PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – The words „bomb on the bus” heard from a cell phone set it all off: Downtown Portsmouth shut down, businesses and homes evacuated, sharpshooters and an armored vehicle rolling in.
The parked, New York City-bound Greyhound was surrounded for nine hours Thursday, until the man who took the call, an immigrant from the African nation of Burundi, finally emerged. Police now say their „appropriate” show of force so frightened the passenger that he refused to leave the bus until a family member helped talk him out.”It wasn’t long before we realized he was scared. We didn’t feel it was criminal intent,” Portsmouth Police Chief David Ferland said Friday, a day after the bomb scare that shut down the heart of this bustling seaside community popular with tourists.Authorities did not release the name of the passenger, who Ferland said will not face charges. Police say he was a native Swahili speaker who understood limited English.Two of the 16 other passengers were charged with misdemeanors for their behavior after the bus was evacuated.The ordeal on the bus, which was headed from Bangor, Maine, to New York, started Thursday morning when a passenger overheard „a strange man” speaking a foreign language on a cell phone, police said.The passenger called 911 after hearing someone on the other end of the phone shouting about „a bomb on the bus,” authorities said.That call prompted authorities to evacuate buildings and streets and to surround the bus with a bomb squad and sharpshooters. A half-dozen federal agencies rushed to assist.The caller was not identified and police refused to release a copy of the 911 tape or a transcript of the call. Police also said there was a report that a person on board saw a weapon, but no explosives and no weapons were found. It was not clear if the same person who claimed to see a weapon was the 911 caller.The passengers remained on the bus for about two hours after the 911 call — apparently because they did not know what to do amid the massive police presence. At the time, the police spokesman said he wasn’t sure why the people weren’t moving from the bus.Authorities finally called them out — one by one — with minutes separating them. Each was treated like a suspect, Ferland said, because authorities did not know at the time if the threat was real.One of the passengers, John Smolens, 68, of Lewiston, Maine, was charged with resisting arrest and was released on bail after pleading not guilty Friday.Asked afterward if he had heard any phone conversation about a bomb, Smolens said no, but added, „There was some strange talk.”The other passenger who was arrested, Calvin Segar, 29, of New York City, was ordered held on $10,000 bail for allegedly giving a false name to police after the passengers were evacuated. Segar, who has a record for drug possession, admitted to the judge that he gave the wrong name when he saw the massive law enforcement response.”I was nervous and I lied,” he said.All access to streets and buildings was restored early Friday.Ferland emphasized that the case was not terrorism-related but said the response was appropriate, especially in light of the recent failed car bombing in Times Square.”We have a bus that’s en route to New York City. We have an incident that occurred in New York City not too long ago. I think it was an appropriate, measured response,” he said at a news conference.The Page restaurant, a few hundred feet from the bus, was among the businesses shut down. Owner Ted Mountzuris said some people told him they thought the police presence was overdone, but that many others disagreed, including some nearby hotel guests who were evacuated.”Life comes first; business comes second,” he said. „I think you’ve got to look at it in reverse. The what-if.”Associated Press writers Norma Love and Holly Ramer in Concord, N.H., and John Curran in Montpelier, Vt., contributed to this report.
Regulators look into market plunge, weigh changes By DANIEL WAGNER, AP Business
WASHINGTON – The federal regulators that oversee financial markets say they are investigating the causes of the mass sell-off Thursday that pushed the Dow Jones Industrial average down hundreds of points. They are identifying one possible cause: Conflicting trading rules for different markets.The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission say they are reviewing data related to Thursday’s trading frenzy. They are looking at information from exchanges, self-regulatory groups and market participants. They say they will make any necessary changes to prevent the problem from recurring.The SEC and CFTC have ultimate oversight of financial markets, but they generally rely on the markets to write and enforce their own rules.
