03 June 2004

Light that candle!

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Paul G. Allen and aviation legend Burt Rutan have teamed to create a manned space program, which will attempt the first non-governmental flight to leave the earth’s atmosphere. SpaceShipOne will rocket to 100 kilometers (62 miles) into sub-orbital space above the Mojave Civilian Aerospace Test Center, a commercial airport in the California desert. If successful, it will demonstrate that the space frontier is finally open to private enterprise. This event could be the breakthrough that will enable space access for future generations.


“This flight is one of the most exciting and challenging activities taking place in the fields of aviation and aerospace today,” said Paul G. Allen, sole sponsor in the SpaceShipOne program. “Every time SpaceShipOne flies we demonstrate that relatively modest amounts of private funding can significantly increase the boundaries of commercial space technology. Burt Rutan and his team at Scaled Composites have accomplished amazing things by conducting the first mission of this kind without any government backing.”

Today’s announcement came after SpaceShipOne completed a May 13th, 2004 test flight in which pilot Mike Melvill reached a height of 211,400 feet (approximately 40 miles), the highest altitude ever reached by a non-government aerospace program.

This is the real thing. The 100 km mark is the next natural progression of their series of successful test flights. They’re already the first private team to go supersonic. Will they be the first to get to space? Houston, prepare to eat their dust.

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European Doom Watch

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In case you wonder if Europe is truly screwed: the Spanish Prime Minister José Zapatero has awarded medals - Cross of Military Merit - to his Defence Minister and three generals, not for anything as mundane as bravery or distinguished service, but… wait for it… for withdrawing Spanish troops from Iraq!

The controversy that consequently erupted, has forced the Defence Minister to hand his medal back

Shouldn’t the Defence Minister get a medal for that brave act of returning his award?

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Who pays attention to Senate votes?

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The US Senate recently voted on funding for Project Bioshield which would attempt to prepare the USA to defend itself against biological attacks. Meanwhile, Senator John Kerry was telling people that the USA was not sufficiently prepared to deal with biological attack.

The vote in the Senate was 99-1 for funding Project Bioshield. The lone dissenting vote was — Senator John Kerry.

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Aweideh handles the gun awkwardly, though with obvious reverence, asking for a plastic bag to hide it in for the short hop from the backseat of a car into the store. Not long ago Aweideh and his comrades from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades — the armed cells, affiliated with Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, that sprung up with the intifada — would have been swaggering through the streets of this West Bank market town, inspiring admiration in some residents, terrorizing others and plotting what they call “military operations” against nearby Jewish settlements or Israeli cities that lie over the Green Line, the pre-1967 border that skirts Tul Karm to the west.

But the armed men are not walking around here anymore, certainly not in broad daylight. The few of them left after the army’s frequent raids, targeted killings and arrests are said to be feeling hunted and alone. And while predictions of calm times ahead may be premature, many here are already declaring Tul Karm’s intifada over.

“Everybody’s either dead or in prison,” says Nidal Jallad, who is hanging around the store shortly before Aweideh makes his entry. “It’s over. We’ve had enough. All we want now is for the prisoners to come home.”

And jobs - for some reason, the Israelis aren’t hiring as many Palestinians as they used to.

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