XIAM007

Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hypersonic Military Planes: $320M to Zero in Minutes -

Hypersonic Military Planes: $320M to Zero in Minutes - 


About $320 million in U.S. taxpayer dollars has gone into two hypersonic aircraft designed and built by a defense research agency -- which launched each experimental vehicle in separate tests and then promptly lost contact with them, as they barreled into the Pacific Ocean.
The latest unmanned Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-2 -- a test rocket designed to fly at Mach 20, or around 13,000 miles per hour -- successfully launched at approximately 7:45 a.m. PDT Thursday and separated properly from the Minotaur IV rocket that carried it to the edge of space. But after 2,700 seconds of flight, the agency lost contact with the vehicle, which presumably sank in the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.

In a statement on the mission, Air Force Maj. Chris Schulz, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) HTV-2 program manager, said the agency had learned from the flight. But he also acknowledged that the mission was shy of perfection.


"It’s vexing; I’m confident there is a solution. We have to find it,” the statement read.
The fate of the test on Thursday is reminiscent of the April 2010 initial test flight, which also ended with the military losing contact with the vehicle after 9 minutes. It too went down in the Pacific.
The military research group began the hypersonic test program began in 2003. It has cost a whopping $320 million, Eric Mazzacone, a DARPA public affairs officer, told FoxNews.com.
Lt. Gen. Tom McInerey, former U.S. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, told Fox News that the project is designed to let military strikes occur anywhere within minutes. But superfast weapons may simply be too expensive to be practical, he said.
"It costs about 1 billion dollars if we wanted to field about 10 or 20 of them per target ... and that's just not affordable," he said.
DARPA defended the costly test missions, declaring that valuable information was collected while the aircraft was in flight -- despite the unsuccessful end.
"We know how to boost the aircraft to near space. We know how to insert the aircraft into atmospheric hypersonic flight. We do now know how to achieve the desired control during the aerodynamic phase of flight," Schulz said.
At first, the launch seemed to go off successfully, despite the dense Central Coast fog making it hard to see the glider take-off -- only the sounds of the launch resonated through the air. No light from the "Falcon" craft was visible, all that was seen was a whiteout from fog and green hills in the foreground.
When the aircraft was in flight, the latest status reports were broadcast across the Air Force base from a loudspeaker where attendees watched the launch. Over that Countdown Network, the Range Launch Conductor said that it had lost optical site of the HTV-2 at approximately 8:15 a.m. PDT.
“Range assets have lost telemetry with ," the agency announced via Twitter shortly after the flight. "Downrange assets did not reacquire tracking or telemetry. #HTV2 has an autonomous flight termination capability. More to follow,” the agency wrote about an hour later.
After 2,700 seconds of flight, the launch ended. 
A Vandenberg Air Force Base spokesman called the launch a success nevertheless. McInerney told Fox News the latest incident cast a pall over the program.


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/08/11/darpa-readies-hypersonic-aircraft-for-mach-20-launch-test/#ixzz1Um7yY3c2

