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Figures & Facts


Air, space, and frozen time at the Udvar-Hazy Center - a Smithsonian air museum about aircraft, and more aircraft

a Boeing 307 Clipper, the first pressurized passenger liner, with a tail section adapted from the B-17 Flying Fortress, seen at Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va

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The first thing visitors encounter in the main display area of the Udvar-Hazy Center, the National Air and Space Museum annex near Dulles airport in the Virginia countryside, is a huge black spy plane. It’s an SR-71A Blackbird, the ultimate hot-rod aircraft, one of about 30 built at the Lockheed Skunk Works in California in the 1960s. This one last flew in 1990, traveling the 2,300 miles between Los Angeles and Washington in 1 hour 4 minutes 20 seconds - a transcontinental blur.

But now it’s at a standstill, giving visitors the chance to appreciate its outrageousness. There are the two massive engines on short, stubby wings; the tiny cockpit where the two-man crew was shoehorned in wearing bulky pressure suits; and the sweeping titanium fuselage that was built so loosely, to allow for expansion in the heat of supersonic flight, that the fuel tanks that made up the bulk of the plane routinely leaked, losing as much as 600 pounds of fuel taxiing to the runway.

SR-71A Blackbird, the ultimate hot-rod aircraft  read more »

Paperless - the future of newspapers? Century-old Christian Science Monitor ends daily print edition to focus online

Mary Baker Eddy was the founder of the Christian Science movement - she advocated Christian Science as a spiritual practical solution to health and moral issues

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The century-old Christian Science Monitor announced Tuesday that it will become the first nationally distributed newspaper to stop publishing a daily print edition, and focus on publishing online, succumbing to the financial pressure squeezing its industry harder than ever. The Boston-based paper is not forsaking print altogether - it will offer a weekly print version in addition to daily e-mail editions - but editors acknowledged shifting the focus to CSMonitor.com will save millions in addition to widening its audience.

The Boston-based general-interest paper, winner of seven Pulitzer Prizes, has long since established an extraordinary reputation for high-quality journalism. It was founded a century ago in 1908 by a religious visionary, Mary Baker Eddy, who "discovered" Christian Science and founded the paper in response to critical coverage of her in the New York World. She declared in the first edition that the role of the paper would be to "injure no man, but bless all mankind."

entrance to the Christian Science Monitor building in Boston. A century after it began publication, the paper is giving up its daily print edition to focus on posting news online  read more »

Comfort food - 14th Chocolate Show opens in Paris with 400 exhibitors & 140 chocolatiers from around the world

Former Miss France 2007 Rachel Legrain-Trapani presents a creation by Jean Doucet and Ghraoui Chocolatier at the 14th Salon du Chocolat (Paris Chocolate Show) in Paris October 28, 2008

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The 14th edition of the Chocolate Fair has opened in Paris featuring 400 exhibitors and 140 chocolatiers from around the world, featuring displays and mountains of chocolate, top pastry chefs and sculptures. Visitors will be able to sample treats, creamy truffles and steaming cups of hot chocolate.

"It may be doom and gloom for everybody else, but for us all is well," said Gilles Marchal of luxury French chocolate-maker La Maison du Chocolat, speaking as the annual Paris chocolate show opened Wednesday. "Chocolate is a comfort-food," he added. "There has been no drop in sales."

in these troubled times, chocolate-makers are walking on the wild side with weird flavours such as cauliflower

The French have had a long-standing love affair with chocolate since its introduction to the country by Anne of Austria in 1615. It was presented as a wedding gift upon her marriage to Louis XIII. Anne of Austria only married him on condition that she could bring her own chocolate supplies from Spain. By the mid-1600s, the chocolate drink had gained widespread popularity in France.  read more »

Water is the theme at inaugural Prix Pictet - first international photography prize to focus on sustainability

Sebastian Copeland: Stormy Weather. Series: Antarctica: The Global Warning Melchior Islands, Antarctica, 2006

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What is photography for? Can it change our minds? An exhibition just opened at Paris’s Palais de Tokyo, of the 18 photographers short listed for the first Prix Pictet, poses these questions loud and clear.

