30 September 2016

Just looked like Santa Cruz in the ad...

...but it turns out the original Chili's was in Houston, Texas.

From Slate: more Tump stupidity

Congresswoman defends Trump's 5 a.m. sex tweet: "That's the kind of President we need"

Rico says Kennedy could get away with this, but not Trump... (And what's her problem?)

What is and When is a Black Moon?

Sent from my iPhone

Mark Seymour

Begin forwarded message:

From: Kathleen Teater <kteater1@yahoo.com>
Date: September 30, 2016 at 4:14:22 PM EDT
To: Larry & Rose Wright <wright2go@sti.net>,  Rosemarie Wright <rose2go@sti.net>,  California Dreamin <davidyvarra@sbcglobal.net>,  Vince --Work <postofficestores@aol.co.uk>,  Mark Seymour <mseymour@proofmark.com>,  Shlomo Menkes <mamoshcamp@gmail.com>,  Gay Abarbanell <gaya926@gmail.com>,  Batsheva Williamson <batshevaw@me.com>,  SuziWaltner <swaltner@netptc.net>,  Robin Robin2critters <robin4critters@hotmail.com>
Subject: What is and When is a Black Moon?
Reply-To: Kathleen Teater <kteater1@yahoo.com>

The final day of September will bring a rare lunar event that hasn't occurred since March of 2014, a Black Moon.
The term Black Moon has several definitions, but one of the most common definitions is the second new moon in a calendar month. This is similar to the well-known Blue Moon, which is the name given to the second full moon in a calendar month.
Since it is a new moon, it will not be a visible event as the side of the moon that is illuminated will be facing away from the Earth.
The last time that two new moons fell in the same month was March of 2014.
While some areas of the world, such as the United States, experience a Black Moon in September, it will not be the case for the entire world.
"It's the second new moon this month in all of the Americas, but not in Europe and points east from there," said Bob Berman, an astronomer for Slooh.
This is because the new moon occurs at 8:11 p.m. EDT on Sept. 30, so for areas in the Eastern Hemisphere, the new moon will officially occur after the calendar flips to October.
However, these areas will not miss out on a Black Moon. Another new moon will occur at the end of the month, giving the Eastern Hemisphere a Black Moon right around Halloween.
While this type of Black Moon happens about once every two and a half years, there are several other lunar events that fall under the same name.
Another type of Black Moon is when there are no new moons in a month. These can only happen in February and occur once every five to 10 years, said Berman.
"The phrase could also mean the third new moon when there are four in a season, which is actually also one of the definitions of a Blue Moon when the same thing happens to a full moon," Berman added.
The next time that two new moons will fall in the same month for the Western Hemisphere will be in July of 2019.

From BBC News


Rico says this'll make a great video...

Rosetta mission ends in comet collision

From the BBC:


Rico says space is always exciting.

Duterte: Hitler killed millions of Jews, I will kill millions of drug addicts -

Rico says another crazy dictator we need to remove...

MacBook Webcams can spy on their users without warning

Rico says a little piece of tape over the lens will stop that shit...

Those wireless emergency alerts are about to get a lot more useful

From The Washington Post:

Sent from my iPhone

Mark Seymour

Report of Trump spending in Cuba could hurt his chances in pivotal Florida

Rico says the guy's shooting himself in the foot far too often...

Paintings, recovered

The BBC has an article about getting some valuable paintings back:

Italian police have recovered two Van Gogh paintings stolen during a dramatic raid on an Amsterdam museum in 2002. The works were recovered from the Italian mafia in Naples, Italy, they said. The Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, Holland said the works were found during a "massive, continuing investigation" by Italian prosecutors and organized crime officials.
The paintings were taken when thieves used a ladder and sledgehammers to break into the museum. They were eventually found wrapped in cloth in a safe in a house in the picturesque seaside town of Castellammare di Stabia, near Pompeii.
The works were among assets worth millions of euros seized from a Camorra organized crime group linked to cocaine trafficking, Italian reports said. Months earlier, police had arrested several suspected drug traffickers who had invested their proceeds in Dubai, Spain, and the Isle of Man. They were reportedly linked to one of the biggest mafia clans in the Scampia area of northern Naples.
Among those arrested in January were suspected drugs gang leader Raffaele Imperiale and Mario Cerrone. It was Cerrone who apparently told investigators about the two paintings.
The theft of the two works, valued by investigators at a hundred million dollars, led to criticism of security at the world's major art museums. The thieves broke into the museum through the roof during the night of 6 and 7 December 2002 and used sledgehammers to break a first-floor window. They took the paintings off the walls of the main exhibition hall. Experts were baffled at the time of the theft, because guards had been on patrol, and infra-red security systems were in place.
Neither work was insured at the time, and both were on loan to the Van Gogh museum from the Dutch government. Two Dutch citizens were jailed for theft, but always maintained their innocence.
The museum said it was so far unclear when the works would be returned to Amsterdam, but a statement it said they appeared to be in "relatively good condition". Dutch and Italian ministers were overjoyed by the news, and praised Italian investigators. 
James Reynolds of BBC News in Rome has an article about the Naples mafia developing a taste for Dutch masters:
The Camorra crime organization of Naples is not known for its understated good taste. Police raids on members' homes have often revealed a preference for kitschy decoration.
Naples police say they found the two stolen artworks in the possession of the Amato-Pagano clan, which they call one of the most dangerous clans in the region.
Police don't yet know how the clan got hold of them, nor whether its members had been planning to sell the works on the international black market. The art works are now in the hands of Italy's financial police, whose officers, during a brief display, stood on either side of the recovered works. They managed to disguise any admiration they may have had for Van Gogh's brushstrokes. 
Why are the paintings significant?
Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) is widely considered the greatest Dutch artist after Rembrandt. Seascape at Scheveningen (photo, top) was one of only two seascapes he painted while he lived in the Netherlands. Van Gogh painted Seascape at Scheveningen on a gusty day, and grains of sand were embedded in the wet paint. It shows a foaming, stormy sea and thundery sky, and was painted in 1882 while he was staying in The Hague.
Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen (1884) was painted for Van Gogh's mother, but also partly for his father, who had become a pastor at the church in 1882. When his father died in 1884, Van Gogh added churchgoers, including a few women wearing shawls used for mourning. Van Gogh committed suicide in France in 1890.
Rico says you can steal genius, but you can't create it...