Illinois Shutting Down Ice Cream Makers for Crime of Using Fresh Fruit -

Illinois Shutting Down Ice Cream Makers for Crime of Using Fresh Fruit - 




The State of Illinois is shutting down local, artisan ice cream makers for such terrible offenses as using fresh fruit instead of fruit syrup and fresh cream instead of pre-packaged soft serve mix. What, you say? How can this be? Health officials in this state are known for being overzealous when it comes to making sure that small, independent businesses follow obscure rules – and when I say small and independent, I’m talking about businesses that are often owned and run by 1-2 people renting space in a shared, licensed commercial kitchen. These are not corporations with large amounts of money who have the capital to hire lawyers or contribute significant sums to political campaigns. No, these are real people, individuals who do their best to follow labyrinthine food regulations based on the information that they’re given by governmental agencies who don’t always agree on what the rules should be.
Illinois health regulators seem to hate anything that isn’t incredibly processed. Last year, they destroyed thousands of dollars worth of local fruit that had no health issues. Why? Monica Eng from the Chicago Tribune put it this way: “At best it was a victim of paper work confusion among city bureaucrats who couldn’t agree on a policy.” One woman was put out of business for six months.
Now, the health department is saying that Nice Cream, a local maker (read: primarily one woman, Kris Swanberg) that I’ve followed since reading this 2009 profile from the Chicago Reader, is being forced to shut down because she lacks a dairy permit. Nevermind that she and others in her field have been creating artisan ice creams for years without ever hearing that such a permit existed – or that they needed one. Nevermind that the office that issued their business licenses (the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection) failed to inform any of them that they needed one in order to operate. IDPH has spoken, and now Swanberg and others will need to use sub-par ingredients or cough up around $40,000 for a pasteurizing machine.
Processed ingredients would mean that Nice Cream – which built its reputation by using fresh, organic ingredients that are sourced from local farms – would be allowed operate without needing the dairy license. The problem with the dairy license is that in order to pass inspection, you have to make sure your bacteria levels are so low that using real ingredients simply doesn’t work.
Technically, using fresh strawberries is legal. However, IDPH does not recommend using them, because “when you try and clean a strawberry to make sure it doesn’t have any bacteria, it kind of deteriorates.”  Irradiated strawberries apparently look fine but are somewhat lacking in the taste department. So IDPH explicitly suggests “strawberry syrup.” Fresh cream requires the dairy license, so the alternative would be to use premade ice cream mix, the kind of stuff that is full of stabilizers and additives and usually found at places like Dairy Queen. (If you’ve never done it, read the label of your grocery store ice cream sometime – if you’re not buying Häagen-Dazs, Ben and Jerry’s, or Breyers, you’ll probably be reading a long list of ingredients, half of which are near unpronounceable.) Clearly, the results of these changes would turn Nice Cream into a generic brand that’s barely worth mentioning, rather than the wizards who made me realize for the first time that strawberry ice cream could actually taste good. Better than good. Amazing.
Which brings us back to the pasteurizing machine and its $40,000 price tag. That’s a lot of money for a small business to find. But it’s not a lot of money for a large corporation, and that’s the type of organization that the rules were invented for. In fact, the rules about dairy licenses apply to the mega-corporation and the one-man show equally in the eyes of the state. Something’s wrong with that. Something’s wrong with the fact that Cargill can stay in business after having to recall 36 million pounds of salmonella-tainted turkey, but Nice Cream may not be able to stay in business after keeping a clean record. Something’s wrong with the fact that health departments are pushing businesses to produce processed food rather than fresh, locally-sourced food, which is much healthier. Something’s wrong here, and local ice cream may be a casualty of it.
Read more -

"Going Postal" The Sequel: US Postal Service To Cut 120,000 Jobs To Avoid Bankruptcy -

"Going Postal" The Sequel: US Postal Service To Cut 120,000 Jobs To Avoid Bankruptcy - 


That the US postal service is on the verge of bankruptcy is well-known by now and was discussed by Zero Hedge long before it became mainstream news. Furthermore, as we previously noted, the key sticking point in cost reduction negotiations is the labor force compensation (80% of all costs), which is paid an average of $41.15 an hour, and which is over 60% unionized. As of today, we finally welcome the USPS to reality which has announced that, in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy, it is now seeking to reduce its total overhead by 20%, or a whopping 120,000 workers (a number which would amount to roughly an increase of 0.1% in the national unemployment rate). Ah yes, but this is prohibited by existing union contracts. Furthermore, WaPo writes that "SPS also wants to withdraw its employees from the health and retirement plans that cover federal staffers and create its own benefit programs for postal employees." Good luck trying to convince a labor union that cutting an ungodly amount of jobs is for the greater good. Alas, what happened in Greece (and what is about to happen in Italy) will be nothing compared to what will happen when the entire post office goes, well, postal.
This major restructuring of the Postal Service’s relationship with its workforce would need congressional approval and would face fierce opposition from postal unions. But if approved, eliminating contract provisions that prevent layoffs and quitting the federal employee health and retirement programs could have ramifications for workers across the government and throughout the national’s labor movement.

In a notice to employees informing them of its proposals, with the headline “Financial crisis calls for significant actions,” the Postal Service said “we will be insolvent next month due to significant declines in mail volume and retiree health benefit prefunding costs imposed by Congress.”

The Postal Service plan is described in two draft documents obtained by The Washington Post. A “Workforce Optimization” paper acknowledges “that asking Congress to eliminate the layoff protections in our collective bargaining agreements is an extraordinary request by the Postal Service, and we do not make this request lightly. However, exceptional circumstances require exceptional remedies.

