Monday, January 16, 2012

Billboard Irony

How apt that a billboard touting the job creation skills of reviled Wisconsin governor Scott Walker sits directly in front of a shuttered GM factory that sent 10,000 people to the unemployment line.  In every month since last June, the state has lost jobs both overall and in the private sector, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Scott Walker recall petitions are due next week.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Another Russian Space Failure Endangers The Planet

A failed Russian probe designed to travel to a Mars moon but was stuck in Earth orbit will come crashing down within hours, likely in a shower of fragments that survive the fiery re-entry. The unmanned Phobos Ground, the most expensive since the Soviet era, is one of the heaviest and most toxic space derelicts ever to crash to Earth, but experts say the risks are minimal as its orbit is mostly over water and most of the probe's structure will burn up in the atmosphere anyway.

According to the latest reports from Russian space agency Roscosmos, the Phobos-Ground will crash between 1:50 pm and 2:34 pm EST. The probe could come down anywhere along its orbit that would place it over southern Europe, the Atlantic Ocean, South America and Pacific. The rest of the world, including the U.S. and Canada, is outside the risk zone.

Russia's space chief has acknowledged the $170-million Phobos-Ground mission was ill-prepared, but admitted they were forced to give it the go-ahead so as not to miss the limited Earth-to-Mars launch window. The Phobos-Ground mission is the latest in a long string of failures in the Russian space program.

Its predecessor, Mars-96, which was built by the same Moscow-based NPO Lavochkin company, also suffered an engine failure and crashed shortly after its launch in 1996. Its crash drew strong international fears because of some 200 grams of plutonium on board. The craft eventually showered its radioactive fragments over the Chile-Bolivia border in the Andes Mountains, and the pieces were never recovered.

The worst ever radiation spill from a derelict space vehicle came in January 1978 when the nuclear-powered Cosmos 954 satellite crashed over northwestern Canada. The Soviets claimed the craft completely burned up on re-entry, but a massive recovery effort by Canadian authorities recovered a dozen fragments, most of which were radioactive.

The Phobos-Ground also contains a tiny quantity of the radioactive metal Cobalt-57 in one of its instruments, but Russia has claimed it poses no threat of radioactive contamination.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Decade Of Shame Lives On

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the opening of Gitmo (the infamous U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay)

Gitmo received its first 20 detainees on January 11, 2002, as part of the initial stages of Bush Jr's global 'War on Terror.' Over the next ten years, 779 prisoners would be transfered to Guantanamo, labeled as "illegal enemy combatants," a definition permitted the U.S. to hold them indefinitely without charges and subject them to illegal torture. Only one of the remaining 171 detainees at Guantanamo faces formal charges.

President Obama had promised to close the facility after taking office -- calling it a "betrayal of American values." Yet almost four years later, the Obama administration has failed to deliver on that promise. "Human rights groups and lawyers for prisoners are dismayed that Obama [not only] failed to close the prison, but [that he] has resumed military tribunals at the base and continues to hold men like [Suleiman] al-Nahdi who have been cleared for release," the Associated Press writes. "Critics are also angry over the president's Dec. 31 signing of the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a provision allowing indefinite military detention without trial."

Today, 171 men remain detained at Guantanamo Bay. 36 are set to face trial on war crimes charges; 46 are considered too dangerous to be released but cannot be prosecuted because the evidence against them was obtained by illegal torture; 57 men from Yemen are held because the U.S. does not want them to return to their unstable country; and congressional limitations (written into Defense appropriation bills) are preventing the release of 32 others.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Special Effects Done "In Camera"

Check out these cool special effect videos. Everything is done "in camera"-- meaning everything is accomplished while filming and nothing is added post production:


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