Buffett’s firm releases details of $3.6B 1Q profit By JOSH FUNK, AP Business
OMAHA, Neb. – Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said Friday it benefited from an improving economy and investment gains related to its acquisition of BNSF railroad in the first quarter as it rebounded from last year’s loss to deliver $3.6 billion in net income.Berkshire said it earned $2,272 per Class A share during the quarter. That’s after last year’s loss of $1.5 billion, or $990 per share, as it wrote down the value of its ConocoPhillips investment.Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett discussed the highlights of Berkshire Hathaway‘s quarterly earnings at last Saturday’s shareholders’ meeting but didn’t release detailed information about the quarter until Friday.The four analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected Berkshire to report earnings per share of $1,101.83 on average.Berkshire officials don’t typically comment on earnings reports and they didn’t immediately respond to a message Friday.Berkshire’s revenue grew to $32 billion in the first quarter from last year’s $22.8 billion.The addition of Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad helped boost Berkshire’s net income in two ways.Berkshire adjusted the value of its BNSF holdings after completing the acquisition in February for a $979 million paper gain. It held 76.8 million shares of BNSF stock before the deal.The addition of Burlington Northern also added $282 million net income for Berkshire between the day the acquisition closed on Feb. 12 and the day the quarter ended on March 31.Buffett has said the quarterly results showed that the economy is improving because Berkshire’s manufacturing and retail income grew 85 percent to $477 million. Most of the improvement in that sector came from manufacturing businesses like the Iscar tool makers, apparel companies like Fruit of the Loom, and luxury good sellers like Forest River RVs and Berkshire’s jewelry businesses.Justin Fuller, who is a partner with Midway Capital Research & Management in Chicago, said Berkshire‘s results should be encouraging for people worried about the economy.”As goes the United States, goes Berkshire. It’s just become a much more economically sensitive company than it used to be,” said Fuller, who writes about Berkshire online at http://www.buffettologist.com.Berkshire’s utilities and insurance companies, which include Geico and General Reinsurance, delivered solid results that improved slightly over last year.Insurance underwriting profit increased to $226 million from last year’s $202 million.Berkshire’s utilities, led by MidAmerican Energy, added $223 million net income, up from $203 million a year ago.Morningstar analyst Bill Bergman said Berkshire’s operating businesses are definitely improving, but there is still room to grow because the businesses tied to housing, such as Shaw carpet, Acme brick and Benjamin Moore paint, have yet to see much increase.”They’re not hitting on all cylinders, but they’re hitting on a lot more of them these days,” Bergman said.Berkshire’s report suggests that it sold some of its stake in Procter & Gamble during the quarter to help raise cash for the $26.7 billion BNSF acquisition. Berkshire said the cost basis for its Procter & Gamble shares fell to $4.5 billion at the end of March from $5 billion at the end of 2009. But even after the BNSF deal, Berkshire finished the quarter with $25.7 billion cash on hand. That’s slightly higher than the $25.6 billion it held at the same time last year and less than the $30.6 billion Berkshire held at the start of 2010. Last year’s quarterly loss included a $1.9 billion charge from writing down Berkshire‘s ConocoPhillips investment, and a largely unrealized $986 million paper loss on its derivatives portfolio. This year’s first-quarter results included a $267 million gain on the value of Berkshire’s derivatives.Berkshire executives say the company’s operating earnings are a better measure of how the company is performing in any given period because those figures exclude its derivatives and investment gains or losses. Berkshire said its operating earnings increased to $2.2 billion in this year’s first quarter, up from last year’s $1.7 billion. Berkshire owns roughly 80 businesses, including clothing, insurance, furniture, utility, jewelry and corporate jet companies. Berkshire also has big investments in companies including Coca-Cola Co. and Wells Fargo & Co.