“The Postal Service is facing dire economic challenges that threaten its very existence. . . . If the Postal Service was a private sector business, it would have filed for bankruptcy and utilized the reorganization process to restructure its labor agreements to reflect the new financial reality.”
And here are the number that will shortly be repeated ad nauseam on every talk show over the next week:
The USPS says it needs to reduce its workforce by 120,000 career positions by 2015, in addition to the 100,000 it expects through regular attrition. Some of the 120,000 could come through buyouts and other programs, but a significant number likely would be the result of layoffs, if Congress allows the agency to circumvent union contracts.
But what is a labor loving president to do (recall how in the Detroit-3 restructurings, labor unions just incidentally took precedence over secured debt holders):
“Unfortunately, the collective bargaining agreements between the Postal Service and our unionized employees contain layoff restrictions that make it impossible to reduce the size of our workforce by the amount required by 2015,” according to the postal document. “Therefore, a legislative change is needed to eliminate the layoff protections in our collective bargaining agreements.”
Those most likely to suffer yet another political whiplash as a result of this huge dilemma (massive layoffs or no more snail mail) is the democratic party:
How Congress will respond to the postal proposals remains to be seen. Many Republicans, including those who have sponsored legislation that labor considers anti-union, may support the plan. Some Democrats probably would back union opposition. But the Postal Service’s critical financial situation could make Democrats have second thoughts.
Sure enough, the unions wasted no time to craft a response:
American Postal Workers Union President Cliff Guffey said, “The APWU will vehemently oppose any attempt to destroy the collective bargaining rights of postal employees or tamper with our recently-negotiated contract — whether by postal management or members of Congress.”

National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association President Don Cantriel: “We are absolutely opposed” to the layoff proposal. “We are opposed to pulling out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Our advisers are not advising us at all to even consider it.”

National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric V. Rolando: “The issues of lay-off protection and health benefits are specifically covered by our contract. . . . The Congress of the United States does not engage in contract negotiations with unions and we do not believe they are about to do so.”
Unfortunately, about 30 years after its inception, the USPS is about to remind America what the source of the "going postal" phrase really is.
Read more -

DNA discovered in meteorites - meteorites and comets may have impacted Earth and assisted in life formation here -

DNA discovered in meteorites - meteorites and comets may have impacted Earth and assisted in life formation here - 


NASA researchers have found the building blocks of DNA, the genetic molecule that is essential to all life forms, in meteorites, pieces of space rock that have fallen to Earth. The discovery suggests that similar meteorites and comets may have impacted Earth and assisted in life formation here.
With minimal chance for contamination of the meteorite samples, scientists are confident that these meteorite specimens were formed in space. “People have been discovering components of DNA in meteorites since the 1960's, but researchers were unsure whether they were really created in space or if instead they came from contamination by terrestrial life,” Michael Callahan, lead author of the study on the discovery, said in a statement.
The research team analyzed twelve carbon rich meteorites, nine of which were from Antarctica, to positively identify the basic elements of the chemical compounds they extracted from the samples. Testing revealed adenine and guanine, two fundamental components of DNA called nucleobases.
DNA is shaped like a double helix, or twisted ladder, and the rungs of that ladder are each comprised of two nucleobases, either a pairing of adenine and thymine or of guanine and cytosine. The ladder is essentially a long string of genetic code that tells cells in an organism which proteins to make. Those proteins then play critical roles in organism growth and function, making everything from hair to enzymes.
Scientists also found hypoxanthine and xanthine, two other chemicals used in biological processes and found in muscle tissue.
The meteorites also contained trace amounts of three molecules associated with nucleobases, called nucleobase analogs, but two of those are almost never seen in biology, providing the necessary proof that these DNA components were actually created in outer space.
In fact the only record of any of these nucleobases in biologic processes is within a virus.  Callahan said in the NASA press release that “if asteroids are behaving like chemical 'factories' cranking out prebiotic material, you would expect them to produce many variants of nucleobases, not just the biological ones, due to the wide variety of ingredients and conditions in each asteroid,” and that is exactly what these researchers found. He says the nucleobases found, biological or not, can also be created in a lab setting, using the basic compounds hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, and water.
This finding contributes further to the growing collection of evidence that asteroids and comets are comprised of the proper chemicals to generate the building blocks of life. Some seem to have the ideal internal chemistry for the job.
“In fact, there seems to be a ‘goldilocks’ class of meteorites,” Callahan said in a statement, “the so called CM2 meteorites, where conditions are just right to make more of these molecules.”
Read more -

Woman 24, Arrested For Attacking 12-Year-Old For 'Looking At' Her Boyfriend -

Woman 24, Arrested For Attacking 12-Year-Old For 'Looking At' Her Boyfriend - 
Candice Kiley