Going cashless

The BBC has an article by Lauren Comiteau about countries where cash is out:

My dad, a former Wall Street trader, always advised me that “cash is king” and to “hold on to it” when the economy gets tough. But, in the Netherlands, cash is definitely not getting the royal treatment. In so many places, it has simply ceased to be recognized as legal tender. More and more Dutch stores, from upscale health-food store Marqt to my local baker and bagel shop, take pin or debit cards exclusively. Some retailers even describe going cash-free as “cleaner” or “safer”.
Tucking my debit card firmly away, I decide to see how far a bundle of cash will get me. Not far. The big-ticket items are strictly cashless affairs: my rent and my telephone bill among them.
I meet with baffled expressions and some resistance. “I can’t remember the last time we received a cash payment,” says Marielle Groentjes, an administrator with the company that manages my apartment, Hoen Property Management BV, and has worked there for a decade. “We don’t like cash in the office, we don’t have a safe, and banks charge you for depositing it.”
But it’s the smaller items that are giving me the biggest headaches. Not only can I not buy my organic produce at Marqt, but I am forced to wait in long cash-only lines at the supermarket while I watch those with debit cards quickly pay up and make it home for dinner. When I try to buy a tuna sandwich at Dutch bakery chain Vlaams Broodhuys, my cash is rejected. I can’t even use my euros to pay for parking in much of the city.
“Cash is a dinosaur, but it will stay,” says Michiel van Doeveren, a senior policy advisor at the Dutch central bank, De Nederlandsche Bank. But he points out it's the logistics that make handling cash expensive, as it must be transported, guarded, tallied and registered, versus the ease of electronic payments. “It’s important that the electronic economy increases. We want to foster more efficient payments.”
Electronic payments in the Netherlands’ shops and supermarkets overtook cash payments for the first time in 2015 by a narrow margin: 50 percent debit cards while 49.5% were paid for in cash; the remaining 0.5% were credit card-payments. There’s a movement afoot by a coalition of Dutch banks and retailers that want that ratio to increase to sixty percent electronic payment versus forty percent hard currency by 2018. They say cashless payments are cheaper, safer and more convenient.
Like the Netherlands and its Scandinavian neighbors, Sweden is among the front-runners in the race to eradicate cash. But not everyone is welcoming. “It’s a very big problem. For small businesses, it costs so much money to put cash in the bank,” says Guido Carinci, chairman of the small business association, TOMER. Carinci describes the situation as “awful,” saying he has to pay a fee of 300 Swedish krona (about $35) every month to a company that is then able to deposit cash into his bank account.
It all comes down to profit margins. Swedish banks, he says, profit handsomely from charging transaction fees to retailers for card payments, amounting to millions of krona annually for the banks, whereas there is no revenue generated on cash. This leaves banks little incentive to accept currency.
Citing the high costs of handling cash and security concerns, many Swedish stores have already abandoned their cash tills, including telecommunications giant Telia Company, whose ninety shops nationwide stopped accepting cash in 2013. The country’s buses haven’t accepted currency from passengers for years, and even homeless magazine vendors accept card and mobile payments these days.
The problem has become so bad that many of Sweden’s residents, facing the dilemma of what to do with piles of cash that banks don’t want, are even resorting to “hiding it in the microwave”, according to  Björn Eriksson, head of security industry alliance Säkerhetsbranschen.
Attitudes, however, vary significantly within Europe and globally. Some cultures are still deeply reluctant to give cash up, including Germany, whose consumers believe, according to a recent study by the country’s central bank, that using cash gives them better control over their spending. In Europe’s economic superpower, more than three-quarters of payments are still made in cash. In Italy, where the cash culture runs deep, that number jumps to nearly ninety percent.
As much as Americans still love dollar bills, the nation only adopting chip-enabled credit cards last year, a full decade after many European countries, a move toward cashless is beginning to take root across the Atlantic too. In January, several branches of the fifty-strong restaurant chain Sweetgreen stopped accepting cash, including at its Wall Street location.
“I was surprised,” says New Yorker Persephone Zill. “I think it is because they see that all the young folks on Wall Street are using their smart phones, such as Apple Pay, to buy things. I know my daughter uses the Venmo app for everything. It frankly made me feel old and outdated.”
Advances in mobile technology have seen banks leapfrog cash payments in some countries in Africa. In Kenya and in Tanzania, for instance, the cashless mobile-banking-system M-Pesa means millions of people now pay bills, collect salaries, buy livestock, and even conduct small transactions at local markets via accounts on their mobile phones.
Personally, I hate that the cost of cash is increasingly being passed back to people like me. Still, I head to my local branch to collect some coin wrappers. “Excuse me?” asks the doe-eyed assistant. I try to explain these are little paper tubes you fill with different denominations of coins that I used as a child. It still doesn’t register. At my prompting, she tells me she’s 25 years old, leading me to conclude the problem of cash may just sort itself out over the coming decades as a new generation takes charge.
At my own bank, I’m charged six euros ($5.38) per deposit after the first six transactions per year. As my daughter cracks open her piggy bank and painstakingly counts out five euros in coins I realize the cost of depositing her small sum of funds into in her bank account will wipe out her savings. 
Rico says them Dutchies are always on the cutting edge...

Rico's addicted

The BBC has an article by Chris Baraniuk about addictive foods:

Sweet, sour, bitter, salty and oh, yes, umami. It’s the somewhat ineffable savory flavor that makes certain foods so moreish. It was first proposed as one of the basic tastes by a Japanese chemist named Kikunae Ikeda, who realized that the seaweed broth he loved was so tasty, in part because it had a pseudo-meaty quality. After some analysis of his dinner one day, he realized that it contained glutamate crystals responsible for this flavor. A stable form of the same chemical, monosodium glutamate, better known as MSG, was soon patented, branded as Ajinomoto, and used in food products all over the world.
In the year 2000, scientists discovered that humans have a specific taste receptor for that umami flavor, which helps to explain the popularity of MSG. Cheese, bacon, and chips with ketchup also contain natural forms of glutamate that trigger the umami receptor, explaining why we often crave these super savory foods.
Watch the video below to understand why we are born to love these foods and the truth about the risks of eating too much MSG:

Rico says you can add sugar to the list, but Ajinomoto gives him the shits...

They probably want to get paid for it, too

The Clarion Project has an article about a religious lawsuit:

A group of around eighty Somali Muslim meat packing workers in Nebraska were fired in 2008 when they staged a walkout after negotiations over prayer time breaks broke down. In 2010, a suit was later filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the JBS Swift meatpacking plant, alleging religious discrimination.
According to The Grand Island Independent, union representatives and senior management of the plant attempted to negotiate a settlement in which Muslim employees would be able to take prayer breaks while working at the plant; options floated included changing meal times so they would align with prayer times. The factory turned down the request, believing it violated a pre-existing agreement about mealtimes which the company had with the union. A group of employees then staged a walk-out, leading to the factory granting a mass prayer break at sunset.
However, a group of Hispanic non-Muslim employees then staged their own walk-out, enraged that the Muslim employees had been granted what they perceived as preferential treatment. In order to stop that strike, the company reneged on its previous agreement with the Muslims. It was at this point the company warned its employees that the next group of people to strike would be fired.
The next evening, a group of Somali Muslims staged a demonstration in the cafeteria, followed by a walkout, having been riled by senior management’s perfidy in forsaking its pledge to allow Muslim employees a mass break. As a result, close to eighty Somali Muslim employees were terminated. Now, eight years later, a Judge in Omaha, Nebraska has ruled that the termination was not motivated by discrimination.
This case is illustrative in a number of key ways:
First, it shows that the US takes religious discrimination seriously, and companies that do not make efforts to grant reasonable religious requests face legal action.
Second, it shows that not every religious request can be worked out. In this case, the judge ruled against the Muslim employees. Although we do not know the details of the case or the specifics of the union agreements, we can see that it’s not always going to work out in favor of the religious person.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, it shows that what one person might see as a reasonable religious request, another might see as unfair preferential treatment.
As America becomes increasingly diverse, these issues will continue to arise. Delicacy and a keen awareness of the laws surrounding religious discrimination are and will continue to be essential skills for employers.
Rico says this is a First Amendment problem... (And when's the last time you used perfidy in a sentence?)