Newton’s apple tree bound for gravity-free orbit By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Sir Isaac Newton‘s famous apple tree is about to leave gravity behind.Flying aboard space shuttle Atlantis next week will be a 4-inch sliver of the tree from which an apple fell nearly 350 years ago and inspired Newton to discover the law of gravity.British-born astronaut Piers Sellers is flying the piece of wood for The Royal Society of London.”I’ll take it up into orbit and let it float around a bit, which will confuse Isaac,” Sellers said in an interview with The Associated Press earlier this week.When Sellers last flew in space in 2006, he carried up a gold medal that the society later presented to British physicist Stephen Hawking. This time, he told them, „What about something for you?”The small slice of Newton’s apple tree they offered is „from THE apple tree, from the one that he was looking at when the apple fell down and he got the idea,” stressed Sellers.”It’s his personal apple tree … that’s really something, isn’t it?”Sellers said the president of the Royal Society assured him the piece is authentic.”Written on it in very old 18th century lettering is I-S-dot-Newton,” the astronaut told the AP. „He had a very nice hand. So I think it is his tree.”It’s big enough to see the grain in the wood and is curved, he said.Sellers will return it to the Royal Society following Atlantis’ 12-day flight.The Royal Society — the national academy of science of the United Kingdom — is celebrating its 350th year. As part of the anniversary celebration, the society in January made available online the 18th-century document detailing Newton’s account of the famous apple incident, which occurred in the mid-1660s.Here’s what William Stukeley wrote as told to him by Newton:”It was occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in contemplative mood. Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to himself … Why should it not go sideways, or upwards? But constantly to the earth’s center? Assuredly, the reason is, that the earth draws it. There must be a drawing power in matter.”Newton was a physicist, mathematician and astronomer, among other things. He was born in 1643 in Lincolnshire, England — said to be the site of the famous apple tree. In 1687, he published his book „Principia” in which he described his theory of gravity and the laws of motion. He died in 1727.Sellers, 55, who has a doctorate in biometeorology, became an astronaut in 1996. Born in Sussex, he’s been a U.S. citizen since 1981. Next Friday’s launch to the International Space Station will be his third space shuttle mission.Sellers also is taking along a flag for the 2012 Olympics, to be held in London.
Astronauts in Space Will Make Time for Mother’s Day By Tariq Malik SPACE.com
Astronauts living on the International Space Station may have to spend this Mother’s Day far from home, but Mission Control will make sure they get a chance to send love to their moms down on Earth. Since Mother’s Day is on a weekend, it falls during a regular day off for the space station crew, NASA spokesperson Josh Byerly told SPACE.com.”The crew has some off duty time on Sunday, so they will be free to use the station’s phone and e-mail to wish their moms a happy Mother’s Day,” he said.The International Space Station is home to six astronauts – five men and one woman – from three different countries. Three of the crewmembers are Russian cosmonauts, with two Americans and a Japanese astronaut rounding out the team.The astronauts are flying a staggered six-month mission to the space station, and typically zoom around Earth at about 17,500 mph (28,200 kph) at an altitude of about 220 miles (354 km) up. But just because the spaceflyers are stuck in orbit, that doesn’t mean they’re out of touch.Although life in space can be busy, space station astronauts have continuous access to their loved ones by way of an Internet Protocol phone for personal chats. Video conferences and radio sessions are also available to speak with family, friends and the occasional reporter or class of students. The astronauts also have access to the Internet from space via a special link to a computer at NASA’s Mission Control center in Houston. That space Internet link went live earlier this year in January, when NASA astronaut Jeff Williams was in command of the orbiting lab. His first use of the space station’s Internet? Ordering flowers for his wife.The space station‘s current Expedition 23 crew has a busy week ahead. The astronauts plan to jettison an old unmanned Russian cargo ship on Monday, move a Soyuz spacecraft to a new parking spot on the station’s exterior on Wednesday, then await the arrival of NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis – which is due to dock at the orbiting lab on May 16.Atlantis is scheduled to launch toward the International Space Station Friday, May 14 at 2:20 p.m. EDT (1820 GMT) to deliver a new Russian science module, supplies and spare parts. The shuttle’s six-astronaut crew plans to perform three spacewalks during the upcoming mission, which is slated to be the last-ever flight of the space shuttle Atlantis.
