Wednesday January 16, 2019
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U.S. President Donald Trump To Shut Down A Service That’s Been Present Since WWII

Among other proposed cuts for NIST are its environmental measurement projects measuring the impact of aerosols on pollution and climate change and gas reference materials used by industry.

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USA Radio
The entrance of NIST radio station WWVH in Hawaii. WWVH on the island of Kauai in the mid-Pacific state of Hawaii and WWV and WWVB in the state of Colorado send out signals that allow millions of clocks and watches to be set either manually or automatically.VOA

President Donald Trump’s administration wants to shut down U.S. government radio stations that announce official time, a service in operation since World War II.

WWV and WWVB in the state of Colorado and WWVH on the island of Kauai in the mid-Pacific state of Hawaii, send out signals that allow millions of clocks and watches to be set either manually or automatically.

WWVB continuously broadcasts digital time codes, using very long electromagnetic waves at a frequency of 60 kilohertz, which are automatically received by timekeeping devices in North America, keeping them accurate to a fraction of a second.

“If you shut down these stations, you turn off all those clocks,” said Don Sullivan, who managed the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) stations between 1994 and 2005.

USA Radio
The long-wave antenna for WWVB, which transmits a 60 kilohertz signal allowing clocks and watches to be automatically set to the correct time within a few hundredths of a second. VOA

GPS not good enough

Some argue the terrestrial time signal have been rendered obsolete by the government’s Global Positioning System, whose satellites also transmit time signals, but users disagree, noting GPS devices must have an unobstructed view of a number of satellites in space to properly function.

“Sixty kilohertz permeates in a way GPS can’t,” Sullivan told VOA, explaining that WWVB’s very low frequency signal can be received inside buildings and it is an important backup to GPS in case adversaries attempt to interfere with the satellite radio-navigation system.

WWV and WWVH broadcast on a number of shortwave frequencies, meaning their signals can be received globally.

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Donald Trump, Wikimedia Commons

The Trump administration proposes, in its Fiscal 2019 budget to Congress, cutting $26.6 million and 136 jobs from NIST’s fundamental measurements, quantum science and measurement dissemination activities.

The budget document acknowledges that in addition to synchronizing clocks and watches, the time signals are also used in appliances, cameras and irrigation controllers.

“It’s crazy,” Sullivan said of the proposed cut. “It’s absolutely insane.”

NIST officials say they cannot comment on budget matters. The White House referred questions about NIST’s funding to the Office of Management and Budget, which has not responded to an inquiry from VOA.

Oldest continuously operating radio station

WWV, the oldest continuously operating radio station in the United States, first went on the air from Washington in 1919, conducting propagation experiments and playing music. In the early years, it also transmitted — via Morse code — news reports prepared by the Agriculture Department.

USA Radio
A cesium “atomic clock” at WWV in Colorado. One second is defined as the period of the transition between two energy levels of the ground state of the Cesium-133 atom, making cesium oscillators the primary standard for time and frequency measurements. VOA

The station subsequently was moved to Maryland and then to Colorado in 1966. WWV has been a frequency standard since 1922 and has disseminated official U.S. time since 1944.

All of the NIST stations rely on extremely precise atomic clocks for the accuracy of their time signals.

WWV, at two minutes past every hour, also transmits a 440 hertz note (A above middle C), something it has done since 1936, allowing musicians to tune their pianos and other instruments.

All three stations retain a huge following worldwide, according to Sullivan.

WWV and WWVH broadcasts can also be heard by telephone and about 2,000 calls are received daily, according to NIST. (To listen to the broadcasts by phone, dial +1-303-499-7111 for WWV and +1-808-335-4363 for WWVH.)

The telephone time-of-day service also is used to synchronize clocks and watches, and for the calibration of stopwatches and timers (although slightly less accurate than radio reception).

Tom Kelly, an amateur radio operator in the state of Oregon, has launched a petition to try to save the stations. His goal is to collect 100,000 online signatures from U.S. residents by September 15 that would compel a response from the White House.

