Posted on

Google to Political Campaigns: Get Online, Now

Google to Political Campaigns: Get Online, Now


Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have been pouring money into television — long considered the most crucial place for a political campaign to advertise — to the tune of at least $125 million combined. However, Google is urging all political candidates not to overlook the importance of online advertising.

Google released on Tuesday the below infographic which shows how people’s appetite for media is changing — an evolution the company argues means that political advertising should change, too:

Google has been proselytizing the Internet’s political potential in “Four Screens to Victory,” an informational campaign which began in March. Throughout the campaign, Google has stressed the need for politicians to pay attention to the web and mobile devices, lest their message is lost given the increasing number of people who pay little attention to television in favor of personal computers and mobile devices.

“Access to political information no longer comes from one place — or one screen,” wrote Google in a blog post on Tuesday. “In just the four years since the last presidential election, the continued growth of the web and the proliferation of mobile devices has radically transformed when, where, and how voters access political information.”

To support that claim, Google published data about the increasing importance of the Internet and mobile devices vis-à-vis television, including:

1. More than 80% of eligible voters are online.
2. Similarly, 83% of mobile phone owners are registered voters.
3. One out of every 3 likely voters in November say that they didn’t watch television in the past week.
4. Voters are spending more media time on their mobile devices than with newspapers & magazines combined.

Google, of course, owns YouTube (a popular platform for campaigns to publish online videos) and sells online advertising, so it has a financial interest in convincing campaigns to bolster their web presence.

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have been spending unprecedented amounts of money on digital. A recent analysis by the marketing blog ClickZ found that the Obama and Romney campaigns are spending about 25% of their TV ad budget on digital — but should they be spending more? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thumbnail image courtesy of iStockphoto, pagadesign

Read more:

Posted on

Police Have Asked for 1.3 Million Cellphone Users’ Records

Police Have Asked for 1.3 Million Cellphone Users' Records


Police across the United States asked cellphone providers for the phone records, text message transcripts, location data and other information of at least 1.3 million customers during 2011, according to a Congressman investigating the practice.

Some of the data provided to Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), the lawmaker who carried out the investigation, indicated that the number of police requests to mobile carriers have exploded over the past five years. Law enforcement requests to AT&T alone more than doubled from 125,425 in 2007 to 261,365 in 2011 — approximately 700 requests every day.

One type of law enforcement request, wherein police ask cell providers for a so-called “dump” of information about subscribers near a certain cell tower at a given point in time, may mean that thousands more people have been involved in police requests.

Markey called the results of his investigation — the most thorough inquiry into the practice thus far — “startling.”

“We cannot allow privacy protections to be swept aside with the sweeping nature of these information requests, especially for innocent consumers,” said Markey in a statement. “Law enforcement agencies are looking for a needle, but what are they doing with the haystack? We need to know how law enforcement differentiates between records of innocent people, and those that are subjects of investigation, as well as how it handles, administers, and disposes of this information.”

Markey initially requested the information in May after reading about the practice. Nine carriers have returned letters detailing each company’s procedures when police request users’ information.

Verizon Wireless, for instance, has a “team of trained employees and managers” that responded to more than 700 police requests each day in 2011. The company noted that it requires a warrant from police in all but the most extreme circumstances.

“Unless a customer consents to the release of the information or law enforcement certifies that there is an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury, we do not release location information to law enforcement without a signed warrant or order from a judge,” reads Verizon’s letter, which also stressed that the company prioritizes customer privacy.

Other carriers also said they require a warrant in most cases and sometimes deny requests in the interest of customer privacy. Sprint, for example, detailed a sort of investigative Pong process in which some requests bounced between the company and police while escalating up the chain of command on either side.

About 88% of American adults now own a cell phone, while 46% of them own a smartphone. Both types of devices are capable of storing an immense amount of data that can be useful to police investigations.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation called the report an indication of a “privacy disaster” in a blog post on Monday. The EFF urged cell phone providers to follow the example set by Google and Twitter, both of which deliver transparency reports about police and government requests for users’ data.

Should cellphone providers publish reports about police requests for users’ information? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, anouchka

Read more:

Posted on

Asteroid Headed for Earth in 2880 Is Really Just a Clump of Rubble

Asteroid Headed for Earth in 2880 Is Really Just a Clump of Rubble


Artist’s impression of an asteroid.
Image: Flickr, Hubble ESA

An asteroid on NASA’s list of potential impact threats to the Earth is actually a pile of loosely connected rubble held together by forces weaker than the weight of a penny, scientists say.

