Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
Their mission: to comfort the families of soldiers who died fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and to lift the spirits of those wounded in the service of their country.
On Monday, the president is set to make a more common public trip - with reporters in tow - to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, home to many of the wounded and a symbol of controversy earlier in his presidency over the quality of care the veterans were receiving.
GIVING SUPPORT: Vice President Dick Cheney, an avid fly-fisherman, practices his cast with wounded troops from Walter Reed Army Medical Center during one of the half-dozen barbecues he's hosted at his Naval Observatory home. (White House photo)
But the size and scope of Mr. Bush's and Mr. Cheney's private endeavors to meet with wounded soldiers and families of the fallen far exceed anything that has been witnessed publicly, according to interviews with more than a dozen officials familiar with the effort.
"People say, 'Why would you do that?'" the president said in an Oval Office interview with The Washington Times on Friday. "And the answer is: This is my duty. The president is commander in chief, but the president is often comforter in chief, as well. It is my duty to be - to try to comfort as best as I humanly can a loved one who is in anguish."
Mr. Bush, for instance, has sent personal letters to the families of every one of the more than 4,000 troops who have died in the two wars, an enormous personal effort that consumed hours of his time and escaped public notice. The task, along with meeting family members of troops killed in action, has been so wrenching - balancing the anger, grief and pride of families coping with the loss symbolized by a flag-draped coffin - that the president often leaned on his wife, Laura, for emotional support.
"I lean on the Almighty and Laura," Mr. Bush said in the interview. "She has been very reassuring, very calming."
Mr. Bush also has met privately with more than 500 families of troops killed in action and with more than 950 wounded veterans, according to White House spokesman Carlton Carroll. Many of those meetings were outside the presence of the news media at the White House or at private sessions during official travel stops, officials said.
The first lady said those private visits, many of which she also attended, took a heavy emotional toll, not just on the president, but on her as well.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
Apple opened its flagship Munich retail outlet — the first Apple Store in Germany. A huge crowd showed up, and it’s all there in QTVR — Click here for the Quicktime VR IMage.
The store, at 1 Rosenstrasse, is the first of five retail shops that Apple plans to open in Germany, according to AppleInsider. Click here to see photos of the site — once the home of a Sport Schuster outlet — after Apple razed the existing building to construct one of their classic glass-enclosed retail spaces.
According to the store’s official website, Apple employees were going to hand out T-shirts to the first 2,500 people who showed up. Judging from the panorama, they didn’t bring enough.
The Gluhwein sign is at 6 o-clock from the start of the panorama.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
Cesar Kuriyama, a New York animator and lighting technical director, has directed a visually arresting music video using an interesting technique.
Eschewing a video camera, he took 45,000 photographs with a Nikon D200 DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera and stitched them together to create the illusion of video.
The music video was created for the band Fat City Reprise and premiered at their homecoming concert in Philadelphia.
Kuriyama says he directed the talent in the video to move as best they could in slow-motion while he had his director of photography Tommy Agriodimas shoot JPG bursts with the Nikon D200.
The duo were able to get about 60 images per burst at about four pictures per second. "Obviously we did many takes for each shot," says Kuriyama. "Eventually one good take of them moving in slow motion would look great."
After that the team re-worked the frames in post-production to move closer to 24 frames per second.
Including the time for conceptualizing and creating the story board, it took Kuriyama about 14 months to the video. He worked on it after-work hours every day.
The whole video cost just about $3000 to make, says Kuriyama, "plus the endless personal hours."
The video also features an animated stuffed animal designed and created by a friend. Kuriyama rigged it with blue sticks coming out of its arms and legs and wore a black suit to hide him. Post-production tricks helped firm the illusion.
Much of the editing for the video, says Kuriyama, was done on his MacBook Pro in Final Cut Pro. He managed the photographs in iPhoto and did the effects in Eyeon Fusion.
Kuriyama's efforts is an interesting way to circumvent the challenge that photographers face when it comes to creating high quality videos at low cost.
Compact digital cameras, which have had video-recording capabilities for years, offer disappointing image quality. High-end video and movie cameras are bulky and can be very expensive.
But the $2700 21-megapixel Canon 5D Mark II capable of 1080p HD video and the $1300 12-megapixel Nikon D90, which can record 720p HD video could change the game.
The two cameras deliver very high quality video and still images and could help photographers move to a single camera for their needs.
The simple phrase his father repeated into Tchicaya Missamou's ears as a child still echoes thousands of miles from his homeland.
Missamou never forgets the words that helped him survive a civil war in his native country and foreign war in Iraq.
Missamou, 30, owns Warrior Fitness Camp in Valencia.