It's the veil, stupid

The Clarion Project has an article about the latest ugly turn in the war in the Middle East:

For the third time in a month, a veiled woman has shot dead Islamic State fighters in Mosul, Iraq. “A veiled woman carrying a pistol killed two fighters of the Islamic State in the early hours of the morning, near a checkpoint in the vicinity of Numaniya neighborhood in the city of Mosul. This phenomenon has raised ISIS concerns during the past weeks,” says a report from the news outlet al-Sumaria, quoted by Iraqi News.
ISIS has warned its fighters in the al-Sharqat area, which the terror group has controlled since June 2014.
Iraqi forces, with American air support, are currently advancing on Mosul and preparing to retake the city.
Rico says once you give them a mask, who knows what they'll do...

More ways the world will end

History.com has a series on the various ways the world will end, which Rico will be watching:

History for the day: 1954: Nautilus commissioned

History.com has this for 30 September:

Rico says it was named for Jules Vernes' Nautilus:

History for the day: 1938: Munich

On 30 September 1938, British, French, German, and Italian leaders agreed at a meeting in Munich, Germany that Nazi Germany would be allowed to annex Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland.


Rico says six years later, after millions of dead, we'd solve that...

Farming the wind

From The New York Times, an article by Diane Cardwell about floating platforms:

Offshore wind farms see promise in platforms that float
Engineers look to floating platforms to enable wind turbines to move into deeper waters farther from the coast.

Rico says he asked his father, an oceanographer specializing in floating platforms, to comment.

29 September 2016

How Donald Trump measures a woman's worth

From Slate, an article by Michelle Goldberg about The Donald:

Earlier this year, it seemed like Donald Trump was going to try to use Bill Clinton’s infidelities against Hillary. “She’s married to a man who was the worst abuser of women in the history of politics,” Trump said at a rally in Spokane, Washington. “She’s married to a man who hurt many women.” Later that month, Trump released an Instagram video of Bill Clinton chomping on a cigar as unnamed women accuse him of sexual harassment and assault; the spot ends with the sound of Hillary’s witchy cackling. Trump apparently saw this as a winning line of political attack. On 13 July 2016, The New York Times reported that the Republican National Convention would feature a “presentation detailing former President Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct.”
But the presentation never happened, and Trump mostly dropped the subject. The reasons seem obvious. As a notorious philanderer, it wasn’t in Trump’s interest to make adultery a campaign issue. Further, as many Republican consultants know, women, including Republican women, really do not like attempts to hold Hillary liable for Bill’s affairs. Earlier this year, I spoke to Katie Packer, Mitt Romney’s 2012 deputy campaign manager, about right-leaning women’s attitudes towards Hillary Clinton. “One thing that causes them to come to her defense is when they feel like she’s being blamed for her husband’s bad behavior,” she told me.
Trump’s decision to revisit the issue of Bill’s sex life now, with less than forty days to the election, is thus an odd strategic move. Yet that is what he is doing; his campaign has issued talking points telling his supporters to bring up Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, and Monica Lewinsky. Many in the GOP are not happy about this approach; a Politico headline read: Republicans to Trump: Keep Lewinsky Out of It. But the Trump camp is pressing forward. In a recent radio interview with Sean Hannity, Eric Trump described Bill Clinton as “maybe the worst” sexist that’s ever lived.
For the Trump campaign, the superficial justification for bringing up Bill Clinton’s extramarital sex life is that Hillary Clinton “enabled” it, which invalidates her claim to be a champion of women.  “Are you blaming Hillary for Bill's infidelities? No, however, she's been an active participant in trying to destroy the women who has come forward with a claim,” said one of the Trump campaign talking points.
This is pure concern-trolling. Before entering politics, Trump criticized Bill Clinton, not for mistreating women, but for failing to find hotter mistresses. He once called Jones a “loser” and said of the Lewinsky scandal that “people would have been more forgiving” if Clinton had slept with “a really beautiful woman of sophistication”, Trump’s message in bringing up Bill’s adultery now is the same as the right-wing slogan he retweeted last year: “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?”
His belief that Bill Clinton’s affairs reflect badly on Hillary demonstrates something key to his psyche: for Trump, the only salient distinction when judging a women’s worth is whether she is fuckable or unfuckable.
The fuckable/unfuckable schema is so deeply rooted in Trump that he can’t fully grasp that not everyone shares it. Consider how, the morning after the debate, he defended himself from Clinton’s accusation that he’d bullied former Miss Universe Alicia Machado for her weight. Speaking to Fox and Friends by phone, he said: “She gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem.” On Wednesday night, speaking to Bill O’Reilly, he continued to paint himself as the victim of Machado’s sudden-onset unfuckability, suggesting that he deserves thanks for trying to save her job. “I did that with a number of young ladies,” he said. “Look what I get out of it. I get nothing.”
Trump’s defenders argue that, as a beauty queen, it was Machado’s job to remain desirable. “You’re not supposed to gain sixty pounds during the year that you’re Miss Universe,” Newt Gingrich said at a Log Cabin Republican dinner on Wednesday night. Yet as The Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday in a story that would be a huge deal, if there weren’t so many Trump outrages competing with it, Trump also demanded the firing of insufficiently hot employees at one of his California golf clubs. In a 2008 court filing, the club’s former director of catering, Hayley Strozier, describes an order to axe a “highly competent and professional” female employee because, her superior said that “Trump does not like fat people.” (Strozier refused, and the staff apparently took to hiding the employee when Trump was around.)
According to Strozier’s legal declaration, this was not an isolated incident. “I had witnessed Donald Trump tell managers many times while he was visiting the club that restaurant hostesses were ‘not pretty enough’ and that they should be fired and replaced with more attractive women,” Strozier said in the declaration, which was filed in support of an age-discrimination lawsuit. In another declaration, Charles West, the club’s restaurant manager, said he was told to hire “young, attractive women” and that Trump’s general manager would have to vet job applications to make sure they were “sufficiently pretty”.
Trump is hardly the first man, nor the last, to judge women based on their looks. He is unusual, however, in being unable to admire, or even pretend to admire, any human qualities in women other than sexual attractiveness. He praised his daughter Ivanka’s “very nice figure” and said that if she “weren’t my daughter, perhaps I would be dating her.” (In other words, he called her fuckable, but in a paternal way.) He even discussed his infant daughter Tiffany in terms of her future erotic allure. Appearing on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous in 1994, he said that Tiffany, then a baby, had inherited the long legs of her model mother, Marla Maples. Then, holding his hands in front of his chest as if he were cupping breasts, he added: “We don’t know whether or not she’s got this part yet, but time will tell.”
Consider, also, the way Trump has spoken of his wife, Melania. “She’s a great beauty, but she’s a great beauty inside, which is almost as important,” he told Howard Stern in 2005. (Note the almost.) Stern asked Trump if he’d stay with Melania if she were disfigured in a horrible car accident. “How do the breasts look?” A bit of jovial banter over whether Trump will abandon his wife if she loses her looks follows.  “It is Melania’s job, in a sense, to stay beautiful,” says Stern. Trump doesn’t disagree.
It’s hardly unusual for men to prize their trophy wives for their beauty, but they usually at least pretend to a deeper connection. Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. But Trump doesn’t realize his shallowness is a vice, because he’s not aware that other systems of value exist. Hence his conviction, against all evidence, that reminding American voters of Bill Clinton’s affairs will delegitimize Hillary. He’s gone after Hillary on her emails, on Benghazi, on the Clinton Foundation. The race has tightened, and now he’s slipping behind again, so he’s hitting her with what seems to him to be her most obvious failure.
Because of Trump’s decisions, the news cycle is currently full of talk of Miss Universe’s weight and Hillary's marriage. With any luck, we’ll look back on this as the moment when Trump started to implode again, after an anomalous period of stability. If he’s ultimately beaten by a woman, it will be in part due to his inability to see past the fuckable/unfuckable binary and recognize women as fully human. It’s hard to imagine justice quite so poetic.
Rico says so much for him getting the women's vote...