The discovery could be vital if humanity ever has to destroy a giant space rock before it hits Earth, researchers added.

Astronomers investigated near-Earth asteroid 1950 DA, which is about four-fifths of a mile wide (1.3 kilometers). This asteroid currently has one of the greatest chances of colliding with Earth of any known asteroid, with about a 1 in 4,000 chance of impacting the Earth in the year 2880.

A study in 2003 suggested that if asteroid 1950 DA smashed into the Atlantic Ocean about 360 miles (580 km) from the United States, the resulting blast could be equal to a 60,000-megaton explosion, or about 3.75 million times stronger than the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, causing tsunami waves at least 200 feet high (60 meters) to crash against the East Coast.

Unexpectedly, the scientists found 1950 DA is a porous rubble pile, about half of which is empty space. They also discovered that this loose collection of rocks is spinning faster than the forces of gravity or friction would allow it to remain in one piece, which suggests mysterious forces are helping this clump of debris to stick together.

“I was expecting to find a high-density metallic asteroid, as such an asteroid wouldn’t require cohesive forces to hold itself together under its fast rotation,” lead study author Ben Rozitis, an astronomer at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, told “Instead we found the opposite!”

A rock pile in space

In the past decade, scientists have confirmed that many asteroids are not solid rocks, but are instead cosmic rubble piles made up of jumbles of rocks. Researchers typically suggest that these asteroids stay together due to gravity pulling them into clusters and friction locking them in place.

Asteroid 1950 DA is covered with sandy particles known as regolith. At the same time, the asteroid spins quickly, completing one revolution every 2.12 hours. The centripetal force the asteroid experiences — the same force that causes the arms of a spinning ice skater to drift outward — should fling its regolith away.

“We knew from previous work that this asteroid was rotating faster than it should be, and we wanted to know why,” Rozitis said.

Based on the asteroid’s size, density and shape, in order for centripetal force to not break 1950 DA apart, the researchers estimate the asteroid needs at least 64 pascals of pressure to hold together, similar to the amount of pressure a penny exerts on the palm of a person’s hand. Scientists have previously suggested that cohesive forces other than gravity and friction can help keep rubble-pile asteroids from spinning apart — for instance, van der Waals forces are weak, short-range electric forces that can attract particles together.

“We found a low-density rubble pile that traditionally would be unable to hold itself together unless cohesive forces were present,” Rozitis said. “It’s exciting because we’ve provided the first evidence that cohesive forces are important for small asteroids, which had only been predicted up until now.”

These findings could shed light on how disks of gas and dust around newborn stars coalesce into asteroids, comets, rings, moons and planets, researchers say. “Cohesive forces will be present in every asteroid, and not just the fast-spinning ones,” Rozitis said. “It is just easier to observe the effects of cohesive forces in the fast-spinning ones.”

Asteroid mining and defense concerns

In addition, the complexity of the forces holding rubble piles together might complicate government and private missions to visit and mine asteroids, they added.

“Mining missions intend to visit small asteroids about 10 meters (33 feet) or less in size, as it is thought that they are predominantly solid bodies,” Rozitis said. “However, cohesive forces enable such small asteroids to be rubble piles instead. A small rubble-pile asteroid would be harder to interact with and collect, as it can easily deform or break up when subject to external forces.”

This work could also inform future strategies to prevent asteroids from impacting Earth.

“The best way to mitigate an impacting asteroid is to nudge it slightly several years before impact so that it changes course,” Rozitis said. “This can be done by hitting the asteroid with a fast and heavy spacecraft. However, by hitting a fast rotating asteroid held together by cohesive forces, you risk breaking it up into several smaller, hazardous asteroids. Therefore, with such an asteroid, you want to avoid interacting with it directly to prevent it breaking up. An alternative is to use a ‘gravity tractor,’ or a heavy spacecraft placed near the asteroid, which uses the force of gravity to pull the asteroid off course.”

Future research can investigate fast-spinning asteroids of different compositions, “as the cohesive forces involved might vary with asteroid composition,” Rozitis said.

Rozitis and his colleagues Eric MacLennan and Joshua Emery detailed their research in the Aug. 14 edition of the journal Nature.

