal with, from COVID to climate change to the economy,” Harrison added. “But they’d better be ready to deal with space issues soon because you never know when a crisis might arise, like another destructive anti-satellite test by China.”

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Minnesota farmer’s lawsuit prompts removal of race and sex-based grant program

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Five months after Minnesota farmer Lance Nistler filed a federal lawsuit with the help of the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), the state has removed race- and sex-based preferences from its Down Payment Assistance Grant Program. This significant policy change followed Nistler’s legal challenge, which highlighted the discriminatory nature of the program’s selection process.

Pacific Legal Foundation writes involvement in Nistler’s case drew attention and criticism from Minnesota progressives. Writing in the Minnesota Reformer, Sigrid Jewett accused PLF of using Nistler “as a pawn in a larger culture war game.” She questioned why a California-based legal firm with numerous Supreme Court victories would be interested in representing a small Minnesota farmer pro bono.

PLF opposes all race- and sex-based preferences in the law, and that’s the real reason the firm chose to represent Nistler. The foundation stands against discrimination in various domains, including government board selections, school admissions, government contracts, and grant distributions, such as in Nistler’s case.

Here are the facts: Minnesota’s Down Payment Assistance Grant Program offers up to $15,000 toward the purchase of farmland. Recipients are chosen through a lottery system. However, before the policy change, even if a recipient was among the first picked through the lottery—as Nistler was, being selected ninth—they could be bumped to the back of the line if they were not a racial minority, female, LGBTQIA+, or otherwise designated as an “emerging” farmer by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Despite being chosen ninth in the lottery, which awarded grants to 68 applicants, Nistler did not receive a grant. He was moved from ninth to 102nd on the waitlist because he is a white male.

Nistler grew up on his family farm, milking cows. “They would lose money every year,” he says of the family operation. After he left for school, his family sold the cows and switched to farming soybeans, oats, and wheat. Lance’s father and uncle now run the farm, but they’re getting older. Lance, who has a degree in electronic engineering and worked in HVAC, is interested in buying a 40-acre chunk of the family farm, becoming the fourth-generation farmer in his family.

The land isn’t just going to be given to Lance. This is a working farm, and the Nistlers aren’t a wealthy family that can transfer land from one generation to the next without consideration. “My dad and uncle, they don’t have 401(k)s or anything,” Lance says. “I mean, the land and the equipment, that’s their retirement. This stuff isn’t given away. I’m not just going to get it handed down to me and inherited. It has to be purchased, and it is not cheap.”

Despite being from a farming family, Lance considers himself a new farmer—he has never owned farmland before, and he has an electronics background. Buying these 40 acres would be a huge step for Lance, planting him firmly in the farming world, which is what Minnesota’s grant program aimed to do. The idea that he would have qualified as an emerging farmer if only his skin were a different color struck Lance as wrong.

“The country we live in, the idea is it’s equal opportunity for everyone,” he says. “And if that’s what it is, then well, why shouldn’t I have the same chances?”

When Lance filed his lawsuit in January, the complaint argued that the discriminatory process violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. The complaint stated:

“Nistler brings this lawsuit to vindicate his constitutional right to equal protection of the law. He brings it to give all Minnesotans a fair chance at a difference-making grant program. He brings it in the hope that he will be able to own that small farm in the near future. He brings it because he is not giving up on his dream.”

In May, after Lance called attention to the unconstitutional policy, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed legislation removing the race and sex prioritization from the program. Now, Minnesota will treat farmers equally—as the Constitution promises.

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