Kelly’s petition calls the stations “an instrumental part in the telecommunications field, ranging from broadcasting to scientific research and education,” noting their transmissions of marine storm warnings, GPS satellite health reports and specific information about solar activity and radio propagation conditions.

Also Read: USA Sees a Significant Rise in STD Cases

Britain, China, Germany, Japan and Russia also have very low frequency time transmissions, but their stations are too distant to automatically set clocks in the United States.

Among other proposed cuts for NIST are its environmental measurement projects measuring the impact of aerosols on pollution and climate change and gas reference materials used by industry to reduce costs of complying with regulations and the Urban Dome research grants for determining how to measure greenhouse gas emissions for cities and across regions. (VOA)

Next Story

Democrats Decide Investigation Topics To Look Into Donald Trump

The Oversight and Reform committee will look at a host of other domestic issues, including the use by Trump daughter Ivanka Trump of a private email account

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Flags fly in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 1, 2019. VOA

When the Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month, the new committee chairs said they would use their role of oversight to begin investigating the controversies and scandals regarding President Donald Trump’s businesses, campaign and administration.

Russia inquiry

*At least four House committees plan to look into aspects of the Russian election interference investigation — Intelligence, Financial Services, Foreign Affairs, and Judiciary. However, none plan to reopen a full-scale investigation, since Democratic officials say special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe is already doing that. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler says he will wait for Mueller to conclude his investigation before considering any possible impeachment inquiry.

The lines of questioning by the committees reflect their particular purview. For example, the Foreign Affairs Committee will look into what Trump said to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their private meeting last summer in Helsinki, Finland, while the Financial Services Committee plans to seek financial records relating to hundreds of millions of dollars in loans from Deutsche Bank to the Trump Organization.

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Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 24, 2017. VOA

Trump’s taxes

* Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal says he wants to try to build a public case for why Trump’s tax returns should become public before he makes any formal request for the returns to be released. He says he will hold hearings on the matter and will propose legislation that would require all presidents and candidates for the office to make their returns public. If Neal does request the tax returns from the Treasury Department, he has the authority under the tax code to be granted them as chairman of a House committee, however it is not clear if the Trump administration would challenge the matter.

Immigration policies

* Top Democrats have made clear they want to investigate the Trump administration’s immigration policies, with several committees planning to look into the matter of family separations and detentions at the border.

* The House Judiciary Committee plans to investigate the recent deaths of two migrant children held in detention — Jakelin Caal, 7, and Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8. Three committees have ordered U.S. Customs and Border Protection to preserve evidence related to their deaths.

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A man looks at a TV screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and U.S. President Donald Trump shaking hands before their meeting in Singapore, in Tokyo, June 12, 2018. VOA

Foreign issues

* In addition to Russia, the Foreign Affairs Committee plans to investigate issues involving several countries, including North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Syria. The committee plans to look at Trump’s relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as well as his family’s close ties with the Saudi crown prince.

* It also wants answers to why Trump abruptly announced in December the withdrawal of 2,000 U.S. forces from Syria, which led to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis.

* The new chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, says he plans to create an entire subcommittee devoted to investigating Trump.

Domestic issues

* The House Judiciary Committee wants to look into Trump’s decision to fire former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and what his acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker knew about the decision.

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President Donald Trump speaks at the American Farm Bureau Federation convention in New Orleans, Jan. 14, 2019. VOA

* It also wants to investigate Trump’s involvement in payments before his 2016 election to two women who claim to have had affairs with Trump, a possible campaign finance violation.

Also Read: FBI Probes Into Donald Trump’s Relationship With Russia

* The Oversight and Reform committee will look at a host of other domestic issues, including the use by Trump daughter Ivanka Trump of a private email account for government business, the Trump administration’s response to hurricanes Irma and Maria, and some Trump Cabinet officials’ use of government jets for personal travels. (VOA)