This article originally published at

Read more:

Posted on

Russia Promises Manned Launches From Own Soil in 2018

Russia Promises Manned Launches From Own Soil in 2018


Russia, one of the world’s space powerhouses, has been launching its rockets from Kazakhstan since the early days of its space program, but now plans to shift its launches to Russian soil within five years. But some experts question whether such a pace is realistic.

This spring, President Vladimir Putin pledged $51.8 billion by 2020 to place his country back in the top ranks of world space explorers. The centerpiece of that promise is Vostochny, a cosmodrome, or launch site, under construction in eastern Siberia, near the Chinese border. Within five years, Putin promised that an International Space Station crew would launch from Vostochny.

“Construction work is accelerated here,” Putin told the space station’s Expedition 35crew in Russian remarks translated on NASA Television April 12. Russia will be launching manned vehicles by 2018, he added. “The next stage, by 2020, we plan to launch extra-heavy vehicles.”

Putin’s motivations could be political — there have been tensions over the years with the Baikonur Cosmodrome lease in Kazakhstan — or, observers said, a move to bring more commercial space activity into his country.

Changing Allegiances

Baikonur used to be the crown jewel of Russia’s manned space program. Built amid the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States, Baikonur was the spot where Sputnik soared into the sky in 1957 and became the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth.

Four years later, humanity’s first spacefarer — Yuri Gagarin — launched from the cosmodrome, leading the charge for dozens of other cosmonauts to suit up and take missions of their own into orbit.

“The Russians have a historical interest in the space program because they were leaders for a long time,” Art Dula, a Houston-based space lawyer who has been in the industry for more than 30 years, told

Things changed as the Soviet Union crumbled. In 1991, Kazakhstan declared independence. Russia now was forced to lease its launch facility from another country to get its own manned missions off the ground.

The latest agreement between the two countries was signed in 2004, but took six years to ratify, according to Russian news service RIA Novosti. The pact allows the Russians to use Baikonur until 2050 for an annual lease price of $115 million, in addition to $50 million in yearly maintenance for the facility.

When the space shuttle program retired in 2011, Baikonur became one of only two locations in the world where humans launch to space — making it all the more precious for the Russians, said space consultant James Oberg. (The other is in China.)

But with NASA working on its own launch vehicles and commercial tourist flights taking off as soon as 2014, that prime position will evaporate shortly, he said.

“It’s a situation in which NASA will have been moving into a nondependent position vis-a-vis its own orbital transportation, which is a good thing [for the Americans],” Oberg, a former NASA space shuttle mission control engineer, told

“The Russians realize this,” Oberg said. “The Russians, looking at the future of their program, are very distressed.”

Motivating Politics

Oberg said the Russians and Kazakhstanis came to loggerheads several times since the first lease was signed. Disagreements about rocket trajectories, and concerns about the long-term stability of the Kazakhstani government, are both spurs in the sides of Russia to seek alternatives, he said.

“For the massive investment of the new cosmodrome, I’m not seeing any practical advantages to justify it, so I suspect that these are political and diplomatic purposes; they were the main motivation,” he said.

The venerable Russian Soyuz spacecraft that hauls people into orbit today will require a major overhaul to leave Earth from Vostochny, Oberg added. Baikonur is landlocked, while Vostochny is closer to the ocean.

“Just launching manned spacecraft over the ocean, for one, requires major changes in the abort modes and major hardware changes to the Soyuz [because] you’re coming down on water instead of land,” he said.

There could, however, be other economic factors at play. Asif Siddiqi, a Russian space analyst at Fordham University, said Russia has wanted to develop the countryside around Vostochny for decades.  “They could make it a science and technology hub,” he said.

Construction started in earnest last year, but companies have hesitated to participate out of fear it will be a boondoggle, he said. Siddiqi, though, said he believed eventual completion is possible.

“It’s going to happen. That’s not the question. But I just don’t think it’s going to happen as soon as [Putin] said it will,” he said.

Vostochny, Dula added, could spur a multitrillion dollar business when it does get going. Although there will be competition from other sites for commercial launch companies, he likened the situation to the dozens of airlines worldwide that take to the skies. Competition, he said, is good.

“I believe that President Putin recognized that Russia, to stay a leader in this area, had to invest billions of dollars to upgrade their facilities,” he said.

Further, economic studies undertaken by Dula’s company show the nascent commercial tourism industry could provide a significant profit to those willing to support it. While human launches are a minority of the space market now, Dula sees huge potential for unmanned liftoffs shortly.

