Spacefaring Stamp Sets World Record

Members of the New Horizons team celebrated last year with a blown up image of the postage stamp when the probe made its closest approach to Pluto.

Members of the New Horizons team celebrated last year with a blown up image of the postage stamp when the probe made its closest approach to Pluto. Bill Ingalls/AP hide caption

toggle caption Bill Ingalls/AP

A postage-paid space voyage!

An interplanetary “Ha!”

Or, maybe just a postal metaphor writ large.

However you phrase it, a 29-cent stamp has boldly reached Pluto and then some, making it the farthest-traveling postage stamp, according to the Guinness World Records organization.

NASA scientists included the 1991 “Pluto:Not Yet Explored” stamp – fitting cargo, right? – among other items on the New Horizons space probe when it launched in 2006. The probe conducted its closest flyby to Pluto in July of last year, and its mission has been extended to take it deeper into the Kuiper Belt, the region of the solar system beyond the planet Neptune.

In all, the space probe has surpassed 3 billion miles sending back the most detailed pictures of Pluto to date, as well as offering a giant rebuke to the stamp’s assertion.

Interestingly enough, this is the second time the New Horizons mission has occasioned interplay between the philatelic and the interplanetary.

In May, the U.S. Postal Service issued a set of Forever stamps incorporating images captured by New Horizons and an update to 1991’s version: Pluto – Explored!

Still, it’ll be far behind the Voyager I spacecraft, which left the solar system nearly four years ago and has more than 10 billion miles on our intrepid stamp.

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WATCH: Melania Trump In Spotlight On First Night Of Republican Convention

PBS NewsHour YouTube

The first night of the Republican National Convention is focused on national security, with presumptive nominee Donald Trump designating the theme as “Make America Safe Again.”

The highlight of the evening will be when Trump’s wife, Melania speaks, with her husband slated to introduce for his first public appearance in Cleveland.

Other noteworthy speakers include former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst.

Trump has also tried to bring some star power to the convention, but many top athletes and actors passed. “Duck Dynasty” reality TV star Willie Robertson is scheduled to address the crowd early in the evening. Then, former 80’s heartthrob Scott Baio, of “Happy Days” and “Charles in Charge” fame, is speaking, as is former soap opera actor and Calvin Klein model Antonio Sabato, Jr.

Here’s the highlights of what to expect tonight. All times are Eastern:

  • 7:50 p.m. Call to Order
  • 8:05 p.m. Willie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” speaks
  • 8:10 p.m. 2012 and 2016 presidential candidate and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry introduces Purple Heart winner and former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell
  • 8:17 p.m. Actor Scott Baio speaks
  • 8:55 p.m. Actor/model Antonio Sabato, Jr., speaks
  • 9 p.m. Remarks by “victims of illegal immigrants”
  • 9:10 p.m. Texas Rep. Mike McCaul speaks
  • 9:23 p.m. Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy and his wife Rachel speak
  • 9:30 p.m. Colorado Senate nominee Darryl Glenn speaks
  • 9:37 p.m. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton speaks
  • 9:45 p.m. Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions speaks
  • 9:52 p.m. former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks
  • 10:06 p.m. Melania Trump speaks
  • 10:17 p.m. Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn speaks
  • 10:38 p.m. Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst speaks
  • 10:54 p.m. Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke speaks
  • 11 p.m. Televangelist Paula White gives the benediction

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Feds Investigate Fiat Chrysler Over Car Sales

Federal authorities are investigating Fiat Chrysler over allegations that it encouraged dealers to falsely report the number of cars sold, the automaker confirmed Monday.

In a statement, the company said it was cooperating with a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and that the numbers in its financial statements were based on shipments to dealers and not on sales to customers.

Fiat Chrysler also added it had fielded questions from the Justice Department on a similar matter. The Wall Street Journal reports that FBI agents visited the homes of Fiat regional managers “allegedly involved in the potential misconduct.”

