Posted by: Mazalien | October 9, 2011

Posted by: Mazalien | March 18, 2008

Space tourists

Over 40 years ago man first went into space. Ever since ordinary people have dreamt of getting there themselves. But after several false starts, a group of space obsessed entrepreneurs believe the first commercial flights into the final frontier are only a few years away.

The concept of space tourism is not new. Following the enormous achievements made by the Americans and Russians during the 1960s many of us assumed that it was only a matter of time before it was the turn of tourists. These dreams were fuelled even further when the era’s new celebrities – the astronauts – returned with tales of life-changing experiences. Space fever was so intense that by 1969 Pan-Am, one of the world’s most respected airlines, opened a waiting list for a moon shuttle. It was only a concept on a drawing board but almost 100,000 people signed up.

The problem was that going to space was incredibly expensive. The vehicles being sent into space were only used once so every time a rocket lifted off millions of dollars effectively went up in flames. In order for space tourism to become a reality, that needed to change.

Budding space tourists were certain that the space shuttle was the answer to their dreams. It was reusable and capable of making several trips a year. Even the commercial world was inspired by the shuttle and in 1985 a California company started offering trips to space on a craft that would be ready for lift off in 1992.

In 1986 a civilian finally made it onto the launch pad when NASA put school teacher Christa McAuliffe on board the shuttle Challenger. But just over a minute into the mission Challenger exploded and the entire crew was killed. The accident had an immediate impact. Commercial ventures were cancelled.

It wasn’t until ten years later that the dream of space tourism was revived by space entrepreneur Peter Diamandis. Convinced that it was the job of the commercial world to open the space frontier for the masses, Diamandis established the X Prize. The prize would eventually offer $10 million for the first craft to make it to sub orbital space – 62 miles above the earth – twice in 14 days.

The race attracted over 20 competitors. The first person to join up was Burt Rutan, one of the world’s most prolific aircraft designers.

There was also Chuck Lauer, a former property developer who had co-founded Rocketplane Ltd. Rocketplane’s approach was to build a spaceship by modifying a Lear Jet.

John Carmack, a 34 year-old computer games millionaire, signed up with his company Armadillo Aerospace. Carmack and his crew of volunteers only worked part-time but were attempting to build a vertical take-off and landing vehicle from scratch.

Most of the entrants had big ideas, but little money or concrete plans.

Burt Rutan decided to spend the first few years working in secret on his project. He eventually came up with a design he was certain could do the job, especially as it addressed two of the most dangerous aspects of space flight, lift-off and re-entry.

To avoid the dangers of a ground launch, which uses tons of highly explosive fuel, Rutan designed a carrier aeroplane that would carry his craft, SpaceShipOne, to 47,000 feet to be launched. To handle the dangerous g-force and heat encountered on re-entry, Rutan came up with the idea of using twin tails that would fold at a 90° angle. This would create incredible drag to slow the ship down. In effect the ship would go up like a bullet and come down like a shuttlecock.

With the backing of Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, Rutan built his ship and in June 2004, SpaceShipOne became the first commercial manned craft in space. Three months later it completed the task again, twice in two weeks, and claimed the $10million X Prize.

Now Rutan and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson have formed a partnership to build the next generation of craft capable of taking several passengers. Branson’s new company, Virgin Galactic, is already selling return tickets to space for $200,000. And even though the new craft that will take the first space tourists hasn’t yet been built, the company has taken $10million in deposits.

A discovery in northeastern Louisiana opened a new window on ancient America and eventually led scientists to uncover new evidence of a highly developed ancient American culture in the lower Mississippi delta between 1730 and 1350 B.C. At the heart of the site is one of the largest native constructions in eastern North America, earthworks that are the oldest of their size in the Western Hemisphere. This video tells the story of the ancient American hunter-gatherers who lived in a sophisticated community we now call Poverty Point.

Posted by: Mazalien | May 21, 2007

Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was one of the main leaders of the American civil rights movement, a political activist, a Baptist minister, and was one of America’s greatest orators. In 1964, King became the youngest man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (for his work as a peacemaker, promoting nonviolence and equal treatment for different races). On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1977, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter. In 1986, Martin Luther King Day was established as a United States holiday. In 2004, King was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. King often called for personal responsibility in fostering world peace. King’s most influential and well-known public address is the “I Have A Dream” speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. in 1963.