The last Japanese soldier to surrender


Rico says some people are far too stubborn...

History for the day: 1957: Giants move to San Francisco

On 29 September 1957, the New York Giants played their last game at the Polo Grounds, losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 9-1. The Giants moved to San Francisco for the next season.

Quote for the day

From The New York Times:

"Ralph who?"

David Frasier, a junior at Charleston Southern University, when asked whether young voters' turning to third-party candidates could alter the election, as happened in 2000 with the Green Party candidate Ralph Nader.

Fakir Musafar

Rico's friend Kelley forwards this video about an old mutual friend, Roland Loomis, a little strange and dead now:

Signs of the times

Rico's friend Kelley forwards these:

Rico says the signs at the California border, of course, say: "We're unarmed, do what you want"...

The Europeans who chose mystical Islam

From the BBC, an article by Inka Piegsa-Quischotte about a return of Islam to Spain:

“My name,” said the lady, clad from headscarf to sandals in shades of pink and purple, “is Bahia, which means ‘ocean of beauty and compassion’ in Arabic. (It means 'bay' in Spanish.) Welcome to my school.” Tea was poured, sweets were proffered, and we sat down in the shade of more than hundred-year-old olive trees in the backyard of her tiny Montessori school to talk about Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam. But we were not in a Muslim country; we were in the south of Catholic Spain.
Órgiva, located approximately sixty kilometers southeast of Granada and tucked away in the Alpujarra mountain region, is an extraordinary place. The small town’s population is just under six thousand but, amazingly, this comprises seventy nationalities, as well as the Buddhist community O.Sel.Ling and a sprawling tent camp of Rainbow people (a group committed to principles of non-violence and egalitarianism) called Beneficio.
But I’d come to this mountain wilderness to meet the largest of the cultural communities: thirty Sufi families who have converted from Catholicism and settled here.
Despite Spain being home to many North African immigrants, Spaniards who convert to Islam, particularly Sufism, are a rarity. I wanted to know what motivated them to convert, and why they’d chosen this remote part of Andalucía to live.
Bahia, originally named Maria Jose Villa Cascos, explained that she was born in Seville, Spain, about three hundred kilometers west of Órgiva, later studying law and working in Madrid, Spain as a lawyer.
“My search for the right way of life actually started in the Catholic college I attended in Seville,” she said. “It took me years of studying, probing, doubting, and experimenting until I finally came upon the philosophy and teachings of Sufism. Sufism’s way of life, teachings of tolerance, wide understanding, unconditional love of mankind, and total rejection of violence made me convert. We concentrate on the simplicity of life, valuing the spiritual over the material. That’s also one of the reasons why I turned from being an attorney to teaching kids.” She explained that Umar, who was appointed emir of the order in the 1970s, happened to live in Órgiva before he converted. Over the years, other converts flocked here, like Bahia, who jumped at the chance to run the school when the opportunity arose.
But the Sufis of Órgiva aren’t dreaming navel-gazers. They use mobile phones, the internet, and Instagram. They run businesses, like Bahia with her Montessori school and her husband, who has an electrical appliances shop. Others farm and sell produce. But all their lives are dominated by their faith. The only thing that marks them as different is their distinctive dress: the men wear baggy trousers and loose shirts, and the women don headscarves, long sleeves, and ankle-length skirts.
I wondered, with an underlying fear of terror attacks in Spain and some people starting to associate Islam with jihadists and radicalization, how people reacted to them. “Here in Órgiva, nobody looks twice because we are a rather big community. In other places, people might stare at the way I’m dressed and maybe think me alien, but… ” she shrugged. Rather than being concerned by stares and whispered comments, Bahia focuses on preaching tolerance, love, and understanding. “In view of the troubled times we live in, people have a very one-sided view of Islam. Bombs and terror attacks make headlines; good deeds do not. This imbalance needs to be addressed, and people have to understand that Islam, and Sufism in particular, mean peace and total devotion to Allah, who is the boat which helps us cross the ocean of life,” she said.
To find out more, I headed to Tearoom and Restaurant Baraka, owned by another Sufi, Pedro Barrio, now called Qasim. Originally from a Catholic family in Bilbao, Spain, where he ran the family restaurant, he was also searching  for spiritual direction from a young age. “I experimented with many things,” he said. “For a time, I even practiced Buddhism, then got interested in Shamanism, psychotherapy, and vivation, which is a respiration technique. Through a friend, I became familiar with Sufism. When I discovered the teachings and found that Jesus is a prophet in Islam, I felt like I had come home. Everything was familiar to me and I knew that this is the faith I wanted to follow, so I decided to convert. It gives me peace and purpose in life.”
“How did your family react to that?” I asked.
“Not so good. My mother was more understanding, but my father was angry. There was also the problem with our restaurant. I prayed at the mosque, then I had to go to the restaurant, serve customers alcohol and cut ham. I couldn’t go on like that,” he said. “Fate came to the rescue. A fellow Sufi in Órgiva wanted to set up a small Islamic restaurant, but didn’t have the money. He contacted me and, as I had the funds, I became first a silent partner and now the sole owner.”
Baraka, frequented by his fellow Sufis, New Agers, tourists, and locals alike, doesn’t serve alcohol or pork, but is not entirely vegetarian either. Everything is home-cooked and organic. I ordered a delicious Moroccan-style chicken tagine, followed by a rich date-and-cinnamon cake with whipped cream.
Sitting on the terrace at Baraka was a lesson in how different nationalities, ideologies, and religions can interact peacefully. Dreadlocks and headscarves and even the occasional orange robe of a Buddhist monk were evident. I heard English, French, German, Arabic, and the occasional Spanish too.
“Do you speak Arabic?” I asked. “No,” Qasim smiled. “We say our prayers in Arabic, but that’s the extent of my knowledge of the language.”
Despite being extremely busy, Qasim took me to their dargah (temple) where, on Thursday nights, the community celebrates dhikr, the praise of Allah, and hadra, a meditation. On the holy day of Friday there are more prayers and a communal meal.
The dargah was a simple affair, hidden away among olive and orange groves some two kilometers outside of town. There was a small prayer room, a kitchen, and three spartan guest rooms reserved for visiting fellow Sufis. Kids ran around while women prepared a meal and tended to a group of visitors.
“These are people from Morocco and other Muslim countries who embark on what’s called Halal Tourism, visiting Muslim communities in other countries. It’s becoming quite popular,” Qasim explained. He agreed with Bahia about the need to spread the message of peace, love, and understanding to the non-Muslim world. “Apart from living what we believe in, we welcome visitors like yourself who can tell the world about us,” he said. Before wishing me a safe journey home, he added, “Maybe one day we can all live in peace, inshallah.”
Rico says the Moors got thrown out of Spain in 1609... (And Inka Piegsa-Quischotte is definitely a name to conjure with...) Rico says he thought 'peace, love, and understanding' was the theme for Woodstock, but apparently it was an Elvis Costello song:

Oil prices ease on doubts about OPEC production cuts

From the BBC:


Sent from my iPhone

Mark Seymour

One in ten children has 'AIDS defense'

From the BBC:


Rico says that proves it's been around awhile...

India launches strikes against Kashmiri militants

From the BBC, an article about another war in Kashmir:
India's army says it has carried out "surgical strikes" against suspected militants along the de facto border with Pakistan in Kashmir. The operation was aimed at preventing attacks being planned by Pakistani militants.

This photograph, taken on 4 December 2003, shows Indian soldiers as they patrol along a barbed-wire fence near Baras Post on the Line of Control (LoC) between Pakistan and India some two hundred kilometers northwest of Srinagar.

Indian paramilitary soldiers patrol in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir.

An Indian policeman fires a teargas shell towards demonstrators, during a protest against the recent killings in Kashmir, in Srinagar on 23 September 2016.
Pakistan denies that India carried out any strikes, and says two of its soldiers were killed in cross-border shelling. "The notion of surgical strike linked to alleged terrorists' bases is an illusion being deliberately generated by India to create false effects," the Pakistani military said in a statement. Pakistan said its soldiers died in "unprovoked" firing along the Line of Control (LoC) dividing the disputed region.
A territorial dispute between the two countries over Muslim-majority Kashmir has been running for decades, but tensions flared earlier this month after a militant attack on an Indian army base in Kashmir left eighteen soldiers dead. India blamed the attack on Pakistan, which denied the claim. The operation is thought to have taken place in the early hours of Thursday. Later, Pakistan captured an Indian soldier in a village in the Goi sector on the Pakistani side of the LoC.
"One soldier from 37 Kshatriya Rifles with weapons has inadvertently crossed over to the Pakistan side of the Line of Control," said a statement from an Indian army official in Delhi.
India's military gave few details of the operation it says it carried out overnight. At a joint press briefing by the army and the foreign ministry, officials said the "motive of the operation was to hit out at terrorists who were planning to infiltrate into our territory".
India's Director General of Military Operations, Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh (photo, top), also blamed Pakistan for "being unable to control terror activities along the LoC.
"Based on receiving specific and credible inputs that some terrorist teams had positioned themselves at launch pads along the Line of Control to carry out infiltration and conduct terrorist strikes inside Jammu and Kashmir and in various areas in other states, the Indian army conducted surgical strikes at several of these launch pads to pre-empt infiltration by terrorists," a statement said. It said the "surgical strikes" had caused "significant damage to terrorists". But the army did not say whether troops had entered Pakistan-administered Kashmir or had fired across the border.
If Indian troops did cross the LoC, it would be a serious escalation between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. Both countries lay claim to Kashmir but, in reality, control only parts of it
However, the Press Trust of India quoted sources saying the operation took place between midnight and 0430 local time on Thursday, that it was a combination of helicopter and ground forces, and seven militant "launch pads" had been targeted.
Some unconfirmed Indian media reports said more than thirty militants had been killed in the operation. Pakistani army officials said the fighting started in the early hours of Thursday morning and continued for about six hours.
Narendra Modi's BJP government swept to power promising a tough line on Pakistan, so it has been been under tremendous pressure to retaliate after the 18 September 2016 attack on the army base in Uri in Indian-administered Kashmir. The raid was the deadliest of its kind for years. "I assure the nation that those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished," Modi declared just hours after the base was attacked.
There was also much talk of whether India should continue with its doctrine of "strategic restraint" against Pakistan. A "strike" now is seen by many observers as aimed at placating an angry domestic constituency and sending out the message that Modi is a strong leader.
Pakistan's prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, criticized the "unprovoked and naked aggression of Indian forces" and said his military was capable of thwarting "any evil design to undermine the sovereignty of Pakistan". Islamabad says India's stance is a "blatant attempt" to deflect attention from human rights abuses in the region. More than eighty people, nearly all anti-government protesters, have died in more than two months of violence against Indian rule.
The response in India has been predictably supportive of the army. #ModiPunishesPak was trending top of Twitter in India, hours after the media first reported "the strikes". The other top trending hashtags included #SurgicalStrike and #Indian Army. A Narendra Modi fan club account tweeted a clip from a Tom and Jerry cartoon showing India spanking Pakistan.
Government supporters gushed that this was a "proud moment for India", with one Bollywood actor thanking the army for doing what India "should have done thirty years ago".
A clutch of news channels were waxing delirious on how India had taught Pakistan a lesson, and speculated endlessly about the details of the operation.
Things were much more serious between the two nuclear-armed rivals, they say, after the 2001 attack by Pakistani militants on the Indian parliament, but there was no social media then, and the calls to escalate the conflict were more muted.
Why is Kashmir so dangerous? Both India and Pakistan claim Muslim-majority Kashmir in its entirety but control only parts of it. The territorial dispute between the two countries has been running for over six decades, and two out of the three wars fought between the nuclear-armed rivals have been over Kashmir. As with every stand-off in Kashmir, the fear of many is that this could eventually escalate into a major clash between two nuclear-armed states. But most analysts still believe that is unlikely to happen, and that sporadic clashes and diplomatic saber-rattling are likely to continue.
Rico says just what they did not need... (And it's all the Brits fault, as usual, dating to 1949.)

Wet ass, courtesy of SEPTA

Rico says no SEPTA executive rides their buses...

