Mysterious Air Force Space Plane Finishes Record-Breaking Flight

A mysterious space plane belonging to the United States Air Force reportedly returned to Earth on Sunday following a record-breaking 780 days in orbit. Known as the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, the curious craft was launched via a Space X Falcon 9 booster back on September 7th, 2017. This particular flight was the fifth such mission for the space plane and, a few months ago, it smashed the previous endurance record for the vessel which stood at 718 days in orbit.

Resembling the iconic Space Shuttle, but measuring a mere 29 feet long, the solar-powered reusable craft has long been the subject of speculation since its mission and payloads are highly classified. Additionally, it’s origin as a project developed by NASA, but then taken over by DARPA before becoming the responsibility of the US Air Force has also spawned all manner of suggestions as to what its purpose might be. Some conspiracy theorists have posited that perhaps it is some kind of spy plane, while more fantastic researchers have put forward the idea that the X-27B is somehow connected to the UFO phenomenon.

Alas, an Air Force press release announcing the completion of the X-37B’s latest mission provided little in the way of solid answers and just enough vague hints to maintain the craft’s cryptic reputation. To that end, the statement declared that “this mission successfully hosted Air Force Research Laboratory experiments, among others, as well as providing a ride for small satellites.” What, exactly, was being done aboard the space plane as well as the nature of the satellites it deployed were unfortunately not revealed to the public. Be that as it may, it would seem that the return to Earth is merely a brief respite for the craft as it is set to be launched back into space next year for what one assumes will be another mysterious marathon mission.

The Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission 4 landed at NASA ‘s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility May 7, 2017. Managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, the X-37B program is the newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft that performs risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies.

TODAY’S BIG QUESTION: IS HALLOWEEN REALLY A HOLIDAY?

While some may question the origins and legitimacy of Halloween, it apparently is one of America’s favorite holidays. In 2019, according to the National Retail Federation’s consumer survey, 172 million Americans plan to participate in the holiday. So where did this tradition come from and why is there such devotion to it?

The holiday is believed to have originated with the celebration of Samhain, a Celtic harvest festival, observed between sunsets on October 31 and November 1. According to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, Celts began the Halloween tradition of wearing costumes, often animal skin to hide themselves from spirits, and masks to impersonate ancestors who had preceded them to the spirit world.

Revelers went from house to house performing silly acts in exchange for food and drink, possibly an extension of an earlier custom of leaving refreshments outdoors as offerings to supernatural beings. This likely inspired today’s trick-or-treat traditions.

Some believe the day has pagan roots. Christian leaders stepped in to transform pagan holidays, and in the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV decreed November 1 All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows’ Day. In some parts of the world, Christians attend services and visit graves. The celebration of Halloween became more popular with Irish immigration to the U.S. in the 1800s. Anoka, Minnesota, may be home to the United States’ oldest official Halloween celebration. In 1920, the city began staging a parade and bonfire to mark the day.

Still a Halloween skeptic? Consumers are expected to spend $8.8 billion on Halloween. Beyond the billions in candy and decorations, there’s this: 29 million people plan to dress their pets in Halloween costumes.

‘Neon’ movie posters of cult films by Quentin Tarantino, Dario Argento, Stanley Kubrick and more

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The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980) neon movie poster

 

Using the art of “one point perspective” (an approach to art that began as early as the 15th century in Europe that utilizes a “vanishing point” on the horizon point of the image) two Italian twin brothers (working under the moniker Van Orton Design) took on the task of digitally reimagining movie posters based on cult films from directors like Dario Argento and Wes Anderson, in vivid electric neon color schemes.

 

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Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977)

 

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Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)

 

Although the twins used modern methods to obtain their striking results, there is a distinct old-school feel to their posters that homage some of cinema’s greatest achievements of the past 50 years. The brothers, who appear to prefer to remain nameless and obscure their faces with masks, have also managed to have the films be seen through fresh eyes due to their unique presentation and interpretation of different, unforgettable scenes in the films themselves. Such as the moment Marcellus Wallace unfortunately strolled in front of the beat up Honda that Butch Coolidge was driving in Pulp Fiction (pictured above) before everything goes to shit for both of them.

 

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The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)

 

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2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

 

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Big Trouble in Little China (John Carpenter, 1986)

 

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Army of Darkness ( Sam Raimi, 1992)

 

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Deep Red (Dario Argento, 1975)

 

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The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

Subway Pushers of Japan

The Japanese rail network is known throughout the world for its superiority and punctuality. In the capital city Tokyo, nearly 40 million passengers ride the rail every day, heavily outweighing other modes of transport like buses and private cars. Of these, 22% or 8.7 million take the subway.

The Tokyo subway network is a transportation marvel. On most lines, trains come every 5 minutes apart, on average, and during peak times, they tend to run every 2-3 minutes. That’s about 24 trains per hour going in one direction. Despite so many trains, the subway is extremely overcrowded, especially during rush hour. This page from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has data (from 2007) detailing the level of congestion at different stations of Tokyo’s subway. As you can see, nearly all of them run at over capacity with a few running at 200% over rated capacity.