Posted by: Mazalien | May 7, 2007

The Indian Miracle

Underneath the glittering surface of India’s economic boom lie the ugly realties of modern day India: mass suicide by debt-ridden farmers, a rise in Hindu nationalism, discrimination against Muslims and a caste system which condemns millions to a life of servitude. For the Indian economy the year 2003 ended on a high – on 20 December, the foreign exchange reserves breached the $100bn mark. The year also saw Indian companies breaking into the international corporate market, making 35 global acquisitions totalling $450m. Thinking internationally, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee floated the idea of a common currency for South Asia. And the industrial sector is booming. Car sales in November were 41% higher than the previous year. Overall, Gross Domestic Product is expected to grow by more than 7% in the financial year ending in March 2004.

Posted by: Mazalien | May 6, 2007

Tribe Babongo

On Bruce’s visit: he is initiated into the Bwiti religion by ingesting the sometimes fatal drug, Iboga The Babongo people, who number around 2,000, live alongside several other pygmy tribes in the heavily forested Congo basin. They have no formal system of government or chiefs, and traditionally, each small group within the tribe had rights to the territory where they lived and hunted. They know the forest intimately, and are expert trackers – they can find a bee hive by following the flight path of a single bee. The countries they live in give them no legal right over their territory, and their way of life is in danger because of deforestation.

The Babongo of Gabon used to be known, derogatively, as pygmies. They’re still treated as second-class citizens by their neighbours. But their expertise and knowledge of the forests is unique and their use of Iboga, a powerful hallucinogenic which lies at the heart of Babongo culture, makes them famous throughout Gabon. Life is changing fast for the Babongo and other forest peoples. The former French colony of Gabon, on the west coast of Africa, was one of the most densely forested countries on earth, with 80 per cent covered in virgin forest. But commercial logging is destroying it at an alarming rate – already 30 per cent has been cleared. Groups who used to live deep in impenetrable forests are now just a few hours’ walk from the roads slicing through their homeland.

Thanks to government ‘resettlement programmes’, most of the Babongo have moved from their traditional camps into villages along the major logging roads – though they may still spend time in the forest. Out of the forest, they find themselves at the bottom of Gabonese society, discriminated against by their neighbours and without much access to education, employment or healthcare. There are probably about 12,000 forest people, but without birth certificates or identity cards, it’s hard to know for definite. There are still groups living entirely in the forest, but their numbers are dwindling. Babongo lifeThe Gabon forest is hot, humid, and the air is thick with insects. Malaria and dengi fever are endemic. This is the home of some of the world’s most endangered species, from gorilla to forest elephant.

Camps are made up of six to eight huts, housing up to 20 people at any one time. The traditional huts are called tudi, and made entirely from material gathered from the forest. The basic structure is a bent sapling, overlaid with flat wide leaves for waterproofing. When the Babongo lived a nomadic life moving through the forest, this is what they would have used – a hut like this takes just half a day to make. These days they also build huts of mud, to a design adopted from their neighbours the Mitsogo tribe.

Posted by: Mazalien | October 12, 2005

Africa ’05

Afrika 2005

Africa 05

Africa 05 is the biggest celebration of African culture ever organised in Britain. Between February and October a huge range of organisations from national museums to community centres will be hosting events that will celebrate the best African and diasporic arts. Visual art, cinema, literature, history, music, craft, and performing arts: Africa 05 will give a real sense of the richness and complex diversity of African culture today. The programme will include creative giants that we are probably familiar with; Baaba Maal, Wole Soyinka, but there will also be dozens of younger artists who will be working in Britain for the first time.

Africa 05

The Africa 05 programme begins with an explosion of visual art exhibitions; from large survey and group shows to solo exhibitions of key artists, visitors will be able toget a wonderful panorama across the African zeitgeist. Over the spring and summer there are a number of film seasons and film-related exhibitions that will really give an insight into the history of African and diasporic film-making and offer the opportunity to see how the growth of digital media has inspired an explosion of creative opportunities across Africa. The summer months will add craft, fashion and design events to the mix, before the autumn when we will be closing the season with a focus on literature. The year will also be full of music, dance and theatre and there will be spaces for debate and places to stop and consider what a future Africa might be. And we will also be looking back, not forgetting that Africa is the birthplace of mankind, the birthplace of conscious communication. During 2005 we will see the oldest man-made objects. Three million year old tools excavated at Olduvai Gorge, in northern Tanzania on display in a new setting, reminding us what a unique and important contribution the continent of Africa has made to world culture.

Links to explore :

The Africa Centre

The Africa center… The Africa Centre aims to promote positive awareness about Africa, and to help to empower the African diaspora in the UK, and to support Africa’s development aspirations. The Africa Centre, a charity established in 1961, has for over the past 40 years, been the heart of Africa in the heart of London, a unique and dynamic centre. Conscious of the historical and personal links between Africa and Europe, the Africa Centre, as an independent charity, was developed to create greater awareness among British and other European people about developments in Africa and its diaspora. Over the years leading African artists, writers, politicians and musicians have met in the Africa Centre, been a source of inspiration to one another, and shared their visions of Africa with British people.