Futuristic Interstellar Space Probe Idea Revisited By Leonard David SPACE.com’s
New technologies and the growing number of alien planets being discovered are fueling a new look at a plans for a futuristic interstellar probe into deep space.A dedicated study team has formed Project Icarus, an international initiative established by the Tau Zero Foundation in the United States and the British Interplanetary Society (BIS).The multi-talented group is delving into everything under our the sun to develop designs for the interstellar spaceship, from inertial confinement fusion to reviewing the latest in nanotechnology, computing, and electronics, as well as identifying target star destinations.Today’s Project Icarus signals a bit of a baton-passing from a BIS-backed star ship appraisal called Daedalus that was done in the late 1970s.”The Project Daedalus theoretical engineering design study took place over three decades ago. In the time since, there have been many advances in science and technology,” said Kelvin Long, a key Icarus designer.”There is a need to maintain interest in and the capability to design interstellar probes,” Long told SPACE.com. „With many of the historical leaders in this field now nearing retirement or deceased, the Project Icarus study group wants to take up the baton and keep alive the long term vision that travel to the stars will one day be possible. This is one of the reasons why over half of the team is relatively fresh out of their university studies.”Think outside the box-Designing an unpiloted Project Icarus space probe is requiring the time and energy of some 20 volunteer designers. Taking on interstellar travel this 21st century go-round is estimated to consume around 30,000 man/woman hours of effort, with submission of the final study reports due for 2014.Many of the original Project Daedalus study participants are providing guidance. Long said that Project Icarus is an exercise in theoretical engineering to the extreme. Project Icarus, he said, will take another look at several of the Daedalus assumptions and systems. Furthermore, an objective of the initiative is to continue to inspire the next generation.”Icarus may not be the blueprint for how we first reach the stars, but it is hoped that it will be an important contribution towards this long term goal. Another purpose of Project Icarus is to remind space agency mission planners to think outside of the box,” he said.Long-haul roadmap-The intellectual thrust behind Project Icarus will measure, for one, the technological maturity of fusion-based propulsion schemes. Key technological stepping stones are to be identified. In short, a long-haul roadmap to the stars is on the group’s to-do list to make such a mission possible. „This would provide an estimate for the earliest time upon which such a mission could be launched. This may be in the latter part of this century, sometime in the 22nd century or even later,” Long observed.The Project Daedalus effort of decades ago proposed mining Helium-3 (He3) from the gas giant Jupiter which necessitated a massive space based infrastructure. Fast forward to today means that the Project Icarus group will re-evaluate this fuel acquisition tactic and consider alternatives – such as mining He3 from Earth’s moon or exhume deuterium from objects in the Oort cloud. Moreover, the assumed Daedalus propellant combination of deuterium and He3 will also be re-examined, as will implosion-driving schemes.Fusion of ideas-Long said that the choice of mainly fusion-based propulsion for the project was made because it is believed to be one of the strong candidates for how the first interstellar missions will be achieved in future decades or centuries hence.”There are other proposals which are credible, such as solar sails…but fusion certainly offers the required performance for an interstellar mission, provided you can make the technology work,” Long noted. Project Icarus aims to build on the first-rate work of Project Daedalus, by refining the design with updated knowledge in science and technology, he said.”Primarily, we have over thirty years of new data on experimental fusion, and thus have a deeper understanding of the process,” said Richard Obousy, primary propulsion lead of the study group. Possibly one of the most exciting advances, he said, is the suggestion that antimatter itself, in very small quantities, could be used as a catalyst for fusion ignition.”All these technologies could certainly optimize the original Daedalus design, meaning less mass for the propulsion system and more possibilities for the payload. We hope our study will result in a faster and less massive design,” Obousy said.Most suitable target?Given the gulf between our solar system and another star system, long distance data transmission from the Icarus probe is a tricky issue.According to the team’s communications lead, Pat Galea, solutions range from examining the potential for powerful lasers to broadcast data back to Earth, to more exotic – but physically plausible – mechanisms, such as using the