A 24-year-old woman attacked a 12-year-old girl for "looking at" her 30-year-old boyfriend, according to investigators in Connecticut.
Police in North Branford arrested Candice Kiley for allegedly assaulting a victim who was half her age
Law enforcement officials say Kiley lashed out at the 12-year-old during a family birthday party on July 23, according to NorthBranfordPatch.
The suspect's boyfriend was in the kitchen cleaning up a spill when Kiley allegedly claimed the child had "been looking at him all day," police told the website.
Kiley then grabbed the girl by her hair and hurled her to the floor, investigators allege.
"She landed flat on her back, hitting the back of head on the floor," North Branford Police Department Lt. David D’Ancicco told The Register Citizen.
"Everybody immediately came to the 12-year-old's aid," he noted.
Family members broke up the fight, which left the child with a bump on her head.
The victim, who is reportedly a friend of the suspect's younger sister, also suffered an asthma attack.
Kiley had left the home by the time police arrived. Officers took the suspect into custody on Aug. 9 after a warrant was issued.
Kiley has been charged with third-degree assault, disorderly conduct as well as risk of injury to a minor. She is due in court on Aug. 23.
Calls to the North Branford Police Department were returned by deadline.
Read more -

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney Shouted down at the Iowa State Fair... - crowd chants - "Wall Street greed" -

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney Shouted down at the Iowa State Fair... -  crowd chants - "Wall Street greed" - 
A small but aggressive audience challenged Mitt Romney at the Iowa State Fair on Thursday about threats to Social Security and corporate earnings.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney faced a rowdy crowd at the Iowa State Fair Thursday, with people interrupting his answers to chant "Wall Street greed" and him snapping "corporations are people, my friend."
One questioner asked the GOP presidential candidate what he would do to strengthen Social Security. The voter didn't like Romney's pledge not to raise taxes, and interrupted him.
Romney pointed angrily at the crowd and told them to give him a chance to answer. After a minutes-long exchange with Romney and the crowd shouting over each other, Romney said, "If you want to speak, you can. But it's my turn."
Some members in the crowd urged Romney to tax wealthy individuals and corporations to ensure solvency for entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
"There was a time when we didn't go after people for their success," Romney said.
"If you don't like my answer, you can vote for someone else," he added.
As he wrapped up, he joked, "These guys up front won't be voting for me."
Romney hasn't spent as much time in Iowa as other candidates. He visited before the Thursday evening debate in Ames

Read more - 
http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_ROMNEY_2012?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2011-08-11-12-34-40

David Cameron, Britain's prime minister, suggests “Purple Rain” for Rioters - be sprayed with purple dye -

David Cameron, Britain's prime minister, suggests “Purple Rain” for Rioters -  be sprayed with purple dye - 


photo
The British government is frantically throwing out proposals in the wake of three days of rioting in the country following the murder of a man by police.

In addition to shutting down Twitter and BlackBerry messagingduring civil disturbances, the government is suggesting rioters be sprayed with dye.
The tactic was used in apartheid South Africa against protesters. In 1989, the government deployed awater cannon to indiscriminately spray dyeon anti-apartheid demonstrators who would then be later identified and arrested for the crime of marching on parliament. The incident became known as the “Purple Rain Protest.”
Other governments have used brightly colored dye to mark and arrest people. The tactic has been used in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir, Hungary, Bangladesh, Uganda, South Korea and Indonesia.
“The police should look at all available technologies and keep abreast of all potential developments here and in other countries to make sure they arrest as many people as possible,” said British PM David Cameron when questioned about the tactic.
The technique is designed to identify large numbers of people attending political rallies, not looters and vandals mixed in larger crowds of bystanders and others not engaged in criminal 
Read more - 

David Cameron, Britain's prime minister, said authorities may shut down Facebook and Twitter to return calm to streets -

David Cameron, Britain's prime minister, said authorities may shut down Facebook and Twitter to return calm to streets - 


In a move that calls to mind the start of the most serious unrest in nations across the Middle East over the last year, David Cameron, Britain's prime minister, told Parliament Thursday that authorities may shut down social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, in hopes that it would return calm to their streets.
The remarks came one day after British authorities discussed turning off the messaging function on BlackBerry phones, which they suggested may remove a tool protesters and rioters were using.
“Everyone watching these horrific actions will be struck by how they were organized via social media," Cameron told Parliament. "Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill.
"So we are working with the Police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality. I have also asked the police if they need any other new powers."
Cameron added that he'd considered sending in the British military to quell the rioting, and that he's provided police with additional powers, such as the ability to order youths to uncover their faces. The order is likely tied to the widespread use of facial recognition technology, which has been employed by police to help identify rioters.