The fitness center transformed more than 600 people's lives in its 18 months of operations, Missamou said.
"We give people hope that they can change their bodies, their health and how they feel," he said.
Missamou's life is filled with change, turmoil and transformation.
He was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a member of the Bakongo tribe. At 7 years old,
Missamou was recruited into the Bakongo tribal militia to wage civil war against tribes in the northern region of the country.
"I saw drugs and alcohol used to make kids shoot people with AK-47s," he said.
A second wave of civil unrest broke out in 1997 and the militia tried to recruit then 19-year-old Missamou again.
"I was tired of the war," he said.
"They beat me up then tied me up," Missamou said.
Tribal militia members raped his mother in front of him. The militia threw Missamou and his mother into their home and set it on fire. Missamou broke free and carried his mother to safety, he said.
Missamou's father, a member of the police force, obtained a forged passport and snuck him out of Congo.
"At that time black Africans were not allowed to leave the country," he said. His father convinced a pilot to sneak Missamou out of the country.
His family paid for defying the tribe.
"They put my father in jail, beat and tortured him and injected him with the HIV virus," he said.
His father remains imprisoned.
Missamou arrived in the United States in 1997 with little money and no English skills. He was mugged at a bus station his first day in the country, he said.
On March 26, 2000, Missamou joined the U.S. Marine Corps, where he learned English and graduated first in his infantry class.
"I had lost my family. I had lost hope," he said. "The Marine Corps is my family. It gives me hope."
He became a U.S. citizen in 2003, and when the Iraq war began he was part of the first wave of Marines to invade the country. He gave to his new country and continued to give after he returned from the war.
Missamou began training people from his Saugus garage in 2006.
"I started with two people and within six months it grew to 37," he said.
He combines military training techniques with Third World realities. "You don't need fancy equipment," he said pointing to a tire. Missamou makes his students drag tires with weighted back packs.
"This is what life is like in Africa," he said.
He moved his business to Valencia in February 2007, and the grand opening was accompanied by another event. His mother moved here from the Congo.
"One day I will go back and get my father and the rest of my family," he said.
LOS ANGELES — A program to exchange guns for gifts has brought in a record number of weapons this year as residents hit hard by the economy look under the bed and in closets to find items to trade for groceries.
The annual Gifts for Guns program wound down Sunday in Compton, a working class city south of Los Angeles that has long struggled with gun and gang violence. In a program similar to ones in New York and San Francisco, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department allows residents to anonymously relinquish firearms in return for $100 gift cards for Ralphs supermarkets, Target department stores or Best Buy electronics stores.
Turning in assault rifles yields double that amount.
In years past, Target and Best Buy were the cards of choice, with residents wanting presents for the holidays.
A fall resulted in a shoulder injury to Grylls, who is en route back home to Britain for medical treatment and assessment of the injury's severity, according to Discovery.
He was not filming for Discovery, but instead was taking part in an independent expedition.
The 34-year-old Grylls has hosted "Man vs. Wild," on which he strands himself in remote locations to demonstrate survival techniques, since November 2006.
The former British Special Forces member recently published "Man vs. Wild: Survival Techniques for the Most Dangerous Places on Earth."Story link.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Vice President-elect Joe Biden was briefed on the panel's study on Tuesday. Among other things, the report suggests that the incoming Obama administration shore up its counterterrorism efforts to fight against germ warfare.
"Our margin of safety is shrinking, not growing," states the report, a copy of which was obtained by FOX News. It is scheduled to be publicly released Wednesday.
The commission is also encouraging the new White House to appoint one official on the National Security Council to exclusively coordinate U.S. intelligence and foreign policy on combatting the spread of nuclear and biological weapons.
The report of the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism, led by former Sens. Bob Graham of Florida and Jim Talent of Missouri, acknowledges that terrorist groups still lack the needed scientific and technical ability to make weapons out of pathogens or nuclear bombs.
But it warns that gap can be easily overcome, if terrorists find scientists willing to share or sell their know-how.
"The United States should be less concerned that terrorists will become biologists and far more concerned that biologists will become terrorists," the report states.
The commission believes biological weapons are more likely to be obtained and used before nuclear or radioactive weapons because nuclear facilities are more carefully guarded.
Civilian laboratories with potentially dangerous pathogens abound, however, and could easily be compromised.
"The biological threat is greater than the nuclear; the acquisition of deadly pathogens, and their weaponization and dissemination in aerosol form, would entail fewer technical hurdles than the theft or production of weapons-grade uranium or plutonium and its assembly into an improvised nuclear device," states the report.
Full story link.