“You can’t measure how many people are using a bridge by watching how many swim across the water,” Dula said. “This will be a growth industry … once there is a profit to be made in space from taking people into space, then the industry will develop very rapidly.”

Image courtesy of NASA/Carla Cioffi

This article originally published at

Read more:

Posted on

Announcing Mashable’s 2012 Social Good Summit

Announcing Mashable's 2012 Social Good Summit


As we move toward an increasingly connected society, people around the world are gaining access to digital tools and technologies to solve global issues. Millions are using social media to to debate, discuss and act on both the challenges and opportunities we all face. This Sept. 22-24, the 2012 Social Good Summit will highlight solutions to the most pressing problems shared around the globe.

Register for Social Good Summit 2011 - Presented by Mashable, 92Y and UN Foundation - September 19 - 22, 2011 in New York, NY  on Eventbrite

Brought to you by Mashable, 92nd Street Y, the United Nations Foundation, Ericsson, the U.N. Development Programme and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the third annual Social Good Summit promises to once again showcase the unparalleled effects of citizens united through social media and technology to change the world.

From detailed discussions on mobile technology, women’s economic empowerment, citizen journalism and global health to broader, inspirational talks on kindness and spirituality, few topics will go untouched at the 2012 Social Good Summit.

This year, the Social Good Summit will be more engaging than ever. On Sept. 24, 2012 we’re hosting The Global Conversation — the world’s largest discussion on technology’s potential to grow communities.

We are inviting people all over the world to create and join Mashable Meetups in order to connect with people around the biggest challenges facing our planet. And we’re all answering the same big question: How can new technology and new media create solutions for the biggest problems facing my community?

You can learn how to take action by visiting the Social Good Summit site, which provides tools on how to create your very own Mashable Meetup: Take Action.

Join us in New York City for the Social Good Summit or attend one of the several meetups occurring globally!

Social Good Summit Confirmed Speakers:

Further details and speakers will be announced soon on Mashable.

Purchase your tickets now

Date: Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, through Monday, Sept. 24, 2012
Time: 1:00-5:00 p.m. and 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. each day
Location: 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Ave., New York, NY
Tickets: $50 per day or $130 for three-day pass.

Register for Social Good Summit 2011 - Presented by Mashable, 92Y and UN Foundation - September 19 - 22, 2011 in New York, NY  on Eventbrite

Press: Press credentials will be given to press and bloggers from around the world for all Social Good Summit sessions and the Digital Media Lounge (DML). The DML is a fully wired work space at 92Y to report out of, network with fellow members of the media, and self-organize interviews and exclusive content from Social Good Summit sessions. The DML will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sept. 22-24. To apply, please fill in the form here.

About Ericsson

Read more:

Posted on

25 Incredible Moments in Photos

25 Incredible Moments in Photos

After a week filled with all forms of memorable events, we bring you those best captured in photos. Last Monday the annual Boston Marathon was victim to a terrible act. Yet, looking beyond that the people of Boston managed to stick together and help those who were in need during the chaos and confusion. In London, protesters gathered in George Square to recognize the industries that suffered under the government of former British Prime Minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher, on the day of her funeral.

The Italian parliament gathered more than 1,000 politicians this week to vote for a new President of Republic and successor to Giorgio Napolitano. People in Yunnan celebrated the New Year of the Dai with its Water Splashing Festival, which is believed to wash away bad luck for the new year. In South Korea, conservatives gathered to protest against North Korea on its founder Kim Il-Sung’s 101th birthday.

These and many more events can be admired below. Did we miss any others? Let us know in the comments.

Boston Marathon Bombing

Carlos Arredondo, one of the many heroes who were at the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon when two explosives detonated. (Image via Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

3D Painting Exhibit

A visitor poses with a 3D painting during exhibition at the Garland Shopping Center in Guiyang, Guizhou province of China. (Image via ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)

Thatcher Rally In Glasgow

Protesters gathered in George Square at a rally to mourn the communities who suffered under the government of former British Prime Minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher, on the day of Thatcher’s funeral in Glasgow, Scotland. (Image via Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Getty Images)

April Fair 2013 in Seville, Spain

Young girls traditionally dress as ‘sevillanas’ at the Feria de Abril (April’s Fair). (Image via Daniel Perez/Getty Images)