 

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“Oshiya” or “pushers” at Tokyo’s Shinjuku station trying to pack as many passengers as possible into the carriages during rush hour in 1967. Photo credit: CNN

In order to fit twice the number of passengers into a subway carriage, the stations employ uniformed staff known as oshiya or “pusher”, whose goal is to cram as many people as possible into the subway tram. These white glove-wearing personal actually pushes people into the train, so the doors can be shut. This is so surreal, it has to be seen to be believed.

 

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When pushers were first brought in at Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station, they were called “passenger arrangement staff” and were largely made up of students working part-time. Nowadays, there are no dedicated “pushers”. The station staff and part-time workers fill these roles during rush hours.

Although a Japanese phenomenon now, subway pushers were an American invention and originated in New York City, nearly a century ago. They were not very well-liked because they were known to push and shove passengers with hostility. The vigor with which the guards often did their job earned them the reputation as “sardine packers”. Their brutality sometimes made national headlines. “The Anxious Subway Guard Who Guillotines His Passengers” —screamed a headline, and “Long Suffering New York Subway Riders Cheer Man Who Hit Guards” —reported another.

Pushers became out of fashion with the introduction of automatic door controls and automatic turnstiles. As the sadistic sardine packers began to lose their job in the 1920s, their demise were mourned briefly. Several movies about subway workers came out during this period including Subway Sadie (1926), Wolf’s Clothing (1927), The Big Noise (1928), Love Over Night (1928) and so on. Subway pushers were also depicted in a 1941 biographical movie called Pusher — the story takes place during World War 1.

More recently, in 2012, Hong Kong- based photographer Michael Wolf created a photo series named Tokyo Compression, where he captured the traumatized and pained expression of commuters as their faces were crushed against the windows. These pictures show how horrible and shameful the situation inside the subway is. Bodies are squished so tightly against one another that most people can’t physically move. Short persons suffer the risk of getting smothered against the coat of their fellow passenger. Getting off at the right station require strength and determination, and fire hazards and emergency evacuation are serious issues. The subways are also fertile grounds for pickpockets and gropers.

 

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Japanese commuters wait in line for the next train, while people pushers push passengers onto the Yamanote line subway train during the morning rush hour at Shinjuku station in Tokyo, Japan. The daily ritual is performed to maximize the number of commuters on trains.

Japanese commuters wait in line for the next train, while people pushers push passengers onto the Yamanote line subway train during the morning rush hour at Shinjuku station in Tokyo, Japan. The daily ritual is performed to maximize the number of commuters on trains.

 

“Be Kind; Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle.” Plato.

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The Widest Freeway in the World

Where else? Houston, Texas of course.

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When constructed during the 1960s, the I-10 Katy from Houston, known as the Katy Freeway, was built with six to eight lanes wide barring side lanes, being modest by Houston standards because existing traffic demand to the farming area of West Houston was relatively low. As the population and economic activity increased in the area vehicular traffic increased, reaching an annual average daily traffic (AADT) of 238,000 vehicles just west of the West Loop in 2001.

In 2000 increased traffic levels and congestion led to plans being approved for widening of the freeway to 16 lanes with a capacity for 200,000 cars per day. An old railway running along the north side of the freeway was demolished in 2002 in preparation for construction which began in 2004. The interior two lanes in each direction between SH 6 and west I-610, the Katy Freeway Managed Lanes or Katy Tollway, were built as high-occupancy toll lanes and are managed by the Harris County Toll Road Authority. The section just west of SH 6 to the Fort Bend–Harris county line opened in late June 2006. Two intersections were rebuilt (Beltway 8 and I-610), toll booths were added, together with landscaping as part of Houston’s Highway Beautification Project. Most of the section between Beltway 8 and SH 6 had been laid by September 2006 and work was completed in October 2008.

Tolls on the managed lanes vary by vehicle occupancy, axle count and time of day. High occupancy vehicles may travel for free at certain times.

 

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Interstate 10 (I-10) is the major east–west Interstate Highway in the Southern United States. In the U.S. state of Texas, it runs east from Anthony, at the border with New Mexico, through El Paso, San Antonio and Houston to the border with Louisiana in Orange, Texas. At just under 880 miles (1,420 km), the Texas segment of I-10, maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation, is the longest continuous untolled freeway in North America that is operated by a single authority, a title formerly held by Ontario Highway 401. 

 

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Superman vs. Muhammad Ali

 

Superman vs. Muhammad Ali is an oversize comic book published by DC Comics in 1978. The 72-page book features Superman teaming up with the heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali to defeat an alien invasion of Earth. It was based on an original story by Dennis O’Neil which was adapted by Neal Adams, with pencils by Adams, and figure inks by Dick Giordano with background inks by Terry Austin.

 

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Superman vs. Muhammad Ali was part of DC’s oversized series All-New Collectors’ Edition, officially numbered #C-56.

By the late 1970s, Superman had already been paired in the comics pages with real-life American icons like John F. Kennedy, Steve Allen, Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, Allen Funt, Don Rickles, and Pat Boone. He had even previously gone up against a real-life athlete, professional wrestler Antonino Rocca.