HP apologises for ink-blocking update

From the BBC, an article by Dave Lee:

Hewlett-Packard has backtracked on a software update that blocked some ink cartridges made by third parties. A controversial firmware change made earlier this month meant HP printer owners using unofficial and usually cheaper cartridges discovered they would no longer work.
A campaign calling on HP to reverse the move was launched, backed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
In a blog post, HP admitted it had should have done a "better job of communicating” the change. An optional update that removes the restriction on unofficial cartridges will be available “within two weeks”. The firm added: “We are committed to transparency in all of our communications and, when we fall short, we call ourselves out."
But while making the apology for how it informed users, HP defended the move, saying it did so to protect users from counterfeit products.
"When ink cartridges are cloned or counterfeited, the customer is exposed to quality and potential security risks, compromising the printing experience,” wrote Jon Flaxman, the company’s COO.
However, campaigners argued HP’s motivation was less about security and more about protecting the large profit margins it adds to official ink cartridges.
As consumers took to online forums and social networks to express anger, the EFF came down hard, saying HP had betrayed the public's trust. "Customers should be able to buy an HP printer without fear that the company will later place artificial limits on the printer’s use,” the group said. "It would be a security nightmare for customers to avoid installing security updates for fear of unwanted and unannounced feature changes."
It also called on HP to explain how it planned to tell customers who may have been affected about the revised update. "Right now,” the EFF said, “the vast majority of people who use the affected printers likely do not know why their printers lost functionality, nor do they know that it’s possible to restore it. All of those customers should be able to use their printers free of artificial restrictions, not just the relatively few who have been closely following this story."
Rico says another oops from H-P... (And, yes, a man could have married Janie Packard for her money, but didn't.)

Obama: Congress veto override of 9/11 lawsuits bill 'a mistake'

From the BBC:


Sent from my iPhone

Mark Seymour

Dutch inquiry links Russia to deaths in explosion of a jetliner over the Ukraine

From The New York Times:


Rico says them Dutchmen don't care who they piss off...

Based on a true story, upcoming WW2 movie will be set on a Nazi-occupied island


Rico says that is some obscure history...

28 September 2016

African-American Museum: White Pushback

Rico's friend Esha sends this disturbing article:

Computer abuse

Slate has an article by Justin Peters about computer crime:

For a while now, I’ve been saying that Congress ought to revise the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the vaguely worded, overly-broad computer crime statute that has been in the news due to its role in the indictment of high-profile defendants like Reuters deputy social media editor Matthew Keys, hacker Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, and Internet activist Aaron Swartz (photo). Well, the the House Judiciary Committee is indeed circulating a bill that would reform the CFAA. The trouble is that it fails to address any of the CFAA’s major flaws, and, in fact, just puts more power into the hands of overzealous prosecutors. Be careful what you wish for, I guess.
The CFAA was passed in 1984, and it still reads like an alarmist response to the movie WarGames. It provides big penalties for those who tamper with or unauthorizedly access so-called “protected computers” which are defined, in part, as computers that engage in interstate or foreign commerce or communications. Back in 1984, relatively few computers fit that definition. Today, every device with an Internet connection qualifies as a protected computer.
The times have changed, but the law hasn’t kept up with the times and, as a consequence, the CFAA now reaches far beyond its original scope. A bill designed for hackers who targeted government or financial systems is now being used against people who commit much less serious offenses. Matthew Keys, for instance, is facing up to 25 years in prison for allegedly facilitating the brief defacement of one story on the website of The Los Angeles Times. (This article originally said that Matthew Keys facilitated the defacement of a story on The Los Angeles Times website. It has been corrected to say that Keys is alleged to have facilitated the defacement.)  This is disproportionate.
The bill being considered by the House Judiciary Committee would make the CFAA even more draconian. It stiffens penalties across the board, accessing a protected computer without authorization and subsequently causing damage, for example, would now be punishable by up to ten years in prison, as opposed to the current five. It would make “trafficking in passwords” used to access any protected computer an offense punishable by up to ten years in prison which, theoretically, could mean that sharing your login information for Netflix or The New York Times could land you in jail, and it allows prosecutors to punish failed attempts at computer crime as harshly as successful attempts.
There’s one change that I do like. The bill would create a new subsection that deals with aggravated damage to “critical infrastructure computers”, defined as computers that manage or control the power grid, transit systems, the stock market, oil pipelines, and so on. Tampering with these sorts of systems could be punished by up to thirty years in prison. I like this new section because it is specific. These are the sorts of “protected computers” the CFAA ought to be dealing with; tightening the general definition of “protected computer” along those lines would go a long way toward fixing the CFAA and making it more relevant for the modern age.
But this new bill mostly does not do that. It keeps things vague. I’m not too upset about this bill, which is, after all, only a draft resolution, and which will inevitably be revised and amended numerous times before it makes it to the floor, if it ever makes it to the floor. I’m just confused. As Techdirt’s Mike Masnick put it, the draft resolution is so harsh, “it almost feels like the Judiciary Committee is doing it on purpose as a dig at online activists who have fought back against things like SOPA, CISPA, and the CFAA.”
I guess that’s possible, and I suspect this is largely a response to groups like Anonymous. The bill would redefine computer crimes as a form of racketeering, which seems like something specifically designed to make it easier to prosecute groups like Anonymous.
But it’s just as likely that Congress is just acting by reflex here. We overcharge for all sorts of nonviolent offenses in this country, and prison sentences are routinely overlong. A legislator has never lost an election by being too tough on crime. It’s not that the government shouldn’t concern itself with computer-abetted offenses. But the punishment should fit the crime, and the CFAA too often ensures that it doesn’t.
Rico says this bill has a long way to go...

Three parents? Weird

The New York Times has an article by Gina Kolata about an unusual baby:

A few months ago, after a fertility procedure at a Mexican clinic, a healthy baby boy was born in New York City to a couple from Jordan. It was the first live birth of a child who has been called, to the dismay of scientists who say the term is grossly misleading, a three-parent baby.
“This is huge,” said Dr. Richard J. Paulson, president-elect of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, after the birth was reported on Tuesday.
The method used to help the couple is one that reproductive scientists have been itching to try, but it is enormously controversial because it uses genetic material from a donor in addition to that of the couple trying to conceive. The purpose is to overcome flaws in a parent’s mitochondria that can cause grave illnesses in babies. Mitochondria, the cell’s energy factories, are separate from the DNA that determines a child’s inherited traits. But mutations in these little organelles can be devastating, resulting in fatal diseases involving the nerves, muscles, brain, heart, liver, skeletal muscles, kidney and the endocrine and respiratory systems that often kill babies in the first few years of life.
The technique that led to the healthy birth was to move the DNA from an egg of the mother, who had mutated mitochondria, and place it in the egg of a healthy egg donor after first removing the healthy donor’s nuclear DNA from her egg cell. Then that egg, with its healthy mitochondria and the mother’s DNA, could be fertilized.
More than a decade ago, before controversy forced the work to stop, researchers tried a simpler technique that did not involve swapping nuclei between eggs. Instead, they injected some healthy mitochondria into an egg in an attempt to help with repeated failures at in vitro fertilization. It was not a method that could be used to prevent the birth of children with mitochondrial diseases.
The story of the Jordanian couple’s procedure began in 2011 when they came to see Dr. James Grifo, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University who pioneered the method in studies with mice. He referred them to his former student Dr. John Zhang, medical director of the New Hope Fertility Center in New York City. Dr. Zhang had tried the method in 2003 in China, but the thirty-year-old woman’s twins were born prematurely and died, though their mitochondria were normal.
When Dr. Zhang told the Jordanian couple about the technique, they hesitated. They already had a child who was terribly ill with Leigh syndrome, a mitochondrial disease, but there was a chance they could have a normal baby on their own, a quarter of the woman’s mitochondria were mutated, but mitochondria are distributed at random in eggs. If an egg with mostly good mitochondria happened to be fertilized, the baby would be fine. They decided to take their chances.
The couple returned to Jordan and had a baby. But the baby had the same mitochondrial disease, Leigh syndrome. It is a terrible disease, Dr. Zhang said. Babies progressively lose their ability to move and breathe. The baby had a tracheotomy and a feeding tube, he said, and the parents had to suction the baby’s lungs every hour.
The first baby died at age six; the second baby at eight months.
The couple returned to Dr. Zhang, ready to try the mitochondrial transfer technique. New Hope Fertility Center has a clinic in Mexico, so he suggested doing the procedure there because it is effectively banned in the United States. More than a decade ago, the Food and Drug Administration ordered clinics to file an application to do such work. Later, Congress attached a rider to a bill making it impossible to fund such research.
By six months of pregnancy, the woman said she knew this baby was different. It kicked constantly; the others, affected even in the womb, had hardly moved. Now the boy is five months old and healthy, and has normal mitochondria. The birth was first reported by New Scientist magazine.
Specialists in reproductive medicine say they hope this success will change attitudes toward mitochondrial transfers. They blame in part the term three-parent baby.
That name is misleading and “caustic”, Dr. Grifo said. “It degrades patients who need this,” he added. “Mitochondria,” Dr. Paulson said, “do not define who you are.” The genes for traits that make up a person’s appearance and other characteristics are carried in the nuclear DNA. If a white woman got mitochondria from an Asian woman, for example, her babies would be white, with no traces of the Asian mitochondrial donor. The ban, said Dr. Paulson, “is not scientific, rational, nor evidence-based.”
Reproductive scientists who have been frustrated by the ban were both gratified by Dr. Zhang’s success and angry that it took so long. Britain recently allowed research on mitochondrial transfers to proceed, but nothing has changed in the United States.
The basic research showing the DNA swapping method could work, however, was done more than twenty years ago, in Dr. Grifo’s lab, using mice.
“We did all the foundational work to make it a possibility,” Dr. Grifo said. “We spent probably half a million dollars of a patient’s money who donated it. It is a technique we know could work.” When all work on mitochondrial transfers came to a halt in the United States, though, he abandoned his studies. The success now, he says, is long overdue. “This could have happened in 2002,” Dr. Grifo said.
Rico says this'll be a miracle if they proceed...

Congress overrides Obama’s veto of 9/11 victim bill.


Rico says this'll make the Saudis nuts...

Elon Musk for the day

The New York Times has an article by Kenneth Chang about SpaceX:

Elon Musk’s plans to get to Mars start with a really big rocket. He still needs to figure out how to pay for it. For years, Musk, the billionaire founder of the SpaceX rocket company, has been offering hints and teases of his desire to colonize the big red planet.
In a talk at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, Musk finally provided engineering details, optimistic timelines and a slick video (above).
“What you saw there is very close to what we’ll actually build,” Musk said, referring to the rockets and spacecraft in the video.
Musk estimated it would cost ten billion dollars to develop the rocket, and he said the first passengers to Mars could take off as soon as 2024 if the plans went off without a hitch. For now, SpaceX is financing development costs of a few tens of millions of dollars a year, but eventually the company would look to some kind of public-private partnership.
Each of the SpaceX vehicles would take a hundred passengers on the journey to Mars, with trips planned every two years, when Earth and Mars pass closest to each other. Tickets per person might cost a half million dollars at first, and drop to about a third of that later on, Musk said.
To establish a self-sustaining Mars civilization of a million people would take ten thousand flights, with many more to ferry equipment and supplies. “We’re going to need something quite large to do that,” Musk said. It would take forty years to a century before a city on Mars became self-sufficient, he said.
The mood at the conference was almost as giddy as a rock concert or the launch of a new Apple product, with people lining up for Musk’s presentation a couple of hours in advance.
Musk has talked of his Mars Colonial Transporter but, a couple of weeks ago, he suggested that its capabilities would be much greater. He now calls it the Interplanetary Transport System. The booster would include forty of SpaceX’s new, more powerful Raptor engines. He recently posted an image on Twitter of the first testing of a Raptor.
Mars has long been the goal of Musk and SpaceX. Much of Musk’s initial wealth came from his tenure as chief executive of PayPal, which he sold to eBay in 2002 for one and a half billion dollars. Afterward, he wanted to undertake a science experiment, to send a greenhouse to Mars and see if Earth plants could grow in Martian dirt. He said the rocket options for launching his project were so lacking that he started SpaceX, which has headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
SpaceX has established a successful business with its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket launching satellites, and by taking cargo and, soon, astronauts, to the International Space Station for NASA. But Musk has stated often that his loftier goal for SpaceX is to send people to Mars to make humanity a “multiplanetary species” in order to ensure survival in case some calamity, like an asteroid strike, befell Earth.
The new rocket could be used for even more distant trips, to places like Europa, the icy moon of Jupiter. “This system really gives you freedom to go anywhere you want in the greater solar system,” he said.
What is less clear is how SpaceX will raise the money needed to bring its Mars dreams to fruition. The new rocket is by far the largest ever.
Scott Pace, a former NASA official who is the director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, said Musk’s vision was plausible technically, but added, “Other than emotional appeal, however, it didn’t really address why governments, corporations or other organizations would fund the effort.” His bottom-line opinion: “Possible, but not probable.”
During his talk, Musk put up a slide titled Funding. The first item was Steal underpants, a joking reference to a South Park episode. He also listed SpaceX’s businesses, launching satellites and sending NASA cargo and astronauts to the space station, and Kickstarter.
But he admitted that SpaceX would probably not be able to do it alone. “Ultimately, this is going to be a huge public-private partnership,” he said.
SpaceX has received much of the financing for its rocket development from NASA, from contracts to take cargo to and from the International Space Station. The United States Air Force is providing thirty million dollars for development of the Raptor.
Critics of SpaceX and Musk question whether the Mars dreams are distracting the company from its more mundane business. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is grounded while investigators try to figure out why one of the rockets on the launchpad exploded this month during fueling before a test firing.
The company said the failure appeared to be a large breach in the helium system of the second stage, although what caused the breach is not known. However, the company said the investigation had ruled out any connection to the failure last year of a Falcon 9 that disintegrated in flight. (That failure was traced to a faulty strut in the second stage, and SpaceX resumed launching later in the year.)
Musk also faces competition from other billionaires with ambitious space dreams. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has his own rocket company, Blue Origin, which this month also announced a new rocket, New Glenn, that approaches the Saturn 5 in stature, but is dwarfed by SpaceX’s new rocket.
Robert Meyerson, Blue Origin’s president, said the aim of New Glenn was to take people to space, although it will also be able to launch satellites. The images the company released showed the satellite-carrying version, but Meyerson disclosed that “there are other versions that will have a space vehicle on top.”
Meyerson said Blue Origin had an even larger rocket, to be called New Armstrong, on the drawing board. Bezos has said his goal is for millions of people to live in space, although he has not mentioned Mars as a destination.
With Bezos’ Amazon wealth, Blue Origin faces less pressure to be profitable as quickly as SpaceX, or public companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin that have to answer to shareholders.
NASA is still talking about its Mars ambitions, too, and its own giant rocket, the Space Launch System, for eventual human missions there. William H. Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said all of the pieces for a crewed Mars mission were in development, at least to reach Mars orbit, by the 2030s and fit within the agency’s existing budget. “We don’t think we’re going to get a big new budget,” he said. He admitted that, in NASA’s plans, astronauts’ setting foot on Mars would take longer, probably not until the 2040s.
Musk was confident that his company could pull off his vision, but he said he would not be among the first colonists, saying he wants to see his children grow up. The chances of dying on that first trip to Mars, he said, are “quite high”.
Rico says he won't be going, but someone undoubtedly will...

