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Monday, August 25, 2008

The Real Batmobile

Batty way to spend £150,000

Entrepreneur Paul Garlick brought a touch of Gotham City to an East Yorkshire village this week when his £150,000 custom-built Batmobile made its first public appearance.

The 130mph car is one of just three working models and it stunned passers-by when it was road-tested in Holderness.

The vehicle took 18 months to build, is 6.5m (21ft) long and 2.5m (8ft) wide, and has a fibreglass body moulded from the original used in the 1989 Batman film.

It took 500 man hours to paint and needed 50 tins of body filler, said maker Z Cars. 'It's stunning,' said Mr Garlick, from Cheshire, who plans to cash in on the success of current film, The Dark Knight, with a string of VIP appearances.

Marijuana Grow House Found In Mall Of The Americas

Agents found more than 200 marijuana plants inside a building at the Mall of the Americas in west Miami-Dade late Friday. Now they want to know who was cultivating them, and who set up the hydroponics lab that could have lit the mall on fire with flimsy wiring.

The Drug Enforcement Administration discovered the plants growing on the second floor of the mall in what agents said was a 400-square-foot storage area. An official with the D.E.A. told CBS4'S Shomari Stone that she's never seen anything like this before.

The 'grow house" had plants growing from three-to-six-feet tall in an air conditioned environment along with camera surveillance in a storage area on the second floor of the mall. The wiring was flimsy, and could have sparked a fire in the popular mall.

Some estimates put the value of marijuana as much as $3,500 per pound on Miami streets. Overall, officials say millions of dollars of pot was found, since each plant could be harvested four times a year.

Agents will not share how the drug house was found, only saying that the investigation is ongoing. Officials seized the drug plants as evidence. No arrests have been made. According to D.E.A. agents, officials at the Mall of the Americas are working with the agency.

can watch the video here

The 7 Most Retarded Ways Celebrities Have Tried to Go Green

article image

With the threat of global warming looming, it's more important than ever that all of us appear to care about the environment.

Maybe no one works harder on this than celebrities, who make it a point to show up in the papers every now and then with their latest eco-friendly gesture. We would applaud them for this, if it wasn't for the fact that the gestures are often mind-blowingly retarded.

read more | digg story

Gorgeous Image of Endeavour with Earth in the Backdrop

A rare image of NASA's shuttle endeavour orbiting around our beautiful planet earth.Space Shuttle Endeavour is one of the three currently operational spacecraft in the Space Shuttle fleet of NASA, the space agency of the United States.The other two are Discovery and Atlantis. Endeavour was the fifth and final NASA space shuttle to be built.

High-resolution version of the photo:
NASA caption: ISS015-E-22574 (15 August 2007) --- Backdropped by a blue and white Earth and the blackness of space, Space Shuttle Endeavour, docked to the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station, is featured in this image photographed by a crewmember during the STS-118 mission's third planned session of extravehicular activity (EVA).

read more | digg story

Orangina advert 'too sexy'

An Orangina advert in which animals wearing tiny bikinis and gyrate around poles has drawn complaints from viewers.

The 60 second advert for the soft drink centres around a love story between a doe and a bear, with a finale of shots of Orangina bottles exploding between the thighs of zebras and squirting on to the breasts of other animals.

The Naturally Juicy advert, created by a French ad agency, has attracted criticism from children's charities and equal rights groups. Claude Knights, director of children's charity Kidscape, said: "Orangina is a drink which is mainly aimed at children and young people, but this new advert places the product in a very sexualised and provocative context.

"The almost sinister portrayal of animals in an animation style filled with sexual innuendo leads to very mixed and confused messages."

She said the charity were worried that it was another example of using sexual images to sell products to children.

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has received 147 complaints, after the commercial was first screened on August 1 on E4 during an episode of How to Look Good Naked. A spokesperson said they had not decided whether to investigate the advert, which is due to be shown post watershed throughout August.

The adverts was based around the idea of "pulpeuse", which in French means both "containing pulp" and also "voluptuous" or "sexy".

Dr Pepper Snapple Group, which owns the brand, was unavailable for comment.

After Glow of Games, What Next for China?

Doug Kanter for The New York Times
The closing ceremony on Sunday night.

Published: August 24, 2008

BEIJING — The elaborate closing ceremony that ended the Olympic Games on Sunday also ended nearly a decade in which the ruling Communist Party had made the Games an organizing principle in national life. Almost nothing has superseded the Olympics as a political priority in China.

Carlos Barria/Reuters

People watched fireworks in Beijing on Sunday during the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games. For the Chinese, the Games were a big success, showcasing the nation’s rising economic and political power. Analysts wonder whether the success of the Games might make China’s leadership more open to reforms, or less tolerant of them.

For Chinese leaders, all that effort paid off. The Games were seen as an unparalleled success by most Chinese — a record medal count inspired nationwide excitement, and Beijing impressed foreign visitors with its hospitality and efficiency. And while the government’s uncompromising suppression of dissent drew criticism, China also demonstrated to a global audience that it is a rising economic and political power.

But a new, post-Olympic era has begun. The question now is whether a deepening self-confidence arising from the Olympic experience will lead China to further its engagement with the world and pursue deeper political reform, or whether the success of the Games and the muted Western response to repression will convince leaders that their current model is working.

“China was eager to present something that shows it is a new power that has its own might,” said Shen Dingli, a professor at Fudan University in Shanghai. “It has problems, but it is able to manage them. It has weaknesses in its institutions, but also strengths in those same institutions.”

Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, declared Sunday afternoon that selecting Beijing as a host had been the “right choice” and that the event had been a bridge between China and the rest of the world. “The world has learned about China, and China has learned about the world,” Mr. Rogge said. “I believe this is something that will have positive effects for the long term.”

To a large degree, the Beijing Games reflected the might of the centralized power of China’s authoritarian system: The stunning sports stadiums contributed to a $43 billion price tag for the Games that was almost completely absorbed by the state. China’s 51 gold medals, the most of any nation, were the product of a state-controlled sports machine. Those successes are one reason that some analysts doubt Chinese leaders will rush to change the status quo.

