An abandoned Hazel Park lumber yard will be home to a vodka, rum, gin and whiskey distillery in a few short months.

Although he still needs licenses from the local, state and federal governments to distill the spirits and occupy the space, he’s moving full-steam ahead will renovations to the building, which has been abandoned for about seven years. [Full story]

Troy built it . . . no one came
The City of Troy's eminent domain suit against Grand Sakwa is the latest news resulting from the mess after the erection of a hoped-for "multi-modal transit center."  The city wants to regain the property now occupied by that failed development.

'Nobody wants' Ferndales' proposed downtown project
Early opposition to a proposed mixed-use development which would include two parking decks "presents a lot of challenges," said Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter, speaking to about 100 residents. "Clearly you can see nobody wants this. I urge you to stop," a downtown business owner told officials, according to an Oakland Press report.


Holder plays the race card . . . again
Over the weekend in an interview with ABC's This Week, Attorney General Eric Holder suggested (again) some people are opponents of President Obama and himself because they are black.

"There’s a certain level of vehemence, it seems to me, that’s directed at me, directed at the president,” Holder said. "You know, people talking about taking their country back. I can’t look into people’s hearts, look into people’s minds. But it seems to me that this president has been treated differently than others."

"There’s a certain racial component to this for some people. I don’t think this is the thing that is a main driver, but for some there’s a racial animus,” he added.

If Holder really believes it's just a "few" people who oppose him based on his skin color, then why does he continually make those "few" the focus? The Obama administration repeatedly uses the race argument to shut down debate about serious topics and controversies. --

Fixing dreadful sanitation in India requires not just building lavatories
but also changing habits

CHEER any Indian leader who takes on the taboo of public hygiene, one of the country’s great problems. Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, says building toilets is a priority over temples. His finance minister, Arun Jaitley, used this month’s budget to set a goal of ending defecating in the open by 2019. That will be 150 years since the birth of Mohandas Gandhi, who said good sanitation was more important than independence.

Ending open defecation would bring immense benefits. Some 130m households lack toilets. More than 72% of rural people relieve themselves behind bushes, in fields or by roadsides. The share is barely shrinking. Of the 1 billion people in the world who have no toilet, India accounts for nearly 600m. -- The Economist

Prez doesn't let international matters interfere with his hamburger & fundraising tour
Demonstrating how cool he is under pressure, our President reacted to complaints that he seemed not to notice or react to important international events --  like a passenger place shot out of the sky, for example -- with a White House statement which said, in effect, "We didn't want to frighten the American people" by altering his already announced schedule.

Besides, except for making a meandering and meaningless statement, he had not an inkling about what his reactions should have been. Six years in, and he still believes that saying a few or many words absolves him from any obligation to actually do something -- or even to suggest something specific for others to do.

Perry sure to run for President?
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who entered the 2012 GOP nomination race but exited with a whimper, has been making moves hinting at a 2016 bid for President. Most recently he's been to Iowa multiple times, and the Associated Press is reporting that he's been shoring up support with donors and strategists: --

Can BRICS development bank become a rival to the World Bank?
Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa have founded a $100 billion 'New Development Bank' that will lend to members and other developing countries, a potential alternative to the Washington-based World Bank.
Yes, you read that headline correctly. Bowe Bergdahl, the Army Sgt. accused by his fellow platoon members of desertion and possible collaboration with the Taliban against the United States, is headed back to active duty. More from CNN:
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has finished undergoing medical care and counseling at an Army hospital in San Antonio and could return to an Army unit on a Texas post as early as Monday, a defense official tells CNN.

Bergdahl was held captive by militants for five years before he was released in May in exchange for five senior Taliban members held by the U.S. military. He has always maintained his active duty status. He cannot retire from the service or be discharged until the investigation concerning his disappearance and captivity in Afghanistan is complete.

For about three weeks, Bergdahl has been an outpatient at the San Antonio hospital, and military officials have interviewed him about his time in captivity.

Bergdahl is set to take a job at Fort Sam Houston, the Army post in San Antonio, according to an Army statement Monday. He will return to "regular duty within the command where he can contribute to the mission," the statement said.

