Boeing Dreamliner finally takes flight


Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Fighting its way through more than two years of delays, Boeing’s latest aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner, took off on its maiden flight today in cloudy skies over Everett, Washington.

“We think it’s a game changer because it provides so much value to the customer,” Jim Albaugh, Boeing executive vice president and CEO, said in a CNN interview. “We think this is going to be a very efficient airplane. It’s going to change the way people travel…”

It’s more environmentally friendly, it’s more efficient, uses less fuel, it’s going to cost the operator less to fly, it’s going to allow the passengers to pay less and feel better when they land.”

Boeing’s claims of the Dreamliner’s much-touted efficiency are tied to its design. It’s the first major airliner to be made of mostly composite materials. Boeing has staked its reputation on claims that the aircraft’s relatively lighter, faster body will save airlines up to 20 percent in fuel costs.

The company also says the new material will hold up better to the wear and tear of flight than traditional aluminum. Boeing says it has orders for more than 850 of the planes, which officially sell for around $150 million each.

Depending on the configuration, the Dreamliner can seat between 200 to 300 passengers and can travel more than 2,500 nautical miles. The target market is carriers traveling point-to-point international routes.

Click the story link for a video. Another 9-10 months of shakedown testing and they can start delivering these critters.

The motorheads in this crowd who follow F1 and really high performance racing know about composite construction. I doubt the aircraft industry will spring for a McLaren-level safety bathtub for each passenger; but, the strength of materials is demonstrated numerous times each racing season.

Some Gitmo detainees will end up in Illinois

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

A letter from senior Cabinet members to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said that an unspecified number of Guantanamo detainees will be sent to the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Illinois, about 150 miles west of Chicago.

The federal government will buy the prison and enhance one section of it to exceed perimeter security standards at the nation’s only “supermax” prison in Colorado…

The exact number of detainees to be transferred to the prison is “hard to pin down because categories of detainees may shift. While 100 may be the upper limit, the actual number at well below that (75 or perhaps even less),” said another senior official…

About 215 detainees are held by the U.S. military at the camp in Cuba.

In a White House briefing, senior administration officials authorized to speak on background said Thomson prison would receive Guantanamo detainees facing trial in U.S. courts or by military commission. Detainees being sent to other countries would travel directly from Guantanamo without coming to the United States, they said.

Gov. Quinn and Sen. Richard Durbin, both Illinois Democrats, were headed to the White House for a briefing on the plan to use the Thomson Correctional Center to help shut down the camp at Guantanamo Bay.

Now the whining from Republicans and other professional wusses will begin. “Alack and aday – how can we ever be safe with known terrorists housed in a prison on American soil?”

Give me a fracking break. Safety is defined by a well-built prison. There’s never been a breakout from a modern supermax prison in the U.S.. All the recidivist murderers, rapists, arsonists and thieves we have roaming the world of America are 99.9% graduates – not escapees – from our existing prison system.

Send me a penny postcard when one of these creeps complains about torture or violations of the Geneva Convention.

Nevada brothel becoming demonstration oasis for conservation

For decades, this high-desert site eight miles east of Reno was best known as the home of the Mustang Ranch, the first licensed brothel in the United States. From thin to plump, dwarflike to Amazonian, women hired to suit a range of tastes would line up for inspection by clients in pink stucco buildings tucked into a cottonwood grove 300 yards from the river’s bank…

The old property…is undergoing a transformation. Workers are restoring it to floodplain, undoing the damage wrought when federal engineers straightened the Truckee River a half century ago…

The Army Corps of Engineers moved to control flooding by straightening and widening the river. The unintended result was that the Truckee deepened in its own channel, and the entire water table dropped along its banks.

Within years, the lower Truckee lost a majority of its native plants as well as dependent birds and wildlife. Only ancient cottonwoods with deep roots survived. Invasive weeds took over, and the river became an eyesore.

More threatening to local residents, water quality declined

As city officials grew worried, the Nature Conservancy began peddling an ambitious plan that included moving the river back to its old beds, exterminating invasive weeds and replanting forest and other native plants along the Truckee’s banks.

In 2000, the $20 million effort to restore an 8 ½-mile stretch of the river began. The old Mustang Ranch is the final piece; bulldozers arrived at the site this month to begin forcing this stretch of the river back into a path constructed to mimic its old curving pattern…

“We joke that in Nevada that we only work on properties near brothels,” said Mr. Hazelwood of the conservancy. “They like their privacy — they stay concentrated instead of developing out so they can keep an eye on things. It works for us…”

“People were skeptical at first,” Allen Biaggi, director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said of the project. “But we needed to deal with water quality. And now this provides a vision of what it can be. It can be about beauty and peace and recreation.”

RTFA. Just gangsters and sleaze. Nothing romantic about hookers with a heart of gold. Just a cruddy business with the money smuggled out of the country in a paper bag to the original pimp hiding from extradition in Brazil.

But, a pretty good tale of private and public funds used to ameliorate screw-ups by the Army Corps of Engineers, restore some beauty to a place of nature.

22 million Bush administration e-mails recovered


“I can’t remember which key Karl told me to press to hide all this crap!”

Computer technicians have recovered about 22 million Bush administration e-mails that the Bush White House had said were missing, two watchdog groups that sued over the documents announced Monday.

