News briefs:July 20, 2010
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Today on Wikinews : Singapore police arrest a death penalty book author; Turkish protesters march against Internet censorship and, in history, the dream of a young president and a nation comes true on a summers day in 1969.
- Audio credit JFK at Rice University
Today is Tuesday, July 20, 2010. I'm Dan Harlow and this is Wikinews.
Singapore police arrested British author and journalist Alan Shadrake one day after the launch of his book about the country's use of the death penalty.
Shadrake, 75, was arrested on Sunday morning at a hotel in Singapore and taken into custody by police on charges of criminal defamation, in response to a complaint lodged by the city-state's Media Development Authority (MDA) over the contents of his new book, Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock. Separately, the Attorney-General served Shadrake with an application for an order of committal for contempt of court, accusing him of "cast[ing] doubt on the impartiality, integrity, and independence" of Singapore's courts through his book.
Shadrake's latest book discusses alleged "double standards" in the country's application of the death penalty, and contains interviews with local human rights activists, lawyers, and former police officers, including retired Changi Prison executioner Darshan Singh; Singh later claimed that he had been "tricked" into the interview. In earlier media comments, Shadrake stated that he expected "trouble" but no concrete action from authorities over his book, lest they draw even more attention to its claims. Retailers took his book off shelves after inquiries by the MDA; a spokesman for the MDA stated that the book was not banned, but suggested that booksellers "seek legal advice to ensure that the books they sell do not contravene Singapore laws".
Shadrake has written for a variety of newspapers, including The Daily Telegraph of London as well as the New Straits Times of neighboring Malaysia. His previous book, The Yellow Pimpernels, told the tale of various attempts to escape from East Germany over the Berlin Wall. If convicted, he faces a two-year imprisonment and a fine.
Meanwhile, anger over censorship spilled out into the streets in Turkey where
about 2,000 protesters marched against Internet censorship last Saturday in Istanbul.
Protesters gathered at central Istanbul’s Taksim Square and marched down to Istiklal Avenue, chanting slogans against Transport and Communications Minister Binali Yildirim, Internet censorship, and especially against "Law No 5651".
Many Internet groups, nongovernmental organizations, and Internet platforms participated in the protest.
More than 5,000 Internet sites including Last.fm, YouTube and some of Google services are currently banned in Turkey. The bans are issued by prosecutors if the site "is deemed liable to incite suicide, paedophilia, drug abuse, obscenity or prostitution, or violate a law forbidding any attacks on Atatürk."
Reporters Without Borders reported that The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) recently wrote to the Turkish authorities to urge them once again to restore access to banned Internet sites
On this day in history (4:01)
- Music credit Space X-plorers
On July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 space flight landed the first humans on our Moon, fulfilling U.S. President John F. Kennedy's goal of reaching the moon before the Soviets by the end of the 1960s.
Launched from Florida on July 16, Apollo 11 was crewed by Commander Neil Alden Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin Eugene "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr. Their landing craft, Eagle, spent 21 hours and 31 minutes on the lunar surface while Collins orbited above in the command ship, Columbia. The lunar module was named Eagle for the national bird of the United States, the bald eagle, which is featured prominently on the mission insignia.
- Audio clip Aldrin on emblems
The command module was named Columbia for the feminine personification of the United States used traditionally in song and poetry. During early mission planning, the names Snowcone and Haystack were used but changed before announcement to the press.
Three days after liftoff, Apollo 11 passed behind the Moon and fired its service propulsion engine to enter lunar orbit. In the thirty orbits that followed, the crew saw passing views of their landing site in the southern Sea of Tranquility. This landing site was selected in part because it had been characterized as relatively flat and smooth by the automated Ranger 8 and Surveyor 5 landers along with the Lunar Orbiter mapping spacecraft and was unlikely to present major landing or extra-vehicular activity (EVA) challenges.
- Music credit Interloper
On July 20, 1969 the lunar module Eagle separated from the command module Columbia. Collins, alone aboard Columbia, inspected Eagle as it pirouetted before him to ensure the craft was not damaged.
As the descent began, Armstrong and Aldrin found that they were passing landmarks on the surface 4 seconds early and reported that they were "long": meaning they would land miles west of their target point.
Five minutes into the descent burn, and 6,000 feet (1,800 m) above the surface of the moon, the LM navigation and guidance computer distracted the crew with the first of several unexpected "1202" and "1201" program alarms.