The African remix

The African remix…A South Bank Centre-wide season of cultural events featuring artists, musicians and performers, bringing the South Bank to life in a dynamic celebration of contemporary African creativity.

 African puzzle on Schoolnet

Schoolnet…SchoolNet Namibia is a nonprofit provider of internet service, hardware and training to the nation’s schools. Since February, 2000, close to 450 schools have received free hardware, free training on the OpenLab operating system and subsidized telephone service to help get the nation’s young people online. It’s all part of the plan to empower youth through internet access. Through a number of ambitious strategies such as its adoption of a Linux Terminal Server thin-client networks, its dedication to the open source movement and its fledgling wireless and solar plans, the prize-winning operation has begun to realize a vision of Namibia where all students have not just access to the internet, but the skills to participate in the digital revolution.

Africa Focus

Africa Focus…The heart of this website consists of issues of the AfricaFocus Bulletin, produced and distributed one to three times a week to over 3,000 subscribers, including individuals, organizations, and listservs. Current issues are featured on the homepage; a full archive is also available on the site. Approximately 70 percent of the subscribers are in North America and approximately 13 percent each in Africa and Europe.

Why Africa 05?

Margaret Busby, Writer

‘We are all Africans. Africa was the birthplace of civilisation, the continent where human society and technology had its beginnings…’

Dr Christopher Davis, Academic

‘What can we hope for Africa and its artists that expands the horizon of expectations for those of us who have been attached to the continent for some time?…’

Greg Hilty, University of the Arts, London

‘It is a wonderful thing for so many cultural organisations, large and small, to collaborate in bringing so much of the current art of Africa and the African diaspora…’

David A. Bailey, Curator

‘I believe there are three key issues which need to be addressed in Africa 2005: infrastructural development, institutional continuity and financial support…’

Ekow Eshun, Director of the ICA

‘In contrast to the representations of Africa that have accrued in the west over centuries…here is a festival about the complexity of African identity and culture…’

Gilane Tawadros Director of INIVA

‘In football as in culture, Africa is forced to occupy a narrow platform that gives little opportunity for individual nations to flourish and excel on the world stage…’

Posted by: Mazalien | October 10, 2005

Gas Thief

gas thiefSpeeding from the scene of the crime, a Chinese boy tows a floating plastic bag of stolen natural gas last week. Flouting a government ban, farmers around the central Chinese town of Pucheng frequently filch gas from the local oil field. As Chinese industry booms and automobile use spreads, the country as a whole appears to be on a feverish quest for fossil fuels. Oil consumption rose by 11 percent last year, and the number of private autos hit 14 million in 2003—and is expected to rise to 150 million by 2015. China National Offshore Oil Corporation dropped its bid for U.S. oil and natural gas company Unocal earlier this month. But the China National Petroleum Corporation, the country’s biggest oil company, has now joined with an Indian company in an effort to buy PetroKazakhstan, a Canadian company with oil fields in the central Asian country of Kazakhstan.

Posted by: Mazalien | September 27, 2005

World’s largest carpet

TEHRAN – Iran is seeking to revive its carpet industry by weaving the world’s biggest rug, weighing in at 35 tonnes. The mammoth rug from the spiritual homeland of Persian carpets will cover almost 6,000 square metres and will fetch some $8.2 million, its makers told Reuters on Saturday. “We will have two working shifts of 1,000 weavers working for 14 months non-stop to deliver the carpet on time,” said Karam Reza Haseli, a deputy manager at the state-supported Iranian carpet company. Work is due to start in three months. The carpet has been ordered by the Sheikh Zayed mosque that is being built in Abu Dhabi, after Iran scoured its Gulf neighbours for contracts that might help revive business for local wool merchants, dye makers and weavers. Although hand-woven carpets are normally Iran’s top non-oil export, the industry has been hit by cheaper Pakistani, Chinese and Indian copies of traditional Iranian patterns. Iran is hoping to break its own record for Gargantuan carpets, which it says is currently held by the 4,400 square metre carpet woven for the Sultan Qaboos mosque in Muscat. Haseli said the quality of the workmanship would be maintained by paying some of the master craftsmen up to $7 a shift, far more than the $1 going-rate in areas near the Afghan border. “We intend to monopolise the market with expensive delicate carpets and leave the cheap fake carpets market for others to fight for,” Haseli said.