The New York Times has an article by Kenneth Chang, Mike Isaac, and Matt Richtel about a SpaceX rocket, gone in seconds:

A spectacular explosion of a SpaceX rocket on Thursday destroyed a two hundred million dollar communications satellite that would have extended Facebook’s reach across Africa, dealing a serious setback to Elon Musk, the billionaire who runs the rocket company.
The blast is likely to disrupt NASA’s cargo deliveries to the International Space Station as well, exposing the risks of the agency’s growing reliance on private companies like SpaceX to carry materials and, soon, astronauts.
The explosion at Cape Canaveral, Florida intensified questions about whether Musk is moving too quickly in his headlong investment in some of the biggest and most complex industries, not just space travel but carmakers and electric utilities.
This is not the first problem Musk has suffered as he tries to create space travel that is cheap and commonplace. Each of his companies, including Tesla and SolarCity, has hit major stumbling blocks recently. The owner of a Tesla car died in May in a crash using the company’s autopilot software, and SolarCity faces major financial challenges.
SpaceX is running a punishing schedule,” said Scott Pace, the director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University and a former NASA official. “There is probably some human factor involved here. To what extent was human error part of this? And if so, why? Are you running your people too hard? What are your safety requirements?” Dr. Pace said an internal investigation would have to look at the company’s operations as it tried to ramp up the pace of launches.
The company’s president, Gwynne Shotwell, said in a statement, “Our number one priority is to safely and reliably return to flight for our customers, and we will carefully investigate and address this issue.“
The Falcon 9 rocket burst into flames in a violent series of blasts starting at 0907,  spewing plumes of dark smoke around the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and sending vibrations felt by residents nearby. The rocket had been set to launch on Saturday, carrying a satellite for Spacecom, an Israeli company.
The explosion was particularly painful news for Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, who is touring Kenya, promoting a program reliant on the satellite, known as Amos-6, with entrepreneurs in the country. He had promised them connectivity.
Just hours after the news of the explosion broke, Zuckerberg expressed disappointment on his Facebook page “that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite,” a swipe at Musk and his team, who were still trying to figure out what went wrong.
Musk did not respond publicly to Zuckerberg, but he posted a brief explanation on Twitter: “Loss of Falcon vehicle today during propellant fill operation. Originated around upper stage oxygen tank. Cause still unknown. More soon.”
The Falcon 9, developed by SpaceX with NASA financing, has had previous problems. In June of 2015, a rocket carrying NASA cargo to the International Space Station fell apart in-flight when a strut holding a helium bottle snapped, setting off a chain of events that destroyed the rocket moments later. This latest episode is likely to push back the timetable NASA had after hiring SpaceX and Boeing to carry astronauts to the space station by the end of next year.
NASA said it was too soon to say how the explosion would affect its space station operations, asserting that it remained “confident” in its commercial partners. “Today’s incident, while it was not a NASA launch, is a reminder that spaceflight is an incredible challenge, but our partners learn from each success and setback,” the agency said.
SpaceX’s next cargo mission to the space station is scheduled for November of 2016.
Coincidentally, a report released by NASA’s inspector general, Paul K. Martin, said SpaceX and Boeing were likely to face additional delays in their launch schedules anyway. Launches with crews will probably not lift off before the second half of 2018, three years later than planned, the inspector general said.
Changes that SpaceX is making to the design of the capsule, to allow landing in water instead of on land, are causing the latest delays, Martin said. In addition, NASA has been slow in examining safety reviews submitted by the companies, and as a result, late and costly redesigns might be needed, Martin said.
SpaceX lists about forty launches of satellites and other cargo on its manifest for commercial companies, NASA, and the Air Force.
Space industry experts say that Musk faces risks in balancing SpaceX’s backlog of contracts spanning the next few years without cutting corners to stay on the company’s busy schedule.
“Whenever you have a failure along these lines, you of course face delays, which inevitably sets back some of your commercial and government satellite contracts,” said Marco Cáceres, senior space analyst and director of space studies at The Teal Group, an aerospace research firm. “They have to fight the temptation to keep to a schedule, even if that means setting back their launches into next year.”
SpaceX had hoped for eighteen rocket launches this year; so far, eight have occurred. Over all, SpaceX has had twenty-seven successful launches of Falcon 9 rockets.
An episode like Thursday’s is rare. Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who tracks rocket history, said the last time such an explosion happened on a Cape Canaveral launchpad before the ignition of engines for liftoff was in 1959.
SpaceX is rebuilding a separate launchpad, one of the two formerly used for NASA’s space shuttle missions, for the astronaut launches. That launchpad is scheduled to be ready by the end of the year.
Business analysts were mixed on the effects of the explosion on Musk’s other investments at a time when he is under considerable financial pressure with the planned merger of Tesla and SolarCity. Musk draws vocal admirers and detractors, some of whom are “short” investors betting that Tesla cannot execute on its business plan.
Trip Chowdry, a senior analyst at Global Equities Research who studies Tesla’s performance, described Musk’s situation as a “double-edged sword”. “When things work out well, people believe Musk to be a superstar,” Chowdry said. But when things go wrong, like an explosion at a separate company, Tesla investors tend to make more general inferences, too. “When all is said and done, does it have any impact on Tesla stock? No,” he said. “But events at SpaceX do create headline risk for Tesla stockholders.”
The demise of the satellite, called Amos-6, puts a significant damper on Facebook’s Internet.org initiative, a grand plan spearheaded by Zuckerberg to provide wireless connectivity to nations across the world that do not otherwise have easy Internet access.
In a partnership with Eutelsat, a French satellite provider, Facebook planned to use Amos-6 to offer internet coverage to large parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Along with satellite coverage, Facebook is teaming with local internet providers to offer access, and is also building its own drones, the first of which is named Aquila (Spanish for eagle), to beam internet connectivity down to cities.
Its Internet.org initiative had already sustained a setback when the company’s aggressive overtures were rejected by local regulators in India earlier this year.
On Thursday, Zuckerberg struck an upbeat tone in his post about the rocket failure, noting that the company has other strategies in the works to expand internet connectivity across the world. Aquila, the Facebook-built drone, he noted, recently undertook its first successful flight in the desert. Still, the setback will delay Facebook’s ambitious plans and even more ambitious timetable.
Shortly after his SpaceX comments, Zuckerberg struck a cheerier note by posting some “good news” from the region: A family of baby giraffes was seen on his safari.
Rico says it's lucky both Musk and Zuckerberg have got a lot of money to burn (literally)...

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