At this point, not a single soldier from Bergdahl's platoon has come forward to defend him or to justify his disappearance. Army Spc. Cody Full, who testified in front of Congress last month about Berghdahl's disappearance, is not impressed. --


Solar Sail Spacecraft to Hitch a Free Ride on a Light Breeze in 2016

LightSail 1 will launch onboard SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket to demonstrate propellant-free propulsion 

LightSail is designed to be the first mission to demonstrate controlled solar sailing for small, affordable spacecraft called cubesats. 
Josh Spradling / The Planetary Society

Just as sailboats use wind pressure to propel through water, solar sails use the pressure from light radiated by the sun to move through space. Once the province of science fiction authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, solar sailing is gradually moving into the realm of reality. A privately funded $4.5-million mission to test solar sailing technology called LightSail now has a launch date in April 2016 and a ride to space onboard SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. Once in orbit, LightSail 1 will make maneuvers using sunlight, rather than rocke

t fuel. “Solar sailing has been under development at a slow pace for a lot of years,” says LightSail Project Manager Doug Stetson of the nonprofit Planetary Society, which is organizing and funding the mission. “The reason it’s hung on all these years is because of the potential for basically free propulsion throughout the solar system.”
LightSail 1 is a small spacecraft made of a stock of three 10-centimeter-wide squares called cubesats. After being carried to medium Earth orbit—more than 2,000 kilometers above the planet, high enough to escape most of its atmospheric drag—LightSail 1 will deploy four ultrathin Mylar sails that will stretch to 32 square meters (potentially large enough for naked-eye observers to spot from the ground). These sails will be bombarded with sunlight and each light particle, or photon, that impacts them will impart a tiny bit of momentum. Added up, those tiny bits should be enough to move the spacecraft without the need for heavy and expensive chemical propellant. If LightSail’s orbital speed increases once it deploys its sail, engineers will know it works.
In theory, solar sailing should be powerful enough to propel a spacecraft out of Earth orbit and into the solar system. “The disadvantage to that is it takes a long time [to move], just like it takes a lot longer to sail to the Bahamas than drive a speedboat,” Stetson says. Still, in space beyond Earth’s atmosphere without friction to stop it, once a solar sail gets going, it keeps accelerating as long as sunlight keeps hitting it. That makes solar sails an appealing option to explore the whole of the solar system and beyond. Many experts say they’re the likeliest candidate to propel the first interstellar mission to another star, with extra thrust supplied by a laser, perhaps stationed in orbit around the sun, aimed at the sail in addition to sunlight. One downside, however, is that solar sails don’t come with brakes or any means of changing trajectory or slowing down once they’re zooming. One possible solution is using a planet or star’s gravity to decelerate the craft or slingshot it along a desired path.
Those consideration are beyond the scope of LightSail 1, which simply aims to prove that the basic technology is sound—especially for maneuvering lightweight, low-cost spacecraft like cubesats, which despite their small size can still pack enough instruments for basic science, navigation and communication. “We really hope that this concept of using cubesats and solar sails together really takes off,” Stetson says. “There could be a whole new domain of solar system exploration missions that could be very inexpensive.”
LightSail 1 will fly on a privately funded vehicle—the Falcon Heavy rocket being developed by the commercial spaceflight company SpaceX. The firm’s smaller Falcon 9 rockets have established a reliable track record but the heavy version, powerful enough to travel beyond low Earth orbit—or LEO, 160 to 2,000 kilometers high—has yet to fly. Solar sails require such a significant initial push because the atmospheric drag in LEO is too strong for them to operate.
LightSail 1 will not be the first-ever solar sailing mission. The Planetary Society itself tried to launch a solar sail called Cosmos 1 in 2005, but a rocket failure doomed the mission. In 2010 Japan successfully flew the Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun (IKAROS), which launched along with a spacecraft bound for Venus and used a solar sail as its main means of propulsion. Later that same year NASA launched the NanoSail-D mission, which deployed a small sail in LEO. Despite its low altitude, the mission successfully deployed its sail, although it didn’t use it to fly. NASA is also planning a larger solar sailing mission called Sunjammer, which was originally scheduled to launch in 2015. After a recent technology review, however, the agency delayed the mission indefinitely. Still, LightSail 1 is notable because, if successful, it will be the first to demonstrate controlled solar sailing for cubesats.
NASA has two more solar sailing missions in the works, both using cubesats. Lunar Flashlight will search for ice deposits in craters on the moon and Near-Earth Asteroid Scout will visit a local space rock to see if it might make a good destination for a later human mission. Both are slated to fly on the first liftoff of NASA’s next heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System, in 2017. If they launch, they will be among the first solar sail missions whose primary purpose is science, not simply a technology demonstration. “No one has built a solar sail to do as complex a mission as either of those,” says Robert Staehle, assistant division manager for advanced concepts at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Those two missions are partly to mature the technology of solar sailing, he says, but primarily NASA is “counting on the solar sail to get the scientific payload to a specific orbit.”
If LightSail 1 is a success, it could help pave the way for those missions. “Of the techniques I’ve seen so far, I think LightSail is the most mass-and-volume efficient,” Staehle says. “What LightSail is doing is putting everything in a smaller package, making it less expensive, and I think in some ways that will reduce the risk in the eyes of NASA for the Lunar Flashlight and Scout missions.” --
Scientific American