- Audio clip 1201 alarm
The program alarms indicated "executive overflows", where the guidance computer could not complete all of its tasks in real time and had to postpone some of them. This was neither a computer error nor an astronaut error, but stemmed from a mistake in how the astronauts had been trained. Although unneeded for the landing, the rendezvous radar was intentionally turned on to make ready for a fast abort. Ground simulation setups had not foreseen that a fast stream of spurious interrupts from this radar could happen. Since the computer had to deal with data from two radars, not the landing radar alone, this led to the overload.
Inside Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas, computer engineer Jack Garman told guidance officer Steve Bales it was safe to continue the descent and this was relayed to the crew.
As the descent continued, Armstrong saw that the computer's landing target was in a boulder-strewn area just north and east of a 300 meter diameter crater (later determined to be "West crater", named for its location in the western part of the originally planned landing site). At this point Armstrong took semi-automatic control as Aldrin called out altitude and velocity data.
- Audio clip Final approach
Eagle landed at 6:17pm EDT with only about 25 seconds of fuel left. This was less fuel than on later missions because the astronauts encountered a premature low fuel warning. This was later found to have been due to greater propellant 'slosh' than expected which was uncovering a fuel sensor. On subsequent missions, extra baffles were added to the tanks to prevent this.
- Music credit Albinoni - Concerto for 2 Oboes
Then at 10:39pm EDT, Armstrong opened the hatch, and at 10:51 began his descent to the Moon's surface.
- Audio clip Armstrong stepping off the lander
Aldrin then joined Armstrong on the surface and tested methods for moving around, including two-footed kangaroo hops. The astronauts reported that they needed to plan their movements six or seven steps ahead and that the fine soil was quite slippery. Aldrin remarked that moving from sunlight into Eagle's shadow produced no temperature change inside the suit, though the helmet was warmer in sunlight.
The astronauts then deployed scientific equipment, which included a passive seismograph and a laser ranging retroreflector. While Armstrong loped about 120 m from the LM to snap photos at the rim of Little West Crater, Aldrin collected two core tubes. He used the geological hammer to pound in the tubes - the only time the hammer was used on Apollo 11. The astronauts then collected rock samples using scoops and tongs on extension handles. Many of the surface activities took longer than expected, so they had to stop documenting sample collection halfway through the allotted 34 min.
During this period Mission Control used a coded phrase to warn Armstrong that his metabolic rates were high and that he should slow down. He was moving rapidly from task to task as time ran out. However, as metabolic rates remained generally lower than expected for both astronauts throughout the walk, Mission Control granted the astronauts a 15-minute extension.
After the astronauts planted a U.S. flag on the lunar surface, they spoke with President Richard Nixon through a telephone-radio transmission which Nixon called "the most historic phone call ever made from the White House."
- Audio clip Astronauts and Nixon
Nixon originally had a long speech prepared to read during the phone call, but fellow astronaut Frank Borman who flew on the famous Apollo 8 mission, was at the White House as a NASA liaison during Apollo 11 and convinced Nixon to keep his words brief, out of respect of the lunar landing being Kennedy's legacy.
For the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, a group of British scientists reflected on the significance of the moon landing:
"It was carried out in a technically brilliant way with risks taken ... that would be inconceivable in the risk-averse world of today...The Apollo programme is arguably the greatest technical achievement of mankind to date...nothing since Apollo has come close [to] the excitement that was generated by those astronauts - Armstrong, Aldrin and the 10 others who followed them"
- Music credit Orange Horizon
Famed CBS news anchor, Walter Cronkite, famously said years later that he had had as much time to prepare for the moon landing as NASA, but when the mission finally landed safely, he was left speechless. Considered by many to be, at the time, the most trusted voice in America, it was Cronkite's emotional reaction to the landing which many people still remember to this day, possibly due to it adding such a human, emotional element to a technological event taking place so far away.
At the time of the landing in the 1960's, America was at war in Vietnam, undergoing major cultural upheaval with the civil rights movement and had suffered through the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert and Martin Luther King Jr., yet for a brief moment on a summers morning, a quarter of a million miles away from any other human being (except for Collins orbiting above in the Columbia), 2 men looked back at the Earth and saw, what Carl Sagan would described years later as being the place where,
"On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena."
- Audio clip Buzz Aldrin comments
And those are the top headlines for Tuesday, July 20, 2010
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