sun as a gravitational lens to focus the distant transmissions onto a deep-space receiver craft. „We are aiming for a technically credible solution for Icarus,” Galea added, „so there’s a lot of model building and number crunching ahead before we can decide on the optimum solution.”With the onslaught of exoplanet detections, with far more to come, what’s the most suitable target for the first mission of an interstellar probe? Long responded that Epsilon Eridani, 10.7 light-years away, is a good candidate as infrared observations have detected dust rings suggestive of a planetary system.”Ideally, we would like to identify Earth-like worlds in the habitable zone and this is an ongoing research program in the astronomical community,” Long pointed out. „However, the choice must be balanced with engineering design constraints and what is realistically possible within a 100 year mission, one of the requirements for Project Icarus.”Renewed spirit of adventure-„It is about time to put some systematic work into assessing to what degree the advances since Daedalus have made interstellar flight easier … and to recheck where we stand today … and what we need to do to make progress,” said Marc Millis, President of the Tau Zero Foundation, based in Fairview Park, Ohio.Millis is an Icarus consultant and former project manager of the NASA Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project at the space agency’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.”Consider what will happen when the first Earth-like exoplanet is discovered. We cannot reach such a place with the technology and science we have today. That discovery will likely spur a renewed spirit of adventure to push the edge of knowledge to create such transportation abilities,” Millis said. „And that is where my cohorts and I are…looking beyond the obvious next-steps for the huge gains that will change everything … and having the patience to teach the lessons along the way.”
New Commercial Rocket Still Aims for May Launch Debut By Clara Moskowitz SPACE.com
A brand-new commercial Falcon 9 rocket designed to haul cargo to the International Space Station is still set to make its debut launch this month, despite delays in receiving final approval of its emergency destruct system in case it strays off course, the booster’s makers said.Falcon 9 rocket-builder Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., said it continues to aim for the first flight test of its Falcon 9 rocket from the company’s dedicated launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Fla., by the end of May. The firm already has a contract with NASA to use the Falcon 9 rocket to launch its unmanned Dragon capsule on cargo runs to the space station.Officials at Florida’s Patrick Air Force Base, which controls the range at the Cape Canaveral Air Station, told SPACE.com that the current target date for the Falcon 9’s first launch is now May 23. An earlier target of May 8 did not materialize. SpaceX officials, however, have repeatedly said they have been aiming for a wide window between March through May, and haven’t yet pinned down a specific launch date.”The test flights of Falcon 9 are very different from the future operational flights in their predictability, plus this is the first time we are launching from the Cape and the launch site itself is new,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told SPACE.com. Thus, the firm isn’t setting its sights too high for this first attempt to lift off the 178-foot (54-meter) tall Falcon 9 rocket, which will carry a mockup of the gumdrop-shaped Dragon capsule.”Falcon 9 will do a flight countdown attempt as soon as possible,” Musk said in an e-mail. „Please note that I do not say ‘launch,’ as there is a good chance of seeing an anomaly (vehicle or ground side) on the first flight countdown that we have to investigate.”SpaceX says range availability and certification of its flight termination system are the two main factors driving the schedule at this point.Before SpaceX can launch the Falcon 9, the company must complete testing of the Falcon 9’s termination system, which is a safeguard designed to destroy the rocket in an emergency by splitting the vehicle’s fuel and liquid oxygen tanks.”If I knew exactly when that would end, I could tell you when we would attempt a flight countdown,” Musk said.The first Falcon 9 must also wait its turn between the planned May 14 launch of the space shuttle Atlantis from the nearby Kennedy Space Center, and a mid-May unmanned Delta 4 rocket flight from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.If all goes well with the first launch, SpaceX plans to begin carrying out its cargo-delivery contact with NASA on the Falcon 9’s second launch. The company hopes to eventually certify Dragon to loft astronauts and paying customers to orbit as well.In March, SpaceX test fired a cluster of nine engines that make up Falcon 9’s first stage. The so-called „static-fire” test went smoothly on the second try, after a first attempt was aborted because of a technical glitch.