The Pictet prize, established this year by Pictet & Cie, one of Switzerland’s largest private banks, and co-sponsored by the Financial Times, is the only international photography prize that concerns itself directly with sustainable development and environmental issues. In that sense it isn’t quite a conventional art prize but an award – of 100,000 Swiss francs (SFr) – to be given annually to the artist who best uses the power of the camera to communicate a vital dispatch on one of the most serious issues facing us all.

Sanggen Dalai, Inner Mongolia, China. Women flee the main street as dust fills the air. This shot is from Benoit Aquin's series, which has won the overall prize of £50,000. The Chinese Dust Bowl documents scarce water resources, desertification and ecological refugees in China  read more »

Columbian library "Biblioburro" with 4800 books and 10 legs - schoolteacher brings books to villagers on 2 donkeys

Mr. Soriano said the idea came to him as a young teacher after he witnessed the transformative power of reading among his pupils, who were born into conflict even more intense than when he was a child

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In a ritual repeated nearly every weekend for the past decade here in Colombia’s war-weary Caribbean hinterland, Luis Soriano gathered his two donkeys, Alfa and Beto, in front of his home on a recent Saturday afternoon. Sweating already under the unforgiving sun, he strapped pouches with the word “Biblioburro” painted in blue letters to the donkeys’ backs and loaded them with an eclectic cargo of books destined for people living in the small villages beyond.

“I started out with 70 books, and now I have a collection of more than 4,800,” said Mr. Soriano, 36, a primary school teacher who lives in a small house here with his wife and three children, with books piled to the ceilings. “This began as a necessity; then it became an obligation; and after that a custom,” he explained, squinting at the hills undulating into the horizon. “Now,” he said, “it is an institution.”

At stops along the way, children still await Mr. Soriano in groups, to hear him read from the books he brings before they can borrow them  read more »

Red Bull Air Race - world's largest spectator sporting event: next race begins this weekend in Perth, Australia

British pilot Steve Jones climbs skyward, above the Danube River and the Hungarian Parliament Building, during a qualifying run of the Red Bull Air Race World Series in Budapest August 19, 2008

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The Red Bull Air Race, started in 2003, is a series of air races, held all over the world, where pilots fly specialized aerobatic planes (with top speeds of over 250 mph / 400 kph) through a series of gates, racing the clock, accumulating points toward the championship title. Pilots must also perform specific maneuvers while passing through the gates. The photos shown here are from the most recent two races, in Budapest, Hungary, and Porto, Portugal. The next race in the series is scheduled for November 1st, in Perth, Australia, and video of the event will also be streamed over the web. Last year's Red Bull Air Race World Championship final in Perth attracted 340,000 spectators.

Hungarian pilot Peter Besenyei (bottom), Britain's Nigel Lamb and Paul Bonhomme (top) fly over Budapest, Hungary

Hungarian pilot Peter Besenyei (bottom), Britain's Nigel Lamb and Paul Bonhomme (top) fly over Budapest, Hungary on August 17, 2008 during their "recon flight" prior to the seventh stage of the Red Bull Air Race World Series. Picture taken August 17, 2008.  read more »

Any bailouts for the hungry? Financial meltdown both worsens and overshadows global food crisis as prices rise

Istanbul, Turkey: Dinner Time; the Cinar family gathers on the floor of their living room to share the meal: feta cheese, olives, leftover chicken, bread, rose jam and sweet, strong tea

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Wealthy nations are reneging on commitments to help feed the world's hungry and may cite the banking crisis as a reason why they cannot do more, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told an international conference on combating starvation. Annan's address emphasized that 10,000 children in the Third World would die from malnutrition on World Food Day alone - and this should be viewed as great a tragedy as the collapse of a bank. "The financial crisis deserves urgent attention and focus. But so does the question of hunger. Millions (this year) are liable to die. Is that any less urgent?" Annan told journalists at the Fighting Hunger conference attended by 200 foreign-aid experts from Europe, Africa and the United States.

Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp; Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23; Favorite foods: soup with fresh sheep meat  read more »

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