The book suffered numerous delays, going from an original publication date of fall 1977 to spring 1978. By the time the book was published, Ali was no longer World Heavyweight Champion, having been dethroned by Leon Spinks in February 1978. (Ali won back the title later that year in September.)

 

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Plot summary

Rat’Lar, the maniacal leader of a species of aliens called the Scrubb, demands that Earth’s greatest champion fight the greatest Scrubb fighter. If Earth refuses, the Scrubb and their huge armada of spaceships will destroy it. Superman and Muhammad Ali each come forward to volunteer. However, Ali argues that Superman is not really of Earth, and has an unfair advantage in his many superpowers. In typical Ali-style verbiage, he puts himself forward as the obvious choice.

Intrigued, Rat’Lar decides that Superman and Ali should fight one another to see who really is Earth’s champion. To make the fight fair, he decrees that the match should take place on his home planet, Bodace, which orbits a red star (which temporarily robs Superman of his powers). The winner would simply be the best boxer. The two would-be champions decide that Ali will train Superman in the finer points of boxing. They journey to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude to have his powers temporarily deactivated.

The Superman vs. Muhammad Ali match is broadcast on intergalactic television to thousands of other worlds (with Superman’s pal Jimmy Olsen acting as broadcaster). With the match underway, it soon becomes apparent that in battling with more or less equal strength, Ali is the superior fighter. Superman takes a serious pummeling, but somehow refuses to fall down; he stays on his feet all through the beating. Finally, Ali stops the fight, urging the referee to call for a technical knockout. Superman then falls face-first on the canvas (making the knockout more than technical).

Now crowned Earth’s champion, Ali is set to face the Scrubb’s champion, the behemoth Hun’Ya. The alien leader then asks Ali to predict at what round the fight will end. (Ali was known for predicting the round in which he would knock out his opponent.) After some chiding, Ali predicts that he will knock the alien out in the fourth round (“He’ll hit the floor in four!”). Once the match begins, however, Ali quickly starts to suffer from fighting the super-powered Hun’Ya.

Meanwhile, Superman’s great recuperative powers have enabled him to make a speedy recovery. Disguising himself as Ali cornerman Bundini Brown, he steals into the Scrubb command ship and sabotages their space armada. In his showdown with the armada, however, Superman is again badly hurt, and is left drifting in space.

Miraculously, Ali gets a second wind. In the predicted fourth round, he not only knocks the alien champion out, but out of the ring as well. Yet after witnessing Superman’s decimation of his forces, the Scrubb leader cries foul and decides to invade the now helpless Earth anyway. Just as Rat’Lar is about to give the go-ahead to his backup forces, his own champion Hun’Ya becomes enraged at Rat’Lar’s dishonorable tactics and deposes him. There will be no invasion. Earth is saved.

Superman is rescued and once again revived. Hun-ya, the new Scrubb leader, makes peace with Ali, Superman, and all of Earth. The very end of the book shows Ali and Superman in a private moment. Ali reveals that he figured out Superman’s secret identity as Clark Kent, but implicitly vows to keep it secret. The book ends with the two champions embracing and Ali proclaiming, “Superman, WE are the greatest!”

 

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World heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, right, is shown at a press conference in New York, January 31, 1978, with promoter Don King, left, and Herbert Muhammad, center, to plug a comic book in which he beats Superman.  Ali holds a copy of the comic book.  (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler)

World heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, right, is shown at a press conference in New York, January 31, 1978, with promoter Don King, left, and Herbert Muhammad, center, to plug a comic book in which he beats Superman. Ali holds a copy of the comic book. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler)

 

Superman vs. Muhammad Ali’s wraparound cover shows a host of late 1970s celebrities, including Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Tony Orlando, Johnny Carson, the cast of Welcome Back, Kotter, and The Jackson 5; sharing close-up seating with Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, and other DC superheroes; as well as Warner and DC employees.

Joe Kubert was originally asked to draw the cover, and his version (a black-and-white sketch of which still survives) did not feature any celebrities, but just a “normal” raucous crowd of boxing fans. DC did not approve of Kubert’s likeness of Ali, however, nor the overall grim feeling of the piece, and asked Adams to draw the book instead. Adams’ original cover illustration (modeled very closely on Kubert’s layout), included Mick Jagger in the front cover’s lower left corner; he was replaced in the final version by fight promoter Don King.

In 2000, Adams did a riff on this cover — featuring Ali fighting basketball star Michael Jordan — for a special issue of ESPN The Magazine.

On July 16, 2016, NECA announced the release of a 2-pack set of 7-inch action figures based on Muhammad Ali and Superman as they appeared in the comic. NECA also noted that Superman would include removable boxing gloves and another set of interchangeable hands.

 

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People in the crowd (selected)
“Show-biz personalities”
Political figures
  • President Gerald Ford
  • President Jimmy Carter
  • Betty Ford
  • Rosalynn Carter
Sports figures
Pelé
  • Don King
  • Joe Namath
Literature and the arts
Kurt Vonnegut

 

 

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Those so very wacky 1970’s!