2013 Australian National Surf Lifesaving Titles

Competitors enter the water during day three of the 2013 Australian National Surf Lifesaving Titles in Australia. (Image via Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

X-Games in Brazil

Douglas Leite in action during the BMX Freestyle Pratice at the X-Games Foz do Iguacu, Brazil. (Image via Buda Mendes/LatinContent/Getty Images)

Funeral of Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher

Pallbearers set down the coffin of Baroness Thatcher inside St Paul’s Cathedral in London. (Image via Dominik Lipinski – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Desert Sunlight Solar Farm

Solar panels are seen in this aerial photograph of First Solar Inc.’s Desert Sunlight Solar Farm in Mojave Desert, California. (Image via Tim Rue/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

English National Ballet Rehearsal

Dancers of the English National Ballet perform on stage during a dress rehearsal of ‘Ecstasy and Death’ at the Coliseum in London, England. (Image via Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

FINA/Midea Diving World Series 2013 – Previews

Jack Laugher in action during previews ahead of the FINA/Midea Diving World Series 2013 at the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Scotland. (Image via Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Florida Celebrates Spanish Explorer Ponce De Leon

People walk past a replica of a 16th century galleon during Florida’s commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon’s arrival on the shores of Florida. (Image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Florida Outlaws Gaming Machines

A worker waits to use a bucket loader to destroy gaming machines that had been confiscated as the City of Miami begins a crack down on business owners with illegal gambling machines in Miami, Florida. (Image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Giro del Trentino

Cyclists compete during the second stage of the cycling road race ‘Giro del Trentino’ in Sillian, close to the Austrian-Italian. (Image via Pierre Teyssot/AFP/Getty Images)

Gromit sculptures by Famous Artists

Fundraising manager Lauren Vincent poses with four Gromit sculptures, out of around 70 which have been painted by celebrity artists, Sir Paul Smith, Cath Kidston, Richard Williams and Simon Tofield. (Image via Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Israel Celebrates Independence Day

Israeli children play to celebrate the Jewish state’s 65th Independence Day in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Image via Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Italy Parliament Votes For President of Republic

More than 1,000 politicians gather in the lower house of the Italian parliament to vote for a successor to Giorgio Napolitano. (Image via Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Keith Haring Exhibition in Paris, France

A piece from the Keith Haring Exhibition at Musee d’Art Moderne (Museum of Modern Art) in Paris, France during a press preview. (Image via Francois Durand/Getty Images)

One Direction Waxworks Unveiled

Waxworks of One Direction are unveiled at Madame Tussauds in London. (Image via John Phillips/UK Press via Getty Images)

Rare Beatles Guitar Exhibited At Newbridge Silverware Museum Of Style Icons

A rare Vox guitar played by George Harrison and John Lennon is exhibited at the Newbridge Silverware Museum of Style in Newbridge, Ireland. (Image via Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)

Sand Storm Hits Xinjiang

Cyclists ride along a road during a heavy sandstorm in Shache, China. (Image via ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)

South Korea Protests On North Korea Founder’s Birthday

South Korean conservative protester chant slogans during a rally against North Korea on its founder Kim Il-Sung’s 101th birthday. (Image via Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Southbank’s Skatepark To Be Replaced By Retail Units

A skater makes a jump in the South Bank skatepark as plans are underway to refurbished the Festival Wing ‘Undercroft’, a concrete enclave situated under the South Bank Centre and replace it with retail outlets. (Image via Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

St. Louis Chess Club Taking The Chess Capital To The U.S. Capital

International Chess Master Sam Sevian attends a special event held at United States Capitol Building. (Image via Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis)

Titanic Violin Goes On Display To The Public

Auctioneer Alan Aldridge of Henry Aldridge & Son holds the violin of Wallace Hartley, the instrument he played as the band leader of the Titanic, on the 101st anniversary of the sinking of the ship. (Image via Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Water-Splashing Festival Celebrated In Yunnan

People participate in the annual Water Splashing Festival to mark the 1,375th New Year of the Dai minority in Xishuang Banna, Yunnan province, China. (Image via ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

Homepage image via Francois Durand/Getty Images

Read more:

Posted on

Julian Assange Allegedly Tried to Steal ‘The Fifth Estate’ Book

Julian Assange Allegedly Tried to Steal 'The Fifth Estate' Book


It’s no secret that Julian Assange dislikes Hollywood movie The Fifth Estate, which details the rise of WikiLeaks. Assange has been concerned about the film for months, incessantly tweeting bad reviews, and even asking Benedict Cumberbatch to give up his leading role.