“They have earned a tremendous amount of face because of the Olympics,” said Hung Huang, a media executive in Beijing. “They are going to ride on that for a while. We don’t have a culture that is pro-change. China, by nature, has got to be provoked to make changes. The economic reforms came about because we were desperately poor.”

Indeed, for all the attention to the Olympics, 2008 also marks the 30th anniversary of China’s initial embrace of the market reforms that have powered the country’s rapid economic rise. As the population becomes more urban and wealthy, the leadership will probably have to contend with rising expectations and demands for better services. Liberals in China have hoped this anniversary would inspire new reforms, especially to a political system still marred by corruption and a lack of transparency.

But critics say that the Olympics have underscored the deep resistance within the Communist Party to becoming more tolerant of dissent. The party had faced a procession of crises during the prelude to the Olympics: the violent Tibetan protests that began in March, the protests during the international Olympic torch relay, and the devastating May earthquake in Sichuan Province.

Protests seemed inevitable during the Games, and the authorities initially seemed to signal more openness toward legal dissent when they announced three designated protest zones in city parks.

But those zones remained empty. Chinese citizens made formal applications to protest, but none were approved during the Games. Two elderly women who applied to protest about a land dispute were sentenced to a labor and re-education prison camp. Meanwhile, eight Americans were among a group of foreigners jailed after they tried to demonstrate about China’s Tibet policies. The authorities released the Americans on Sunday and placed them on a flight to Los Angeles as the closing ceremony began.

“For the Chinese authorities to sentence them at all shows the government’s insecurity and intolerance of even the most peaceful challenges to its authoritarian control,” Students for a Free Tibet, a New York-based advocacy group, said in a statement.

Even so, the Communist Party most likely won the overall public relations battle, given the enormous television coverage, largely positive, that the Olympics brought to Beijing. David Shambaugh, a China specialist at George Washington University in Washington, said the Games were a “win-win” for the party and bolstered its international image. But Mr. Shambaugh said that success would be more meaningful if it increased national confidence in a way that allowed China to move past simmering historical grievances that erupted this year, especially during the Tibet crises.

He said the Games should help China put a symbolic end to its self-described “century of humiliation” that saw the country weakened by foreign intervention that began during the second half of the 19th century. “I would hope that we would look back at this as a major threshold of when China ditched all its baggage of the historical narrative of aggrieved nationalism,” Mr. Shambaugh said, “and just rewrote that narrative and began to act with more confidence about itself and its role in the world.”

No issue poses a more immediate test than Tibet. In October, the Chinese authorities are expected to meet with representatives of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader. The Communist Party renewed that dialogue after the March crisis, but some analysts questioned whether Chinese officials had agreed to the talks merely to defuse international criticism in advance of the Games. With the Olympics now concluded, China’s willingness to engage in real negotiations will be closely watched.

“That’s going to be a really good test case,” Mr. Shambaugh said.

Beneath the sphere of geopolitics, many analysts were impressed with ordinary citizens in Beijing during the Games. The authorities had worried that the angry strain of nationalism that erupted during the Tibet crisis might mar the Games with local crowds jeering other teams. But little of that came to pass.

Fans even enthusiastically greeted the return of Lang Ping, a volleyball legend in China who now lives in the United States and coaches the United States women’s volleyball team — and guided the United States to a victory over the Chinese team.

Yu Zhou, a Beijing native who is now a professor of geography at Vassar College, returned for the Games and described the positive public mood and welcoming attitude as proof that enhanced national self-esteem would serve as a moderating influence on China. “I would like China to be more confident,” Ms. Yu said. “I think that would make China and Chinese become more tolerant and open.”

Any Olympic host city experiences a blend of letdown and relief once the torch is extinguished, and Beijing is likely to be no different. Major problems will need attention. The relatively blue skies during the Games were achieved only by restrictions that removed two million vehicles from the streets of Beijing and forced the temporary shutdown of many factories around the region. The city’s air pollution, which ranks among the worst in the world, will return when the restrictions are lifted after the conclusion of the Paralympics in late September.

“Beijing will return to being, well, cloudy — full of smog,” said Mr. Shen, the Fudan University professor.

He predicted that the Olympics would raise public expectations. He said Beijing residents, having enjoyed startlingly nice weather during the Games, will demand that officials find ways to keep the skies clearer.

He said the Games would bolster national confidence and help “make China a more normal country.” But he added that the country still had many problems and should not try to hide them or pretend they did not exist.

“With its increase of wealth, China is entering a stage where it needs to have better transparency, good governance and more accountability,” Mr. Shen said. “This Olympics is a good start for us to think about how China is strong — and where we are weak.”

Top 5 Best Performances of the Star-Spangled Banner [w/vids]

I’m not saying the original recording is boring. It’s just that, as these videos illustrate, the standard meat-and-potatoes orchestration just can’t compare to a talented artist’s unique rendering.

read more | digg story

Mount Rainier is Gorgeous!

Mount Rainier is an active stratovolcano in Pierce County, Washington, located 54 miles southeast of Seattle, Washington, in the United States. It is the highest peak in the Cascade Range and Cascade Volcanic Arc at 14,410 feet. It is a prominent feature of the southern landscape in most of the Seattle metropolitan area.

Stanley Kubrick's Boxes

Hey guys,

I just have to post this video so that I may include it in the 8-part series I did on
Kubrick’s Napoleon. You may recall in Part 1 how obsessed Stanley was about every detail, about how he had 18,000 documents and books about Napoleon, a monster index file of the 50 principal characters in the movie, which were all written on 3x5 cards and organized by the dates of every key event in Napoleon’s life from his birth to his death. It totaled roughly 25,000 index cards. He constructed a picture file retrieval system that had 15,000 images on all things Napoleon. The images were classified by subject, which also included “a visual signaling method,” “allowing cross-indexing of subjects to an almost unlimited degree of complexity and detail.”

Stanley had a lot of boxes.