The e-mails date from 2003 to 2005, and had been “mislabeled and effectively lost,” according to the National Security Archive, a research group based at George Washington University. But Melanie Sloan, executive director of the liberal-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said it could be years before most of the e-mails are made public…

The e-mail controversy dates back to the Bush administration’s 2006 firing of the top federal prosecutors in nine cities. After congressional committees demanded the administration produce documents related to the firings, the White House said millions of e-mails might have been lost from its servers. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive sued over the issue in 2007, arguing the Bush administration violated federal laws that require presidential records to be preserved.

Court records have shown that the Bush administration knew about the e-mail problems as far back as 2005 and did nothing to fix them, Sloan said.

Monday’s settlement allows for 94 days of e-mail traffic, scattered between January 2003 to April 2005, to be restored from backup tapes. Of those 94 days, 40 were picked by statistical sample; another 21 days were suggested by the White House; and the groups that filed suit picked 33 that seemed “historically significant,” from the months before the invasion of Iraq to the period when the firings of U.S. attorneys were being planned.

Also requested were several days surrounding the announcement that a criminal investigation was under way into the disclosure of then-CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity. That investigation led to the conviction of White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to federal agents investigating the leak.

Given a few civil libertarian geeks in the White House, we may yet learn even more about the corruption and cronyism that was part and parcel of the Bush-Cheney Administration. We know who the capos were. It would be useful to track who collaborated with their various deceits on the federal and state level.

I’m confident New Mexico’s senator-for-life, Pete Domenici – a hack whose core constituency was the Pentagon and the Oil Patch Boys – was one of the cogs in the machine.

Grammy-winner grabbed in raid of Mexico drug cartel party


A quiet Xmas celebration at Ayala’s modest home in Texas

When soldiers raided a drug cartel’s Christmas party south of Mexico City, they found 16 automatic rifles, $280,000 in cash — and a Latin Grammy winner.

The presence of the Texas-based norteno singer Ramon Ayala at the gathering in a wealthy, gated-community and the lavish festivities showed the audacity of Mexico’s drug cartels amid a government crackdown that has sent thousands of soldiers and police to track them down.

A spokesman for the federal Attorney General’s Office said Monday that Ayala was released after being questioned because authorities found no grounds for charging him with a crime.

Mexican norteno bands often sing about drug trafficking and violence and many have been rumored to perform at drug traffickers’ weddings and other parties, but few have been caught.

Ayala and his norteno band, Los Bravos del Norte, were performing in a gated community of mansions outside the mountain town of Tepoztlan when sailors raided the house and a shootout ensued before dawn Friday, said the official, who was not authorized to be quoted by name.

Three gunmen were killed…

Predictable excuses will be offered, e.g., it was just a holiday gig, blah, blah. Meanwhile you still have the right to refuse to work for criminals.

Sarkozy says it’s time to loan money for the country’s future

National Library of France

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has outlined a $51.5 billion “grand loan” France will take out to invest in universities and fields such as renewable energy and the digital economy.

Mr Sarkozy said financing was needed to prepare France’s long-term future but he denied it was a stimulus package, saying the investments it will support “would be necessary even without the crisis…”

In a rare press conference at the Elysée, Mr Sarkozy said: “Today we must prepare our country for the challenges of the future, so that France can fully profit from the recovery, so that it is stronger, more competitive and that it creates more jobs…”

France’s universities are to receive the lion’s share, with $16 billion used to build between five and 10 world-class campuses. A further $11.7 billion will go to France’s research institutes – in particular biotechnology and health care. Mr Sarkozy also pledged $7.3 billion for renewable energy and $6.6 billion to develop France’s digital economy. Budget cuts would match the interest on the extra spending, he insisted.

The authors of the loan say it will boost France’s long-term growth.

France’s opposition parties, Left and Right, are as opportunist as our own. You will wade through rivers of crocodile tears over deficit spending, taxes, priorities – though not as much whining about aid to the young and underprivileged. In that sense, France is less of a class-based nation than the U.S..

The model is nothing new. I’m a bit surprised to see a French conservative advance the proposal. The Gallic breed must not share the shortsighted-gene characteristics of America’s country club set.

Russian gas pipeline through Central Asia goes onstream to China


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

With the turn of a ceremonial valve, China’s president, Hu Jintao, opened a big natural gas pipeline from central Asia to China on Monday, significantly increasing China’s access to the fuel and providing the first major alternative to exporting the region’s gas through Russia.

The ambitious project runs 1,140 miles across three Central Asian nations to the Chinese border, linking Turkmenistan to the Chinese region of Xinjiang. Once inside China, it connects with a pipeline that can carry the fuel even farther east.

Though helpful to energy-parched China, the project siphons potential supplies from the long-delayed pipeline that the European Union would like to see built from Turkey to Central Europe. Such a project could also tap sources of natural gas in Turkmenistan, a stark illustration of the overlapping energy interests at play in the region.

For the China pipeline, Turkmenistan says it can supply 40 billion cubic meters of gas for 30 years once the line reaches full capacity, reported China Daily, an official English-language newspaper. That is about the equivalent of half of China’s current consumption of natural gas.

The pipeline is the first major export corridor for natural gas out of the region that does not pass through Russia. It breaks from the Soviet-era design of a pipeline system built to supply Eastern Europe via Russia to the north of Central Asia. The new pipe revives a pre-Soviet view of trade in the region, in which economic exchanges flow east and west, not just through Russia.

No doubt highest priority will be given to industrial use of this resource. China, after all, is a nation in the business of growing business.

But, as conditions change, this pipeline and others like it will allow for an end to a significant portion of China’s smog. 50% of that smog comes from coal-fired home cooking and heating fires. Just about the worst form of combustion for human use on the planet.

I’ve been through that particular environmental change in my youth. It can be astounding.