But the WikiLeaks founder reportedly went even further to fight the release of the book on which the movie is based. In 2011, Assange allegedly ordered a friend of WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley, to steal the manuscript for the book written by Daniel Domscheit-Berg, his former associate and right-hand man, according to Wired.

Assange allegedly asked David House, co-founder of The Private Manning Support Network, to go to Berlin, get into Domscheit-Berg’s apartment and take a copy of the manuscript back to London, where Assange was detained at the time, according to House, who revealed the alleged plot in an interview with Wired.

House, who met Assange in the hopes of embarking on a collaboration, said the WikiLeaks founder told him that he should “protect the future of WikiLeaks by obtaining access to a ‘corpus of lies.’” Naturally, Assange was referring to the manuscript for Domscheit-Berg’s book, Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website.

House claimed he never intended to steal the manuscript, but thought he had to at least try and show Assange he was trustworthy. So House tracked down Domscheit-Berg in Berlin, meeting him at the latter’s apartment in January 2011. Their encounter was an awkward one, as the person who took House to Domscheit-Berg’s apartment didn’t give the German activist a heads-up.

House spent an hour at his apartment, asking questions and drinking tea. “It certainly was one of the more bizarre encounters,” Domscheit-Berg told Wired.

After leaving, House returned to London, and told Assange that he couldn’t get the manuscript. Although Assange was furious, he allowed House to work for WikiLeaks, making him sign a non-disclosure agreement. House worked for organization until October 2011.

For Domscheit-Berg, this bizarre story is another sign of Assange’s vendetta against him. “You know, Julian referred to me once as his ‘adversary,’ so it might make sense in his little world of games to do something like that,” he said. “It’s a new low.”

WikiLeaks and David House did not immediately respond to Mashable‘s requests for comment.

Image: Walt Disney Pictures

Read more:

Posted on

Neil Armstrong Took the Hardest Step for All of Us

Neil Armstrong Took the Hardest Step for All of Us


Mashable OP-ED: This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

When Neil Armstrong died today at the age of 82, we lost a beacon, a somewhat distant and fading light that remained present enough to remind us what’s possible. Armstrong was the first man — human— to ever set foot on the surface of the moon, and when he did, he spoke words that instantly lifted a generation’s eyes to the skies: “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The moment, which I witnessed when I was just five years old, changed me forever.

Now, back then, I didn’t even want to see the moment. I was tired and the Apollo 11 astronauts were not even scheduled to step onto the Moon’s surface until nearly midnight. My father, though, knew it would be a historic event and made me and my seven-year-old sister do laps around the coffee table until the big moment.

As you can see from the video, it was not an HD moment. The black and white feed was grainy, the audio clipped and our tube television set was 25 inches — postage-stamp-sized by today’s standards. Even so, I could see Armstrong walking carefully down the steps and then pausing as his foot touched the surface to say the famous line. Perhaps the line was scripted — it was certainly timed perfectly — but I think Armstrong was also primed to say something momentous because he knew this was his and the world’s brightest moment.

Being five, I didn’t think much of what he said. Maybe because I couldn’t yet think in those poetic terms (I was still reading Fun with Dick and Jane, after all). Still, from that moment on, I was smitten with space. In fact, much of the world was for a while. I recall that the local Mobil station even gave out flat sheets of cardboard that you could build-into 10-inch lunar landers. I spent hours making mine.

The Apollo missions continued, but Armstrong did not fly again. He worked with NASA for a number of years after Apollo 11, but eventually left NASA to work in business and even served as pitchman for companies like Chrysler.

For much of America, though, Armstrong faded into the background as his Apollo 11 Lunar Module pilot Buzz Aldrin (who followed him onto the moon’s surface that July night in 1969) became more and more present. Just a couple of years ago Aldrin competed in Dancing with the Stars.

Armstrong did not seem like the type to compete on a reality television show. In fact, in recent years he appeared more and more taciturn. It was as if he were angry. Perhaps he was frustrated that the U.S. had, after abandoning manned moon and Mars missions, even walked away from running its own manned spaceflight program.

That’s just conjecture on my part, though. The truth is, Armstrong’s heroic accomplishment on July 20, 1969 may have been enough for the quiet Ohioan. After conquering the stars and moon, what else is there left to do, really?