There was also an article in
the Guardian by Jon Ronson, who two years after Stanley’s death, was given full access to Stanley’s boxes. I remember Stanley’s obsession about the door for the hooker in Eyes Wide Shut. Jon wrote, In one portable cabin, for example, there are hundreds and hundreds of boxes related to Eyes Wide Shut, marked EWS - Portman Square, EWS - Kensington & Chelsea, etc, etc. I choose the one marked EWS - Islington because that's where I live. Inside are hundreds of photographs of doorways. The doorway of my local video shop, Century Video, is here, as is the doorway of my dry cleaner's, Spots Suede Services on Upper Street. Then, as I continue to flick through the photographs, I find, to my astonishment, pictures of the doorways of the houses in my own street. Handwritten at the top of these photographs are the words, “Hooker doorway?”

Jon also made a three-part documentary about his experience going through Stanley’s boxes, which is now available, the entire three-part series, in the video above. Truly fascinating. Hope you enjoy it.


The Transporter 3 Trailer is out and it's lookin' good!

By Kellvin Chavez

Video game site IGN has added a the trailer for 'Transporter 3' starring Jason Statham, and Robert Knepper.

Olivier Megaton directs from a script written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen.

The film follows the return of Frank Miller, the ex-Special Forces operative who specializes in high-risk deliveries.

Transporter 3 is due out November 26, 2008.

Check out the trailer below, which is no biggie cause it looks a lot like the international trailer which debuted a while back HERE.

45 Beautiful Motion Blur Photos [PICS]

Motion blur is frequently used to show a sense of speed. You can artificially achieve this effect in a usual scene using cameras with a slow shutter speed. This article presents 45 beautiful examples of motion blur in photography. It provides you with some inspiration of what can be done with motion blur.

click here for the pics | digg story

New Video Recording Options for iPhone 3G [Review, Demo]

We have been waiting for a video recorder for iPhone 3G for a while. Not only did we get there today but we got two of them.


If you have a jailbroken iPhone running 2.0 software, you can find Cycorder and Video Recorder via Cydia.

Let's do a quick review of both of these recorders.


Cycorder is a product from the developer of Cydia. Jay took a minimalistic design approach to his recorder with the focus on real-time compression. Cycorder does not have audio recording at this time, but since it's only a first release, we won't be surprised to find it in the future.




Cycorder user interface has a record option and immediate access to your recorder files. If you are looking for your videos after recording, they are in the Videos directory on your iPhone.

Video Sample

The video recording quality is quite respectable considering the capabilities of iPhone camera.

Technical Specs:

  • size of video 384x288
  • 4x3 aspect ration
  • MJPEG compression


Video Recorder for iPhone is developed by Dreamcatcher; it is clear that they were on a mission to develop a full-blown recorder. We like almost everything about Video Recorder.

Notable features we liked:

  • Ability to record in portrait mode
  • Audio recording
  • Ability to share video on YouTube

Things we did not like:

  • No real-time compression, this is the biggest turn off for this product. For example, it took over 2 minutes to encode a 30-second video.




You can purchase Video Recorder for $19.99. After purchase, you will get unlimited time for recordings and the enabled custom signature option.




The idea of having a portrait mode recording is outstanding; we love that option. Also, YouTube sharing worked as expected.



Sorry, but we just do not like how much time encoding takes.

Video Sample

The quality of the video produced by Video Recorder can be better compare to Cycorder's. In addition, the colors of video recording are off - more on the warm side.

Let's compare the features of both recorders, side by side



iPhone Video Recorder

Recording Quality Options
Audio Recording
Sharing Options
Real-time compression

Portrait mode recording
Free (ad supported)

Both recorders are respectable entries into video recording for iPhone. The developers took different approaches for each and it is nice to see some creativity. Cycorder beats Video Recorder hands down on the real-time compression capability and video quality. On another hand, Video Recorder is truly a full-feature recorder for iPhone. It is for you to decide which program you like the most.

Once again, the jailbroken software market is a step ahead of the app store apps. As far as we see it, these types of software are another reason to jailbreak your phone. What are you waiting for?


Qik has announced iPhone 3G support, so we decided to take their video streaming application for a spin.


Pandora is one of the most popular and beloved iPhone Apps in existence. And why not? It's free, customizable streaming radio! Unfortunately, the RIAA may be closing the lid on Pandora as ridiculous royalty fees continue to suck the company dry. But fear not, radio enthusiasts, as we have five Apps that may be able to fill that inevitable void.


No more SSH, no more jailbreaking, and no more useless utilities. Heck, if you want to add music from youtube video - no problem.


Due to all the great feedback our readers gave us, and some further iPhone experimentation (a.k.a. iPerimentation) on our part, we've found some other tips and tricks that can enhance your iPhone experience.

As an iPhone user, you've probably found yourself in lots of "iPhone" conversations, especially lately with the release of the App Store and iPhone 3G. If throughout those conversations you've found yourself thinking, "Wait, isn't jailbreaking and unlocking the same thing?" or "What does he mean by Pwnage", then this glossary is for you.

30 Impressive Colour Spectrum and Rainbow Wallpapers

Colour spectrum in technical, are visible colours from red to violet that made up the white light. They are also the reason why rainbows are so interestingly beautiful. MSNBC’s latest web header is a good example. Here’s some really Impressive Colour Spectrum and Rainbow Wallpapers we’ve found.

read more | digg story

Solar plane makes record flight

By Jonathan Amos
Science reporter, BBC News

Solar plane's 3 day flight

A UK-built solar-powered plane has set an unofficial world endurance record for a flight by an unmanned aircraft.

The Zephyr-6, as it is known, stayed aloft for more than three days, running through the night on batteries it had recharged in sunlight.

The flight was a demonstration for the US military, which is looking for new types of technology to support its troops on the ground.

Craft like Zephyr might make ideal platforms for reconnaissance.

They could also be used to relay battlefield communications.

Chris Kelleher, from UK defence and research firm QinetiQ, said Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) offer advantages over traditional aircraft and even satellites.

"The principal advantage is persistence - that you would be there all the time," he told BBC News. "A satellite goes over the same part of the Earth twice a day - and one of those is at night - so it's only really getting a snapshot of activity. Zephyr would be watching all day."

Deployment close

The latest flight was conducted at the US Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.

The Zephyr flew non-stop for 82 hours, 37 minutes.

Altitude infographic NOT TO SCALE (BBC)

That time beats the current official world record for unmanned flight set by the US robot plane Global Hawk - of 30 hours, 24 minutes - and even Zephyr's own previous best of 54 hours achieved last year.

However, the Yuma mark remains "unofficial" because QinetiQ did not involve the FAI (Federation Aeronautique Internationale), the world air sports federation, which sanctions all record attempts.

The US Department of Defense funded the demonstration flight under its Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) programme.

This programme is designed to advance the technologies American commanders would most like to see in the field.

"We think Zephyr is very close to an operational system - within the next two years is what we're aiming for," Mr Kelleher said. "We have one more step of improvements; we trying to design a robust and reliable system that will really sit up there for months; and we want to push the performance."

Energy density

The trial, which took place between 28 and 31 July, also included the participation of the UK Ministry of Defence.

The 30kg Zephyr was guided by remote control to an operating altitude in excess of 18km (60,000ft), and then flown on autopilot and via satellite communication.

It tested a communications payload weighing approximately 2kg.

Zephyr (QinetiQ)
Zephyr should be in commanders' hands within two years

At first sight, the propeller-driven Zephyr looks to be just another model aircraft, and it is even launched by hand. But this "pilotless" vehicle with its 18-metre wingspan incorporates world-leading technologies.

Its structure uses ultra-lightweight carbon-fibre material; and the plane flies on solar power generated by amorphous silicon solar arrays no thicker than sheets of paper. These are glued over the aircraft's wings.

To get through the night, the propellers are powered from lithium-sulphur batteries which are topped up during the day.

"A lot of effort has gone into power storage and light-weighting the systems," explained Mr Kelleher. "Lithium sulphur is more than double the energy density of the best alternative technology which is lithium polymer batteries.

"They are an exceptional performer. We've worked with the Sion Corporation. They've had them in development for years. We're actually the first application in the world for them."

Vulture venture

Zephyr has demonstrated that it can cope with extremes of temperature - from the blistering 45C heat found at ground level in Arizona's Sonoran Desert, to the minus 70C chill experienced at altitudes of more than 18km (60,000ft).

The engineers from the Farnborough-based company are now collaborating with the American aerospace giant Boeing on a defence project codenamed Vulture.

This would see the biggest plane in history take to the sky, powered by the sun and capable of carrying a 450-kilo (1,000lb) payload.

US commanders say the design must be able to maintain its position over a particular spot on the Earth's surface uninterrupted for five years.

QinetiQ is also developing UAV technology for civilian uses.

It has been working recently with Aberystwyth University on field monitoring trials, plotting areas of ground that may or may not need fertiliser applications.

Zephyr (QinetiQ)
Lightweight plane (30-34kg/70lb) is launched by hand
Coms or surveillance payload of about 2kg (4.5lb)
Flies autonomously and can climb to more than 18km (60,000ft)
By day, Zephyr flies on solar power and recharges its batteries
Advanced amorphous silicon solar arrays supplied by Unisolar
Rechargeable lithium-sulphur batteries supplied by Sion Corp

Rocket Man to fly over Channel

A Swiss airline pilot, known as Rocket Man, has moved closer to becoming the first man to fly freely use a jet-powered backpack to fly over the Channel.

By Jessica Salter
Rocket man Yves Rossy
Mr Rossy is due to cross the Channel on September 24Photo: EPA

Yves Rossy completed a 10-minute test flight with an 8ft jet-powered wing strapped to his back, flying more than 22 miles - the equivalent of travelling from Dover to Calais.

Mr Rossy, 48, first tested his wings in May after working on the contraption for four years. The self-styled "Rocket Man" flew at 8,200ft for more than five minutes after jumping out from a plane. The wings have four small engines attached to a carbon wing and can manipulated using a lever that controls the fuel.

Last week's test flight, which had been postponed several times because of engine problems, saw Rossy jump out of a small plane 7,500ft above the town of Bex, in Switzerland. He reached 180mph as he flew through clear skies to Villeneuve and back.

He wore a heat-resistant suit similar to those worn by racing drivers and deployed two parachutes at 5,000ft and 4,000ft to land at Bex airfield with two litres of fuel left.

He said: "Everything went well, it was awesome, it's my longest flight with this wing. If there are no technical problems it's okay for the English Channel."

Mr Rossy is due to cross the Channel on September 24 and the event will be broadcast live in 165 countries by the National Geographic Channel. He said: "My flight will be a tribute to all those who came before me, many of whom were killed."

In an earlier experimental flight three years ago he lost control and spiralled to just 1,600ft from the ground before managing to open his parachute.

World's Must-See Museum Makeovers

Typically, museum restorations are made possible by a combination of donations, trusts, endowments and government funds drawn from state and local taxes.However, that's exactly what's happening, everywhere from Perth,Australia, to Honolulu. Here's a list of must see mueseum makeovers.

read more | digg story

ESA's latest satellite looks like a Star Wars Ship

GOCE Earth Explorer satellite to look at the Earth’s surface and core

22 August 2008

ESA PR 34-2008. The European Space Agency is about to launch the most sophisticated mission ever to investigate the Earth’s gravitational field and to map the reference shape of our planet – the geoid - with unprecedented resolution and accuracy.

The Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) will be placed onto a low altitude near sun-synchronous orbit by a Russian Rockot vehicle launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Northern Russia, some 800 km north of Moscow. Lift-off is scheduled to take place at 16:21 CEST (14:21 UTC) on Wednesday 10 September. The launcher is operated by Eurockot Launch Services, a joint venture between EADS Astrium and the Khrunichev Space Centre (Russia).

ESA’s 1-tonne spacecraft carries a set of six state-of-the-art high-sensitivity accelerometers to measure the components of the gravity field along all three axes. The data collected will provide a high-resolution map of the geoid (the reference surface of the planet) and of gravitational anomalies. Such a map will not only greatly improve our knowledge and understanding of the Earth’s internal structure, but will also be used as a much better reference for ocean and climate studies, including sea-level changes, oceanic circulation and ice caps dynamics survey. Numerous applications are expected in climatology, oceanography and geophysics, as well as for geodetic and positioning activities.

To make this mission possible, ESA, its industrial partners (45 European companies led by Thales Alenia Space) and the science community had to overcome an impressive technical challenge by designing a satellite that will orbit the Earth close enough to gather high-accuracy gravitational data while being able to filter out disturbances caused by the remaining traces of the atmosphere in low Earth orbit (at an altitude of only 260 km). This resulted in a slender 5-m-long arrowhead shape for aerodynamics with low power ion thrusters to compensate for the atmospheric drag.

GOCE is the first Core Mission of the Earth Explorer programme undertaken by ESA in 1999 to foster research on the Earth’s atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and interior, on their interactions and on the impact of human activities on these natural processes. It will be the first in a whole series of Earth Explorer missions with five launches to take place within the next two years.

Two more Core Missions, selected to address specific topics of major public concern are already under development: ADM-Aeolus for atmospheric dynamics (2010), and EarthCARE to investigate the Earth’s radiative balance (2013). Three smaller Earth Explorer Opportunity Missions are also in preparation: CryoSat-2 to measure ice sheet thickness (2009), SMOS to study soil moisture and ocean salinity (2009) and Swarm to survey the evolution of the magnetic field (2010).

On the occasion of the launch of GOCE, ESA will open a Press Centre at ESA/ESRIN in Frascati, Italy from 14:00 to 20:00, hosting a launch event from 15:30 to 18:15.

A live televised transmission of the launch will bring images from Plesetsk and from mission control at ESA/ESOC in Darmstadt, Germany to broadcasters (further details on the TV transmission at ESA senior management and programme specialists will be on hand at ESRIN for explanations and interviews. The general public can also follow the video transmission web-streamed at:

Media representatives wishing to follow the event at ESA/ESRIN or to follow the launch live from one of the other ESA establishments are requested to fill in the accreditation form (linked from the right menu) and to fax it back to the place of their choice.

For further information:

Franco Bonacina,
ESA Spokesman and Head of Media Relations Office
Communication and Knowledge Department
Tel: + 33 1 5369 7299
Fax: + 33 1 6369 7690

Dieter Isakeit
Head of the ESA/ESRIN Corporate Communication Office
Communication and Knowledge Department
Tel. +39 06 94180 950
Fax +39 06 94180 952

Biden dislikes File Sharing, Net Neutrality and Encryption!!

CNet's Declan McCullagh wrote up an informative history of Joe Biden's tech-related voting record--if Biden's name rings a bell, it's because he's the guy Barack Obama picked to be his vice president last Friday night. Maybe you don't care about the doings in Washington, but you may want to know that Biden considers a lot of what you do care about criminal activity. Here's what I'm talking about:

• He asked Congress to spend $1 billion to monitor peer-to-peer activity. (In fairness, much of this is to prevent child pornography, but the tactic is apparently a little blunt.)

• Two Biden bills have been explicitly anti-encryption, because you know, encryption makes it hard for the FBI to read people's e-mails.

• He has expressed support for internet taxes and internet filtering in schools and libraries.

• The RIAA seems to be one of his best buddies: Biden sponsored a bill that would restrict recording of songs from satellite and net radio, and another one that would make it a felony to "trick" a computer into playing back unauthorized songs or running bootlegged videogames. That latter one died when Verizon, Microsoft, Apple, eBay and Yahoo all argued against it.

• Biden was one of just four senators invited to attend a celebration of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act hosted by the MPAA's Jack Valenti and the RIAA's Hillary Rosen, two of American file-sharer's most wanted.

• When he was asked in 2006 about proposing net-neutrality laws, he said there was no need, since any bit-filtering violations would provoke such a huge public ruckus they'd have to hold congressional hearings anyway--and they'd be standing-room only. (Wonder if Biden reads Gizmodo.) [CNet]

New China? Bird's Nest replaces Mao on Yuan

Country's image makeover mostly cosmetic; most policies remain

Image:  10 yuan bill
China Daily / Reuters
A handout photo shows a commemorative bank note with a face value of 10 yuan ($1.46) to mark the Beijing Olympic Games. The People's Bank of China (PBOC), the country's central bank, is to issue the commemorative bank note from July 8, 2008 to mark the Beijing Olympic Games, the bank said in a statement on July 6, 2008, China Daily reported.

The Associated Press
updated 8:34 a.m. ET, Sat., Aug. 23, 2008

BEIJING - If proof were needed that the Olympic Games are meant to give China an image makeover, look no further than the 10-yuan note: Chairman Mao is out, the Bird’s Nest is in.

There are only enough of the bills that replace the late Communist Party leader’s likeness with the iconic stadium to make them a collector’s item — for most of the billions of dollars in transactions here, Mao Zedong is still the man.

Like the currency, the modern image that China is showcasing to the world during its turn in the white-hot Olympic spotlight may be nice to look at, but the Communist Party remains firmly in control.

The multi-layered Chinese public relations blitz has helped lure tourists leary of a country often portrayed as polluted and repressive, and has given a boost to Chinese who have rallied behind the games, experts on China and public relations said.

At the same time, the nation’s leadership has barely budged from its policies.

It largely ignored criticism of its human rights record and continued its repression of free speech. Its harsh rule in Tibet has been downplayed, political dissidents locked up, beggars pushed out of Beijing and journalists covering protests roughed-up. It did not grant a protest permit.

“I think (the) China government has done a very good job of presenting a positive image overseas, but in doing so it didn’t change much of its behavior to do that,” said Russell Leigh Moses, an analyst of Chinese politics based in Beijing.

While the Communist Party leaders will have received a warm boost from their people for staging a successful games, the real test will come afterwards when they have to deal with the myriad problems China faces, Moses said.

For many Chinese, the Olympics have been presented as a comeback from a century or more of weakness and humiliation, the culmination of a “100-year dream.” The Communist Party has gained from being able to achieve it.

China has also tried to present a non-threatening image to the world that helps dispel fears of the country’s rise on the world stage, allowing it to restore what it sees as its rightful place in the international community.

Beijing became obsessed by image in the leadup to the games and anything unsightly was deemed offensive.

Neighborhood food stalls were covered up by roadside barriers showing pictures of ancient Chinese-style curved rooftops or Olympics motifs. Factories were shut down and millions of cars taken off the roads to clear Beijing’s notoriously pollution-clogged skies.

“This was part of the grand plan to show a new China, and I think it’s delivered in many regards,” said Scott Kronick, president of Ogilvy Public Relations in China. Chinese authorities are getting more polished and confident in delivering their message globally, he said.

The games’ lavish opening ceremony, vetted by party leaders, barely touched on communism and the tumultuous decades after the Communist Party came to power in 1949. The ceremony focused on China’s ancient culture — Confucious was quoted, Mao was not.

“China is trying to present itself as nonthreatening and in a lot of ways nonsocialist,” said Michael Dutton, an academic at Australia’s Griffith University’s Asia Institute who studies political cultures. “They’ve gone all out to try and present a country that’s ancient yet super-modern.”

China’s political leaders have also changed their style. Dark-suited and often appearing stiff in public, President Hu Jintao smiled his way through the opening ceremony and was seen at a pingpong event clapping alongside his wife and International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge.

Beijing also has another audience to please — the millions of Chinese who have benefited from the economic boom through growing personal wealth and greater access to the outside world via television and the Internet.

It serves the government for China’s people to forget about the excesses of Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square.

Better the government be thought of as the stewards of three decades of economic growth that have raised millions into a burgeoning middle class.

Tiananmen Square has been spruced up to include a large flower decoration and a 55-foot-tall Beijing 2008 Olympic symbol.

While a few short protests by foreigners were held there early in the games — and were quickly ended by a heavy police presence — a more common sight has been dancing and other activities on a government-sanctioned cultural program.

For foreigners too, the government “wants people to shift their responses beyond the man standing in front of the tank,” said Anne-Marie Brady, a political scientists at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury.

For many, the makeover appears to have worked.

“I am impressed by the cosmopolitan atmosphere. I didn’t think it would be so urban and so advanced,” said Skate April, 39, a computer consultant from Park City, Utah, who came to Beijing for some games events. “That was a preconceived notion — now that’s shattered.”

Randy Lynch, the president of Kipling & Clark, a Chicago-based agency that organizers high-end travel to China, bookings for next year have jumped 40 percent since the games began — many of them by people who before the Olympics never would have considered traveling to China.

“The one thing the Olympics has shown Americans is that China has a very well-developed and successful infrastructure, and it’s easy to get around,” he said. “It’s almost like they’ve thrown the Communist Manifesto out of the window.”

Skating On Israel's Highways

Not sure if this is really skateboarding since there are only two huge wheels, but it's still pretty awesome. If there's any doubt that it's Israely just listen to the music.

A Popping Battle Like You've Never Seen It Before!

Did MLB Make Olympic Mistake by Not Sending Best Players?

Alex Rodriguez
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Alex Rodriguez and other stars could have boosted MLB's exposure, but at what price?
By Keith Law

Major League Baseball had a significant opportunity to market the game via the Beijing Olympics, but by allowing a U.S. roster comprised of a mix of prospects and older fringe big leaguers, MLB has foregone that opportunity and likely sealed the sport's fate as an Olympic event. The NBA is helped in this department by its schedule, since August falls right in the heart of its offseason, but it also has reaped enormous benefits by using the Olympics as a global marketing vehicle. The American basketball team has been a fan favorite in China, as opposed to the U.S. baseball team, which has been busy plowing over the Chinese team's catchers and trying to knock them into next week.

Now the NBA is planning to set up an affiliated professional league in China, while the China Baseball League's foreign partner is Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball.

Baseball's fundamental problem with the Olympics is one of timing; MLB would need to suspend its season for two weeks or continue playing games without the star players who would be at the Games. The former option raises questions of keeping non-Olympic players in shape and ready to play. The latter means teams with more Olympic participants would be penalized by having games played without some of their best players count in the standings. It's a logistical problem either way. The benefit could be substantial for two reasons. First, China easily could prove to be a good source of amateur talent, to say nothing of other countries where Olympic baseball might be aired. (I've argued for a broader World Baseball Classic format with qualifying rounds so countries with fledgling baseball movements get to play meaningful games, even in preliminary rounds.) Second, China's large consumer class could prove to be a major revenue source for MLB, as it has for the NBA. That league took in about $50 million in revenue from China in 2006 (according to an Associated Press report from October 2007), and from 2006 to 2007, its revenue from merchandise sales in China increased by 60 percent. Sending the best U.S. team possible to the Olympics -- not to mention all the NBA stars playing for other countries in Beijing -- is a key part of the NBA's growth strategy in China. As I said in Thursday's chat, there's little point to having baseball in the Olympics if the best players aren't there. American viewers clearly won't watch in big numbers if the players aren't known quantities. Viewers outside the United States aren't likely to stick with the sport if the quality of play isn't high or if they assume it's not high because the players aren't major leaguers or known quantities. The World Baseball Classic might, and should in time, become the global marketing event MLB wants, but it will take time and must be built up -- and even the WBC has struggled with player defections and refusals, the likes of which the NBA never has had to deal with. The Beijing Olympics presented MLB with a one-time opportunity to increase baseball's footprint in China, and MLB chose to pass.

By Jayson Stark

First off, nobody wants to see baseball remain an Olympic sport more than I do. Heck, I love baseball. You think I enjoy seeing it evicted from the greatest sporting spectacle on earth, while, say, rhythmic gymnastics gets to stick around? Sheez, I almost could take that as a personal affront (as much as I respect and admire rhythmic gymnasts everywhere, of course). But if stopping the MLB season for two weeks is the price we have to pay to get baseball back on the Olympics' cool-sport list, sorry. It's just not worth it. It all goes back to the question we need to ask about every major decision in life: Does the upside win a unanimous decision from the downside? And the answer here is: Nope. Not this time. Take a two-week chunk out of the baseball season now? In mid- to late August? Just when it's getting good? No thanks. And remember, the Olympics aren't always held in August. Some years, they're in September. So how would that work? Stop the season on Labor Day weekend and pick it up with two weeks to go? Not practical. Not possible. But let's play devil's advocate. Let's say we did it. Let's say the United States sent its BASEBALL Dream Team -- David Wright, Derek Jeter, Chase Utley, Torii Hunter, Ryan Howard, CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay, Josh Beckett and Joe Nathan (just for starters) -- to China. Let's say they then whomped Cuba, beat on Japan, blew out China and rampaged to a gold medal. They still wouldn't be a bigger story than Michael Phelps. Would they? They still wouldn't be a bigger story than Kerry Walsh and Misty May-Treanor. Would they? They still would be no more than -- what? -- the 14th biggest story of the Olympics? Or the 114th? So, what's the upside? There's just not enough. Sure, you might be able to sell a few more Sabathia T-shirts in Beijing. There would be some boost in interest and dollar signs. No doubt. But let's get this straight: The reason the NBA expects to generate $100 million in revenue from China this year isn't because America sent its stars to the Olympics. It's because Yao Ming has made our stars relevant in the Chinese's eyes, in their culture. What baseball needs to connect with the Chinese is not a better U.S. Olympic team. It needs a Yao Ming of baseball. And there are lots of ways to make that happen besides stopping the season and temporarily exporting Utley. Look around. Baseball is doing those things. All of them. There's an MLB office in China. There's a baseball academy in China. The Dodgers and the Yankees are already heavily invested in China, and more teams will follow. The Padres and the Dodgers just played two exhibition games in China. Much of China's Olympic baseball program was funded and staffed by the United States. The World Baseball Classic will include a team from China. And frankly, I bet the WBC will sell baseball around the planet way better than the Olympics ever could -- if only because it gives baseball its own stage. So while I'm saddened to see baseball make its not-so-grand exit from the Games, it's the Olympics' loss -- not ours. Last time I looked, it sure seemed baseball was a global sport, whether the International Olympic Committee thinks it is or not. And it's growing more global every day. Isn't it? Any time the folks at Olympic central want to come to their senses and acknowledge that baseball is a worthy sport -- with or without Wright and Jeter -- it's cool with me. In the meantime, I think baseball will survive -- no matter how few Sabathia shirts it sells in Beijing.


Here's the roster for the U.S. Olympic team in Beijing:

Brett Anderson LHP AA Midland/OAK
Jake Arrieta RHP A Frederick/BAL
Brian Barden INF AAA Memphis/STL
Matthew Brown INF AAA Salt Lake/LAA
Trevor Cahill RHP AA Midland/OAK
Jeremy Cummings RHP AAA Durham/TAM
Jason Donald INF AA Reading/PHI
Brian Duensing LHP AAA Rochester/MIN
Dexter Fowler OF AA Tulsa/COL
John Gall OF AAA Albuquerque/FLA
Mike Hessman INF AAA Toledo/DET
Kevin Jepsen RHP AAA Salt Lake/LAA
Brandon Knight RHP AAA New Orleans/NYM
Mike Koplove RHP AAA Las Vegas/LAD
Matt LaPorta OF AA Akron/CLE
Lou Marson C AA Reading/PHI
Blaine Neal RHP AAA Toledo/DET
Jayson Nix 2B AAA Colo. Springs/COL
Nate Schierholtz OF AAA Fresno/SFO
Jeff Stevens RHP AAA Buffalo/CLE
Stephen Strasburg RHP San Diego State
Taylor Teagarden C AAA Oklahoma/TEX
Terry Tiffee INF AAA Las Vegas/LAD
Casey Weathers RHP AA Tulsa/COL

2008 Beijing Olympics Closing Ceremony PHOTOS!

Almost as amazing as the Opening Ceremonies....

click here for pics | digg story

BASKETBALL GOLD: U.S. 118, Spain 107

Harry How/Getty Images

From left, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Michael Redd on the medal stand as the national anthem was played in Beijing on Sunday. (Harry How/Getty Images)

POSTGAME: What a scene. The U.S. players are dancing and hugging at midcourt like little kids. Coach K is looking on approvingly — a special moment for him, too. What an offensive show! If it wasn’t 4:30 a.m., I’d want to go to the nearest playground and practice lefty runners a la Juan Carlos Navarro. Hats off to Spain for putting on a great show. The U.S. simply had too much offense, too much raw talent, and now Craig Sager is interviewing Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant. They’re acting as if they won an NBA title. “I’m so excited, so excited,” Bryant said.

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U.S. Men Defeat Brazil to Grab Gold in Volleyball

U.S. Men Defeat Brazil to Grab Gold in Volleyball

U.S. Men Defeat Brazil for Gold in Volleyball
Ryan Millar yells after the final point was scored against Brazil to win the gold medal for the United States in men's volleyball on Sunday.

BEIJING — While his players hugged and shouted and leapt into one another’s arms Sunday after the United States men’s volleyball team won its first Olympic gold medal in 20 years, Coach Hugh McCutcheon walked off the court, alone.

He headed for a hallway beneath the Capital Indoor Stadium and buried his shaved head in his hands. And, finally, he wept.

“It was just too much for me to take,” he said. “For the past few weeks, I’ve been kind of compartmentalizing my emotions. Finally, the filters came down.”

No matter how amazing it was to see his team defeat Brazil in four sets to win the gold medal, McCutcheon did not consider it a salve for the pain he has kept at bay during these Olympics.

His father-in-law, Todd Bachman, will be laid to rest this Friday in Lakeville, Minn., after being killed here at a popular tourist site the day after the opening ceremony.

His mother-in-law, Barbara Bachman, has been hospitalized with serious stab wounds from the same attack. She remains in good condition. The attacker threw himself to his death from the top of a nearby tower.

“Obviously, this doesn’t change anything because it doesn’t bring Todd back and can’t vindicate it,” said McCutcheon, who is married to Elisabeth Bachman, a 2004 United States Olympian known as Wiz. “But I can enjoy this and mourn Todd’s death at the same time. It’s just something I have to do.”

McCutcheon gathered his composure after a few moments Sunday and returned to the floor to be with his team.

His players, who had the initials “TB” and “BB” written in marker on their sneakers, had been looking for him.

Scott Touzinsky, an outside hitter, gave McCutcheon a long, hard hug.

“I told him that he deserves this,” Touzinsky said. “He has taken this program a long way. He had a smile on his face, and we haven’t seen that in a long, long time. It was a beautiful thing.”

