First solar-powered airplane unveiled in Switzerland

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It has the wingspan of a Boeing 747 but weighs less than a small car – and could be the first plane to fly around the world powered entirely by the sun.

This is the Solar Impulse, unveiled in Switzerland, which its inventor hopes will revolutionise air travel and reduce its impact on the environment…

Bertrand Piccard and co-pilot Andre Borschberg are set to begin tests on the solar powered plane.

They are planning to prove the airplane’s viability with a round-the-world trip, although the scheduled take-off date, 2012, suggests they are in for a few more turbulent test flights.

He said: ‘Yesterday it was a dream, today it is an airplane, tomorrow it will be an ambassador of renewable energies…’

The plane, part of a £70million project, will fly day and night using almost 12,000 solar cells, rechargeable lithium batteries and four electric motors.

Unlike the first nonstop round-the-globe balloon trip which Mr Piccard co-piloted in 1999, the solar flight will have to make stops to allow for pilots to switch over and stretch after long periods in the cramped cockpit…

Mr Piccard says the plane should also serve as an inspiration for inventors and manufacturers of everyday machines and appliances.

Sounds inspiring to me all right. And an interesting looking craft to boot.

My worries come from working with a few aeronautics engineers. They get stuck in to the conflict between strength and weight – down to some scary small margins for error AFAIC.

Homeowner holds political fundraiser, no band – busted by Sheriff for noise complaint! Hostess arrested.

Candidate Busby
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A fundraiser for Francine Busby, who is running for Congress, ended in chaos Friday night when sheriff’s deputies responded to a noise complaint, pepper-sprayed some of the guests and arrested the party’s hostess.

Shari Barman, 60, was booked into the Vista Detention Facility on suspicion of obstructing a peace officer and battery on a peace officer. She has since been released…

I have never seen anything like it. Most of the people were stunned,” Busby said, adding that there was no music or entertainment.

Pepper spray was dispersed on the crowd, and the deputies were able to reach Barman…and arrest her.

A statement from Busby’s office said a man shouted an “obscenity-laced tirade” from a wooded area as Busby spoke to the guests. It said about 25 mostly middle-aged guests…were “quietly chatting” when a deputy arrived and asked to speak to the homeowner.

Busby said she was outside the house at the time of the incident and saw some of it unfold.

“When the homeowner asked the deputy sheriff why he needed her date of birth, the deputy reacted by restraining the homeowner,” said Busby’s statement. “Alarmed guests pleaded with the deputy to let the 60-year-old homeowner go and stop hurting her. She had recently had shoulder surgery and was clearly in pain. His response was to spray the women with pepper spray which caused confusion and outrage.”

The event had been highlighted on Busby’s campaign Web site as an evening cocktail party hosted by Barman and her partner, Jane Stratton, who co-founded the Acura Classic tennis tournament in San Diego.

O.K.. San Diego coppers not certain who they’re serving – or who they’re protecting.

Democrats lag behind the electorate on Gay Rights – NSS!

Iraq veteran, Lt. Dan Choi, an Arabic-speaking specialist – dismissed for coming out
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On Monday, 250 gay leaders are to join Mr. Obama in the East Room to commemorate publicly the 40th anniversary of the birth of the modern gay rights movement: a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York. By contrast, the first time gay leaders were invited to the White House, in March 1977, they met a midlevel aide on a Saturday when the press and President Jimmy Carter were nowhere in sight.

The conflicting signals from the White House about its commitment to gay issues reflect a broader paradox: even as cultural acceptance of homosexuality increases across the country, the politics of gay rights remains full of crosscurrents.

It is reflected in the surge of gay men and lesbians on television and in public office, and in polls measuring a steady rise in support for gay rights measures. Despite approval in California of a ballot measure banning same-sex marriage, it has been authorized in six states.

Yet if the culture is moving on, national politics is not, or at least not as rapidly. Mr. Obama has yet to fulfill a campaign promise to repeal the policy barring openly gay people from serving in the military. The prospects that Congress will ever send him a bill overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, appear dim. An effort to extend hate-crime legislation to include gay victims has produced a bitter backlash in some quarters: Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, sent a letter to clerics in his state arguing that it would be destructive to “faith, families and freedom.”

America is changing more quickly than the government,” said Linda Ketner, a gay Democrat from South Carolina who came within four percentage points of winning a Congressional seat in November. “They are lagging behind the crowd. But if I remember my poli sci from college, isn’t that the way it always works?”

Of course it is. Doesn’t make the politicians smell any better.