Read more - 
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/08/11/british-pm-suggests-quelling-riots-by-disconnecting-social-media/

Police use facial recognition and photo-sharing site to help hunt for UK rioters -

Police use facial recognition and photo-sharing site to help hunt for UK rioters - 


Facial recognition technology being considered for London’s 2012 Games is getting a workout in the wake of Britain’s riots, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Thursday, with officers feeding photographs of suspects through Scotland Yard’s newly updated face-matching program.
The official said that the Metropolitan Police’s sophisticated software was being used to help find those suspected of being involved in the worst unrest the force has faced in a generation, although he cautioned that police had a host of other strategies at their disposal.
“A lot of tools are being used to hunt down these criminals, and that’s just one of them,” the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about an ongoing investigation. “The issue is that you have to have a good picture of a suspect and it is only useful if you have something to match it against. In other words, the suspect already has to have a previous criminal record.”
A press officer with Scotland Yard — who also spoke anonymously, in line with force policy — confirmed Thursday that facial recognition technology was at the police’s disposal, although he gave few other details. He said that generally the technology would only be used to help identify those suspected of serious crimes, such as assault, and that in most cases disseminating photographs to the general public remains a far cheaper and more effective way of identifying people.
To that end the police have released two dozen photos and videos to the picture-sharing website Flickr, where they’ve already gathered more than 400,000 hits. Some of those photographs have also been published by Britain’s brash tabloid press. The Sun recently plastered them across its front page, along with a headline urging readers to report looters to the police.
The photographs on Flickr are mainly grainy images pulled from closed circuit television cameras, which may not be of much use to face-matching software. But other pictures — taken by police surveillance teams, published in the media or snapped by passers-by — could provide higher-resolution images.
Read more - 

Milllionaires and billionaires: Obama to drop $50,000 for 10-day holiday... -

Milllionaires and billionaires: Obama to drop $50,000 for 10-day holiday... - 


At a time when many more cash-strapped Americans are stuck at home instead of vacationing at the beach, President Obama next week will lead an entourage of several dozens to exclusive Martha's Vineyard island at a cost of millions to taxpayers.
While technically he is paying for his estimated $50,000 a week rental of the 28-acre beachfront Blue Heron Farm in woodsy Chilmark, the dozens of U.S. Secret Service agents, communications officials, top aides, drivers, and U.S. Coast Guard personnel with him will be covered by taxpayers as with every other presidential vacation.[Get your Whispers on your iPad--subscribe to U.S. News Weekly.]
His 11-day stay will require the Coast Guard to keep ships floating near Obama's farm, a presidential helicopter and jet at the ready and security agents on 24-hour duty. Armored SUVs dubbed "war wagons" have been flown in to carry the presidential family around the island. It was the same way when former President George H.W. Bush visited Kennebunkport, Maine and Bill Clinton visited Martha's Vineyard during their presidencies. [See political cartoons about President Obama.]
Typically, say former White House officials, the collection of aides is smaller for a summer vacation than for an official trip. And the motorcade is cut in half, to about 20 cars. What's more, the press corps will be smaller, though they largely pay for themselves.
Obama's vacation comes at an awkward time because of the economic turmoil roiling the nation and Wall Street. Surveys show that a growing number of Americans can't afford even small vacations. [Check out editorial cartoons about the economy.]
But former Clinton spokesman Mike McCurry says that every president needs a break from the confines of the White House.
"We do need to let these guys have vacations and do some reading and thinking outside the box," he said.
What's more, keeping a sizeable crew of aides nearby is critical, he said. "Remember Clinton's trip to Martha's Vineyard in August 1998 when we ended up trying to decapitate bin Laden with a cruise missile strike? That's why the 'entourage' has to accommodate all aspects of the presidency, even on vacation. You never know what might happen. August always produces the unexpected." [See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]
And he dismissed the criticism of vacationing presidents. "I think all this 'Why is he taking a vacation?' stuff is ginned up by the media," he said. "I don't think any American will fault him for getting away, especially if he comes back with some fresh ideas on how to create jobs."
Obama will certainly have a lot of space to brainstorm. The $20 million farm on Cobbs Hill Road features four dwellings, a swimming pool and a basketball court. Google Earth shows that there is also a single hole golf area with two bunkers. The president, his wife and two daughters can also go to private Squibnocket Beach or Great Pond. There is an apple orchard, and flower and vegetable gardens. [See photos of Michelle Obama.]
The local Vineyard Gazette reports that the Secret Service is already setting up camp and areas for the media are also being set aside. "Suddenly cell phone service in Chilmark, usually spotty to nonexistent, was crystal clear, another sign that the president is coming," reported the paper's Peter Brannen.
Finding enough housing for staff and security isn't easy. Brannen reported that at the recent town meeting, "Selectman Walter Vail announced that he would be taking a vacation from August 16 to 28 to accommodate Secret Service members who were renting his house."
Read more -