For 16 days, the United States team, undefeated at this tournament, surged forward after the attack placed a dark cloud over the start of the Games. McCutcheon missed the first three matches while he grieved and sat at his mother-in-law’s bedside.

At first, the team received updates from McCutcheon through e-mail messages, then communicated with him through teleconferences. The assistant Ron Larsen took over, but the players said they had a feeling McCutcheon would be back.

With the blessing of his family, McCutcheon returned and told his team that he was focused purely on volleyball. On the bench, he remained stoic, but his players said they could tell he was struggling to hide his heartache.

“Hugh said he doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve, but he does,” said Lloy Ball, a four-time Olympian. “I think it fueled his fire even more to lead us to this victory.”

McCutcheon called his wife after the match, telling her not much more than: “Hi. We’re gold medalists.”

No more words were needed.

Wiz Bachman had been watching the Olympics on television, keeping a close tab on the United States volleyball teams. The women won a silver Saturday, their first Olympic medal since 1984. The men’s gold medal was their fourth Olympic medal and their first gold since 1988.

She sent both teams an e-mail message last week, encouraging them to play hard. Both responded.

The men came back from a set down to beat top-ranked Brazil, 20-25, 25-22, 25-21, 25-23. From the start, every player was energized, hitting the ball with a ferociousness that had yet to be seen in this tournament.

Each time the American players returned to the ground after leaping, the ground seemed to rumble. Each time they won a point, they pumped their fists and slapped one another’s backs, celebrating the little victories on the way to the gold. Earlier in the day, Russia beat Italy in straight sets for the bronze.

The American players later said they had, in part, been playing for the Bachmans.

“Making them happy, just for a moment, was a special feeling,” outside hitter Reid Priddy said.

But there was no disguising it: they were also playing for themselves and their families — and for a lifetime of sacrifices they have made to succeed in their sport.

Ball, 36, said he had been dreaming of winning an Olympic medal since he was 4. At the 1996 Atlanta Games, he and the team finished ninth. In 2000 in Sydney, Australia, they were 11th. In Athens in 2004, they were fourth, achingly close to a medal.

So when that gold medal was finally around his neck, Ball said his entire sports career flashed through his head.

He remembered all the times his mother drove him to practice, then sat patiently in the stands watching him. He recalled all the lonely nights he and his wife, Sarah, spent apart while he traveled to tournaments. He thought of all the quality time he had missed out on with his two children.

Awash with those memories, he sprinted to the stands, jumped a barrier and then embraced his wife and his 7-year-old son, Dyer.

“Your whole life has been spent on this one thing, focused on this one goal,” Ball said. “I can’t explain how good it feels to have finally reached it.”

Before the match, middle blocker Ryan Millar made a celebration plan, just in case the United States won. He executed it almost perfectly.

Millar grabbed a poster his wife had made of their 2-year-old son, Max, which had Max’s photograph and the words 2028 Olympian. He waved it around, then tried to catch an American flag his wife had thrown to him. It landed short. Instead, he grabbed another one from the stands and wrapped it around his 6-foot-7, 216-pound body.

On the medal stand, Millar’s lips quivered while he sang the words of the national anthem, his eyes fixed on the American flag as it was raised to the rafters.

McCutcheon stood on the side, staring at the flag. His eyes were clear. He remained frozen.

Millar said, “It could have been a storybook ending, but, because of all the circumstances, that just won’t be possible.”

Reuters: Top 10 moments of the Beijing Olympics

Sun Aug 24, 2008 9:18am EDT

«»1 of 16Full Size

BEIJING (Reuters) - Following is a selection of the top 10 moments from the Beijing Olympics:

1) Usain Bolt breaks the 100 meters world record. Bolt already owned the record and in front of a packed Bird's Nest stadium he ran 9.69 seconds. He thumped his chest in triumph over the last few meters before his 'marksman' celebration which became one of the lasting images of the Games.

2) Michael Phelps roars in triumph and relief after American team mate Jason Lezak overtook France's Alain Bernard on the final leg of the 4x100 freestyle relay to keep alive Phelps's dream of beating Mark Spitz's record from 1972 of seven golds in a Games - a dream he was to realize.

3) Liu Xiang dejectedly walks away from the track as he realizes he has to withdraw from the defense of his 110 meters hurdles title because of a leg injury. Liu was the most popular sportsman in China and his grimacing departure clouded the Games for millions of home fans.

4) Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva turns the Bird's Nest into her private theatre with a gold medal and world record-breaking pole vault performance that captivated the 91,000 crowd. After she spent most of the competition lying under a towel, she broke her own world mark with a leap of 5.05 meters.

5) The Opening Ceremony. It emerged that some of the performance seen on television had been enhanced by computers, a child singer was replaced by a supposedly prettier face to mime to her voice and representatives of China's ethnic minorities were no such thing. But it was a jaw-dropping beginning to the Games, culminating in former gymnast Li Ning being swung up the roof of the stadium and 'running' around the top level before lighting the cauldron.

6) German weightlifter Matthias Steiner kisses a picture of his late wife Susann on the gold medal podium, choking back tears over the promise he made to her that he would keep their Olympic dream. The super-heavyweight made the pledge to Susann at her bedside in hospital as she lay dying after a car crash in 2007.

7) American Matt Emmons blows a 3.3-point lead on the very last shot of a 120-shot competition to throw away the gold medal in the "marathon" event of shooting. Four years ago in Athens he had fired at the wrong target and squandered a 3-point lead.

8) Usain Bolt breaks Michael Johnson's 200 meters record. Charging towards the finish line, Bolt has his eye on the clock all the way and once again celebrates his triumph in style -- this time, after he completed his run.

9) Rohullah Nikpai wins Afghanistan's first Olympic medal with a bronze in the men's 58-kg taekwondo. Proof that no matter how tough the conditions you have to train in, Olympic success is achievable if you have the talent.

10) Estonian Gerd Kanter celebrates his discus gold medal by sprinting down the 100 meter track at the Bird's Nest and mimicking Bolt's marksman routine. High school jinks in a week when fun was put back into track and field.

(Compiled by Simon Evans)