Today, we marvel at the mechanical brilliance of the Mars Rover Curiosity as it slowly creeps across the red, dusty surface of Mars, and we’ll be sad if it malfunctions. Yet, it’s still just a very smart machine and not a flesh-and-blood human who took the ultimate risk: Stepping inside a rocket and blasting off into airless space to step firmly on sphere that, with just 1/6 the earth’s gravity, seemed ready to cast him back out into space. Astronauts like Armstrong and Aldrin (and all those who came after them) had no guarantees they’d come home alive, and yet they did it for us, for science, for history and because something inside them said, “this is where we must go.”

That impulse made Armstrong and his kind unique among men and women. A quiet man with nerves of steel. A shy smile that hid true grit.

For me, I just want to thank Mr. Armstrong for giving me a memory I can never forget and a lifelong love and fascination for space. I suspect millions around the world feel the same.

Posted on

Inside Nigeria’s Information Vacuum

Inside Nigeria's Information Vacuum


CNN’s Isha Sesay reports from Abuja, Nigeria.
Image: CNN

CNN anchor Isha Sesay tweeted on May 2 that she had arrived in Nigeria as part of growing CNN team gathered there for the network’s coverage of missing Nigerian schoolgirls.

The group of hundreds of girls had been gone for two weeks — they were kidnapped from their school in Chibok on April 15 by militants with the Islamic group Boko Haram — and the world was just beginning to tune into the story.

Wearing a blue shirt, jeans and a stoic expression, Sesay tweeted a photo of herself holding up a sign that read #BringBackOurGirls and wrote, “I’m in Nigeria for in-depth CNN coverage of missing schoolgirls. We all want answers!”

By May 6, when Mashable had some data about the popularity of the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag, Sesay’s tweet remained one of the most popular tweets with the tag (that is, until world leaders like Michelle Obama and the Pope jumped in). Still, Sesay has been one of the more authoritative and constructive voices in the network’s coverage of the missing schoolgirls.

Mashable spoke with Sesay this weekend during a break in her reporting from Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, to ask about her first impressions, the condition of the girls’ families, and Nigerians’ thoughts on the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag. (The interview below, conducted via email, has been condensed and lightly edited.)

Mashable: As we know, Boko Haram is an ongoing source of violence in the country and has killed hundreds of civilians and school children. What was it about the approximately 300 kidnapped girls that led you to believe it would become a bigger story? When did you decide you needed to go to Nigeria?

Isha Sesay: First of all, let me say CNN has been covering this story from the very beginning. Our Nigeria correspondent Vladimir Duthiers has covered this story nonstop. As a network, we decided to step up our coverage once we realized the Nigerian government wasn’t being forthcoming with information, and that took some time to become apparent. We all know that Boko Haram has been terrorizing northern Nigeria for the last couple of years. But this attack is different, so much more outrageous — the notion that Boko Haram would abduct 200-plus schoolgirls! These are children simply trying to get an education in a part of Nigeria with one of the highest out-of-school populations.

What did you find when you first arrived in Nigeria?

When I arrived in Nigeria more than a week ago, I found people angry and feeling a real lack of trust in their government. Local Nigerians I spoke to in Lagos all seemed astounded by the lack of information about the search-and-rescue mission. Much of this feeling was fueled by the fact that the military put out a statement claiming to have rescued all but eight of the girls, which, of course, is untrue. I spoke to Nigerians from all walks of life and all expressed the same sentiments. The moment I announced on Twitter that I had landed in Lagos, my feed was inundated with messages from Nigerians, expressing the very same feelings. (People sent me messages that I was trending in Lagos and Abuja!) Once I had processed all of their emotions, I decided the focus of my reporting had to be pushing the Nigerian government for more information, for more transparency regarding their efforts to find these girls.

How is CNN, and the rest of the international media, seen by Nigerians, their families and the government?

In my time here, since we ratcheted up our reporting on this story, I have been approached multiple times per day by ordinary Nigerians who have all expressed gratitude for CNN’s reporting of this story. It’s also overwhelmingly been the same on Twitter. CNN has spoken to a number of families who lost girls in this attack by Boko Haram, and they have said if it weren’t for the international media attention, nothing would have been done by the government to find the girls.

The Nigerian government, on the other hand, does not appear happy with the increased scrutiny they are under. I have had a number of feisty exchanges with government officials live on CNN, and it is quite clear they are less than pleased.

