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Some of the telescopes atop Mauna Kea. Photo: Julie Thurston Photography

The protest this week on Mauna Kea opposing the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is, at its heart, about who has a say in how science is done.

Why it matters: The TMT is designed to be larger and more sensitive than any other optical telescope in use today, and it could revolutionize how astronomers conduct their work.

  • Many in the scientific community support its construction.
  • However, protestors consider the plan to build the huge telescope on a Hawaiian mountain — which already is home to more than a dozen telescopes — a further desecration of the sacred place.

The big picture: The protestors, blocking access to the summit of Mauna Kea since construction was expected to begin the week of July 15, say the efforts made to reduce the environmental impact of the TMT aren’t enough.

  • "We are taking a stand not only to protect our mauna and aina, our land, who we have a genealogical connection to," Kaho'okahi Kanuha, one of the leaders of the protests, told CNN on July 22. "We are fighting to protect it because we know if we cannot stop this, there is not very much we can fight for or protect."

The backdrop: This conflict isn’t a new one. Construction was expected to begin on the TMT in 2015, but protests stopped that work, and the project was thrown into turmoil after Hawaii’s Supreme Court repealed the telescope’s permit.

  • The TMT then received a new permit allowing it to move forward this year.

What they’re saying: An open letter signed by nearly 1,000 scientists says the conflict over the telescope stems from a way of doing science that’s rooted in outdated traditions that don’t respect the rights of the indigenous communities.

“[T]he message is that only people willing to assimilate into science’s cultural traditions are welcome to participate in science’s empirical work.”
Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, cosmologist, University of New Hampshire to Axios

What to watch: At the moment, the standoff shows no sign of ending, and national political attention is now directed at the conflict. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are voicing their support for the protestors.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”