You expect the party of the “Southern Strategy”, the deliberate decision by the Republican Party to become the official party of bigotry – to prate all the trite reactionary pap about faith, families and freedom. Even though their quota of sleazeballs more than qualifies them as the leading hypocrites this side of Jim Bakker.

You should not be surprised if the party of Harry Truman – who included universal health care in his platform – until he was elected, the party of LBJ who said “we shall overcome” while leaving the FBI alone to maintain a perfect record of zero prosecutions for racist murders for decades – you should not be surprised by Democrats joining other bigots in lame excuses directed mostly to the lobbyists holding open that big green trick bag.

Do I think Obama still might turn around the clock of history and lead the United States to a place of ethical leadership in the world? My answer is a resounding “uh, I hope so”. But, that’s what I said a year or so ago.

Recession revises marriage choices in India

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Once, they were a prized catch.

Men who had everything an Indian woman wanted: a job, a house and a life of comfort in faraway lands. They had studied hard and landed top jobs in the West. On Wall Street. In Silicon Valley. In corporate boardrooms and college classrooms.

Every woman wanted a non-resident Indian or “NRI” groom.

Not anymore.

The economic slump has affected marriage traditions in India, forcing men and women to rethink their choices of a lifelong partner… is used by 14 million south Asians worldwide. Employee Gaurab Rakshit said the recession in the West has translated into more marriages in the East.

“What’s happened during this recession period is there are less women indicating a preference for NRI men on our site,” Rakshit said. “We see anywhere between a 20 to 30 percent drop off in demand…”

Leaner times has changed trends, too, among Indian men. In the past, many might have preferred a wife who stayed at home. Now, they are looking for women who work outside the home…

A wife who earns could help pay for the wedding, too. And that’s saying a lot in India, where marriages can be flamboyant and expensive affairs, though the economic slowdown has subdued them somewhat.

RTFA. A couple of wry anecdotes. Someday, of course, popular culture in India will move beyond arranged marriages.

Sunday’s 2nd Amendment sermon!

Church members — many of them wearing identical blue shirts with the church’s name as they helped direct traffic and check weapons to make sure they were not loaded — were joined at the event by their friends and others who heard about it on the news. About 10 members of a local private militia were among those who attended.

The event has been criticized by other religious leaders, who say churches have no business glorifying deadly weapons. Across town, another event carrying an anti-gun message was held.

But Pagano, the Marine veteran and police chaplain who leads the Assemblies of God congregation, was unapologetic, saying one cannot defend a person’s First Amendment right to religious liberty without the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

We love God, we love our country,” he told the applauding crowd. “Without a belief in God, without a belief even in firearms, I don’t believe this country would be here the way it is today. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Attendees listened to rules about carrying unloaded weapons securely in holsters, recited the Pledge of Allegiance, sang patriotic songs such as “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful” and watched a series of Internet videos arguing for the right to bear arms and warning that gun-control advocates would put people at risk of mass murderers and other criminals.

A milder flavor of the religious wacko gun-nut variety. RTFA and reflect upon the Ohio Freedom Fighters (sic) who showed up in camo prepared to fight off any possible invasion from Mars.

Chronology of events through the weekend at this Pentacostal Church over at the Times.

Though I consider Christ a minor historic figure among Essene sectarians, I have to ask the inevitable question: Which gun would Jesus Christ carry?

Cash for Clunkers program limited by Congressional cowards

In Europe, hundreds of thousands of car owners have taken advantage of government subsidies to get rid of their old vehicles and trade up to new ones. Car sales in Germany are up about 40 percent from a year ago.

But a similar so-called cash-for-clunkers program that starts in July in the United States is not expected to have nearly the same impact.

While the program, which President Obama signed into law this week, gives consumers a credit that is in line with the payments in Europe — up to $4,500 — what qualifies as a “clunker” in the United States is far more limited.

Further, the American program has $1 billion in financing, enough for about 250,000 consumers to use it, and ends Nov. 1, or sooner if the money runs out. Germany, on the other hand, originally expected to spend 1.5 billion euros to get 600,000 old cars off the road. But the program proved so popular, the government this spring raised the budget to 5 billion euros for two million cars and extended the deadline to the end of 2009…

“It’s better than nothing, that’s for sure,” said George Pipas, the Ford Motor Company’s chief sales analyst. “Anything to get consumers off the couch and give them a reason to go to the dealership.”

Perish the thought the overpaid politicians in Congress should do something that might help out working folks!

They’d rather continue to feather their nest, play kissy-kissy with lobbyists, whine about overspending our tax dollars – as if they hadn’t been doing that for the past eight years. 2010 is becoming more and more a target year to shove another couple dozen corporate lawyer-politicians out the door. Send them looking for an honest job.