How are Nigerians getting their news about this story? Are they on Twitter or Facebook, like people in the U.S., or are they more dependent on TV news, or newspapers and radio?

Nigerians are following this story via television, newspapers and social media. The fact the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag went viral underscores the global interest in this story and everyone is following it very, very closely.

An unidentified mother cries out during a demonstration with others who have daughters among the kidnapped school girls of government secondary school Chibok, Tuesday April 29, 2014, in Abuja, Nigeria.

Image: Gbemiga Olamikan/Associated Press

What do the parents of the missing girls, and the community rallying behind them, think of the fact that the whole world is watching this story? Do they know about the hashtag?

Chibok, the town the schoolgirls were taken from, is very rural — it’s a very remote part of Nigeria. So I’m not sure the parents of the girls are fully aware of the part social media has played in focusing the the attention of the world on the plight.

But they are aware of the fact networks such as our own are telling the story of what happened to their children and pressing the Nigerian government for information on the search and rescue mission, as well as answers to the many outstanding questions that remain.

What’s been your toughest moment in Nigeria?

Interviewing a father who told CNN that his two daughters and four relatives were taken by Boko Haram during that April 14 attack is definitely one of the toughest moments I’ve had during my time here. He was clearly in so much pain and distress, and felt totally abandoned by the Nigerian government. He told me he just wanted his daughters back, dead or alive.

What about an especially memorable one?

I sat down with three young, bright and incredibly inspiring girls going to school right now in northern Nigeria. These are girls with hopes and dreams just like other girls around the world. They told me they will not let Boko Haram’s reign of terror and objection to western education get in the way of them fulfilling their dreams. I was so moved by their bravery and sense of confidence. The entire experience will stay with me forever.

What can you tell us about some of the families? Are they hopeful and confident their girls will be found, or is there a creeping sensation they have been traded beyond Nigerian borders and are therefore out of Nigerian authorities’ reach?

The parents who CNN has spoken to are all holding onto the hope their girls will be found and returned safely. These parents are living a nightmare. One father told me that all they do is cry in his house. The inadequate response by the Nigerian government in the aftermath of the April 14 attack had left many of these families feeling utterly desperate and despondent. But now, the international community is assisting the Nigerian government in efforts to find these girls, and families are increasingly allowing themselves to believe all is not lost.

What is a story you’ve noticed in Nigeria that has been overlooked by the media?

There is a large-scale migration underway in parts of northern Nigeria, as people move to neighboring countries to escape the havoc caused by Boko Haram. Aid agencies are struggling to deal with the continuous flow of people fleeing. I think more needs to be done on that story.

CNN’s Isha Sesay gets ready to report in Nigeria.

Image: CNN

If you had to sum up your experience in one sentence, what would it be?

Despite the Nigerian government’s obvious displeasure, CNN continues to push government officials for more information about the search for missing girls.

Lastly, what would you say to younger viewers who may want to enter the TV news business? Any advice on how to wind up in your shoes one day?

This is a hard job, but definitely a worthwhile one. You’ve got to be focused and be interested in the world. So I recommend reading widely, and doing all you can to build up a body of knowledge. I always tell people to take every employment opportunity that comes your way, even if it doesn’t quite make sense at the time. I worked at Sky Sports news as a sportscaster for three and a half years; every opportunity is a building block, a chance to learn.

window._msla=window.loadScriptAsync||function(src,id){if(document.getElementById(id))return;var js=document.createElement(‘script’);;js.src=src;document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0].parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);};

Read more:

Posted on

Texas Residents Capture Fatal Tornadoes on Film

Texas Residents Capture Fatal Tornadoes on Film

Deadly tornadoes ripped through central Texas Wednesday evening 70 miles west of Dallas, leaving at least six people dead with more than a dozen still missing. Storm trackers believe up to 10 separate tornadoes may have touched down in the area.

Officials are now busy locating those unaccounted for and surveying the damage.

The National Weather Service’s Texas-based Twitter account, @NWSFortWorth, was actively tweeting alerts throughout the night in an effort to warn those in the storm’s path. The NWS also blasted emergency alerts as push notifications to residents’ phones capable of receiving such alerts.

Some area residents captured the storm on video and uploaded it to YouTube; their footage is curated below:

[View the story “Texas Residents Capture Fatal Tornadoes on Film” on Storify]

Image via YouTube; tsubasachan777

Read more: