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37th Annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta marks 225th anniversary of first manned balloon flight
Launched in 1972, the Albuquerque balloon festival draws enthusiasts from all over the world. This year marks the 225th anniversary of hot air balloon flights, with participants representing 42 states and 24 countries. Ballooning has come a long way from the first "flying machines" in France in 1783, which flew a duck, a rooster and a lamb in a smoke-filled balloon. The first human passengers were carried 3,000 feet on November 21, 1783.
Amongst the most popular events is a mass ascension, in which all participants rise into the sky in two waves. During the Dawn Patrol, above, pilots take off before sunrise and appraise wind conditions for the others. The festival lasts nine days. This year it runs from October 4 through October 12. Albuquerque has a long association with ballooning, going back more than a century.
Because of a local wind phenomenon known as the "Albuquerque Box," the area is ideally suited to a balloon festival. In October of every year, the wind follows a predictable pattern, blowing northerly at higher altitudes and southerly at lower altitudes, allowing for a smooth navigation.
US national debt clock in Times Square runs out of digits for the first time as debt exceeds $10 trillion
The US government's debts have ballooned so badly the National Debt Clock in New York has run out of digits to record the spiraling figure. The digital counter marks the national debt level, but when that passed the $10 trillion point last month, the sign ran out of digits for the first time.
The clock, located in Times Square, shows the amount of money owed by the US government. It was created by the late Manhattan real estate developer Seymour Durst, who put the sign up in 1989 to call attention to what was then a $2.7 trillion debt. The clock's owners say two more zeros will be added, allowing the clock to record a quadrillion dollars of debt.
For the time being, the Times Square counter's electronic dollar sign has been replaced with the extra digit required. For its part, the digital dollar symbol has been supplanted by a cheaper version - perhaps a sign of the times for the American economy.
Some economists believe the $700bn bail-out plan for ailing US financial institutions could send the national debt level to $11 trillion.
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Extinction "Red List": half of mammals in decline, 1 in 4 faces extinction; conservation can bring species back
BARCELONA, Spain, October 6, 2008 (ENS) - The world's mammals are in the grip of an extinction crisis, with almost one in four at risk of vanishing forever, according to the latest scientific assessment revealed at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's World Conservation Congress, which opened Sunday in Barcelona.
The new study conducted for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species for the first time assessed all of the 5,487 mammals on Earth and found that at least 1,141 of them are known to be threatened with extinction. At least 76 mammals have become extinct since the year 1500.
The real situation could be much worse as 836 mammals are listed as Data Deficient. With better information, scientists may classify even more species as being in danger of extinction. "Within our lifetime hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions, a frightening sign of what is happening to the ecosystems where they live," said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN director general. read more »
Work of legendary portraitist Yousuf Karsh celebrated at Boston exhibit - Churchill, Hepburn, Picasso, and more
The work of the legendary portraitist is celebrated at a centenary exhibit at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. Among the portraits -
Audrey Hepburn, 1956
"The French novelist Colette picked her out of a ballet lineup to play Gigi on stage, and her career was launched. When I photographed her in Hollywood and commented on her quality of sophisticated vulnerability, she told me of her harrowing experiences during the Second World War. Years later, in the Kremlin, Chairman Brezhnev agreed to sit for me only if I made him as beautiful as Audrey Hepburn."
Winston Churchill, 1941 read more »
Victims of global warming & pollution - lost penguins stranded on Brazilian beaches get lift home from air force
In between the bronzed bodies in skimpy thongs soaking up the rays on Copacabana beach, a tiny black and white bundle of feathers struggles to emerge from the surf. Exhausted and emaciated, its bones poking through the blubber, the young penguin finally collapses on the sand. It has strayed thousands of miles from home, one of more than 1,000 penguins to have washed up on the Brazilian coast this year, some of which have died along the way.
They have come ashore further north than ever before, with some making landfall just 400 miles from the Equator. Brazilian coastguards have found themselves acting as penguin first-aiders, protecting them from an over-enthusiastic public whose first instinct is often to stick the birds in an ice bucket. Hundreds of penguins have been returned to their native territory in the south Atlantic ocean by an air force plane after being found along Brazil's coast.
Revival of the electric car: against industry’s gloomy forecast, hybrid & electric cars light up Paris Auto Show
Against a backdrop of generally gloomy sales forecasts and belt-tightening, a chorus of optimism rose from automakers at the Paris show as the technical hurdles of hybrids, plug-ins and electric vehicle development -- primarily involving the cost and capacity of advanced-chemistry batteries -- are gradually being overcome. "Two years ago nobody said an electric vehicle was even possible," said Pitt Moos, marketing manager for Smart USA. "Today everybody is saying, 'We're going to make one.' "
At the show, Smart -- the maker of those tiny two-seat city cars -- announced plans to build all-electric vehicles for Europe by the end of the decade. But it hasn't said what its intentions are for the U.S. market. "The challenge has always been the battery," Moos said. Compact, energy-dense lithium chemistry batteries for automotive applications are expensive and can be hazardous. "We have just in the past couple of months become comfortable about a method of making lithium batteries for cars," Moos said. "Now some people are starting to quote Obama: Yes, we can."
Queen Elizabeth II buys world largest wind turbine - towers over Big Ben, to light up thousands of British homes
It's been a century or so since Britain ruled the waves, but Queen Elizabeth II will soon reign over the wind. Earlier this year the Crown Estate, which manages royal property worth $14 billion and controls the seas up to 14 miles off the British coast, agreed to purchase - for an undisclosed sum - the world's largest wind turbine.
It's a 7.5-megawatt monster to be built by Clipper Windpower of Carpinteria, Calif. Now the Royal Turbine is getting even bigger: Clipper has revealed to Fortune that Her Majesty's windmill has been super-sized to ten megawatts, producing five times the power generated by typical big turbines currently in commercial operation. The giant's wingspan stretches the length of two soccer fields. At 574 feet, the turbine soars over Big Ben and roughly equals 111 Queen Elizabeths (the actual queen) plus one corgi stacked on top of one another.