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Archive for April, 2007

Hawking Swoops and Soars.

“I have long wanted to go into space, and the zero-gravity flight is the first step toward space travel.” Physicist Stephen Hawking experiences zero gravity aboard the Vomit Comet. “Hawking said he hoped his flight would provide a boost for commercial spaceflight, in line with his oft-expressed belief that humanity’s future depended on moving beyond Earth…’I think that getting a portion of the human race permanently off the planet is imperative for our future as a species. It will be difficult to do this with the slow, expensive and risk-averse nature of government space programs,’ Hawking said, working in a veiled reference to NASA. ‘We need to engage the entrepreneurial engine that has reduced the cost of everything from airline tickets to personal computers.‘” I’m in full agreement…far be it from me to differ with a man as intelligent, knowledgeable, and solid on the mic as Mr. Hawking.

Rove down the Hatch?

Following up on recent news that Karl Rove’s political behavior was being looked into, the WP describes how White House officials gave 20 private political briefings to government agency officials on the 2006 midterms, likely to push them into helping out struggling GOP candidates. “Such coercion is prohibited under a federal law, known as the Hatch Act, meant to insulate virtually all federal workers from partisan politics.

Saving Rick Renzi.

The GOP streams of corruption cross further…Word comes out that congressman-under-fire Rick Renzi (R-AZ), who apparently forgot to mention he received $200,000 from a business partner he helped with a land deal, was pressuring one of the fired US attorneys to tell him how the probe against him was progressing. Moreover, and even more disconcerting, it seems the Gonzales Justice Department may in fact have stalled the Renzi probe in order to help the Arizona congressman get re-elected. Wow. Just when you think you’ve heard it all…The shadiness just never ends with these people.

McCain piles on.

Meanwhile, also on the persecuted prosecutors tip, McCain says it’s time for Gonzales to go. “I think that out of loyalty to the president that that would probably be the best thing that he could do.

Congress Steps Up.

“‘How many more suicide bombs must kill American soldiers before this president offers a timeline for our troops to come home?’ asked Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D-Pa.), a freshman Iraq war veteran who lost nine fellow paratroopers this week in one of the deadliest attacks of the war. ‘How many more military leaders must declare the war will not be won militarily before this president demands that the Iraqis stand up and fight for their country? How many more terrorists will President Bush’s foreign policy breed before he focuses a new strategy, a real strategy? This bill says enough is enough.’” By a vote of 218-208 in the House and 51-46 in the Senate, the Democratic Congress — living up to their promise in 2006 — calls for a timetable for withdrawal in Iraq. Dubya has said several times that he’ll veto the bill, and is expected to do so in short order.

Aboard the Clinton Dreadnought.

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign was designed and built to be a dreadnought, an all-big-gun battleship that would rule the waves without being dented, slowed or thrown off course. But it has been caught off guard by a submarine named Barack Obama, running silent, running deep — until he surfaced with a spectacular showing in the first round of fund-raising numbers.” TIME’s political bureau looks in on the Clinton campaign’s likely response to the threat of Obama (which reminds me, the first Democratic debate is tonight, 7pm EST, on MSNBC. [Previews: WP | Newsweek | The State | The Times and Democrat]) “Hillary Clinton is also banking on the grueling schedule of debates, which is ‘where she will shine,’ says a strategist. ‘This will be her strongest point. She knows this stuff inside out.’ But her team says she is not yet ready to begin challenging Obama directly on his lack of specificity. That’s because going on the attack could further boost her negatives and create an opening for Edwards, who has offered far more detailed plans than she has on issues like health care. ‘They are worried about both Obama and Edwards,’ says an outside adviser. ‘They think if Obama flames out, Edwards rises.‘”

Small Comfort, greater shame.

“‘As expected, after it opened it was elbow to elbow,’ the history says. ‘The comfort women…had some resistance to selling themselves to men who just yesterday were the enemy, and because of differences in language and race, there were a great deal of apprehensions at first. But they were paid highly, and they gradually came to accept their work peacefully.‘” The continuing furor in Asia over Japan’s ignominious use of “comfort women” (re: forced prostitution) during WWII reaches America, as it comes to light that occupation Japan created a similar “comfort system” for American GI’s in the year after the war (until MacArthur shut it down in the spring of 1946.) “An Associated Press review of historical documents and records shows American authorities permitted the official brothel system to operate despite internal reports that women were being coerced into prostitution. The Americans also had full knowledge by then of Japan’s atrocious treatment of women in countries across Asia that it conquered during the war…Although there are suspicions, there is not clear evidence non-Japanese comfort women were imported to Japan as part of the program.”

Only Yesterday.

By way of Ted at The Late Adopter, a bunch of 1940’s D-listers reminisce about the Depression Decade, VH-1 style, in I Love the ’30’s. Hey, isn’t that one of the Sonic guys? (The married one, not these two.)

Sol to Gliese, over?

“Because of its temperature and relative proximity, this planet will most probably be a very important target of the future space missions dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial life. On the treasure map of the Universe, one would be tempted to mark this planet with an X.” The big news today, of course: Astronomers announce the discovery of an earth-like planet, Gliese 581c, at the galactically tiny distance of 120 trillion miles (20.5 light years) away. (For the stargazers, Gliese 581 is a red dwarf “located in the northeastern part of constellation Libra.”) Of course, we still don’t know if we even have to go that far to find extraterrestrial life — Europa, Mars, Ganymede, and Callisto all still pose unresolved questions. Nevertheless, it’s an exciting moment in our history to discover the first planet far afield that might possibly be inhabited (and inhabitable)…and even more exciting to know that there’ll assuredly be many more to come. The stars, our destination!

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