Furthermore, The Journal reports, the investigation seems centered on allegations made in a lawsuit filed by an Illinois car dealer in January alleging that Fiat Chrysler had “manipulated” new-vehicle sales:

“The dealer, Napleton Automotive Group, accused Fiat Chrysler of financially rewarding stores that manipulated sales reports, inflating the company’s overall U.S. sales results. Napleton operates dealerships in Illinois and Florida.

“The lawyer for Napleton, Steve Berman, said the people the FBI interviewed are those implicated by the lawsuit.”

The Associated Press reports the company has had an exceptional record since leaving bankruptcy protection in 2009 with 75 straight months of year-over-year sales increases. And as NPR’s Sonari Glinton adds for our Newscast Unit, car sales are a crucial measure for determining an auto manufacturer’s operation:

“Every month the car companies report on their sales. The numbers are important for almost everything.They effect the stock price, government regulations, union issues.”

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Runners face steep challenge on skijump hill

Usually the world’s best ski jumpers race down the hill in Titisee-Neustadt in Germany, but this weekend it was the other way around. More than 600 runners from 28 countries took part in Red Bull’s 400 event in the Black Forest, running up the skijump slope instead of sliding down it.

After a successful premiere last year, the number of participants more than doubled in 2016.

Ahmet Arslan from Turkey managed to reach the finishing line first in the men’s race. He ran up the 140 meter slope in three minutes 40 seconds, with last year’s winner Christian Riedl of Germany second and Thomas Celko from Slovakia third.

Turkey also won the women’s race, Jasmin Can timing 4 minutes 41 seconds.

Results:

Men:

1. Ahmet Arslan (Turkey) 3minutes 40.1 Seconds

2. Christian Riedl (Germany) 3:43.6

3. Thomas Celko (Slovakia) 3:44.1

Women

1. Jasmin Can (Turkey) 4:41.0

2. Lenka Svabikova (Czech Rep) 5:24.3

3. Egle Uljas (Estonia) 5:42.8

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Annual Royal 'Swan-Upping' takes place on River Thames

A census of the Queen’s swans has taken place annually on the River Thames for the last 800 years.

On Monday, a group of Boats led by the Queen’s Swan Marker continued the tradition, known as “Swan Upping.”

“We go up the river in six traditional rowing skiffs – every family of swans we come across, we will take them out of the water, we will take them a shore. We will weigh them, measure them and check them for any injuries,” The Queen’s royal Swan Marker, David Barber told Reuters.

Cygnets are individually tagged, as part of conservation efforts to protect the young birds.

“A lot of the injuries we get these days is through fishing tackle. When the cygnets are very young, they get caught in fishing tackle quite easily,” Barber added.

Dressed in their traditional livery, the teams use six traditional Thames rowing skiffs, each flying their flags and pennants.

It takes them five days to cover the stretch of the Thames between Sunbury near London out to Abingdon near Oxford.

They count all the adult swans and tag and monitor the health of cygnets by weighing them and checking in their mouths.

The river can be a dangerous place for the young swans, at risk from fishing hooks and wire.

A serious decline in the swan population in the mid-1980s was reversed when lead fishing weights were replaced with a non-toxic substance.

But growing demand for recreational use of the river has meant the river is still a dangerous habitat for the royal birds.

“We’ve had a lot of problems over the last few years. Last year we had 83 cygnets that we caught, weighed and measured. The year before, we had 120, so you can see it has declined,” Barber said.

The tradition began in the Twelfth century where swans were often killed for food at banquets.

Barber said that the royal involvement in the process can be traced back to then.

“Her majesty has the right to own any swans swimming in open waters in the United Kingdom if she so pleases,” he added.

Those who carry out the tradition hope that it helps conserve the future of the birds and educates younger generations.

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Baton Rouge Chief Of Police Defends 'Militarized Tactics'

After a man attacked several law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge, La., on Sunday, killing three of them, Baton Rouge Chief of Police Carl Dabadie said the attack demonstrated the need for so-called “militarized tactics” by local police forces.

The shooting involved a man armed with two long rifles and a handgun, police said at a press conference Monday. He appeared to be seeking out officers, officials say, describing the attack as an “ambush” and an “assassination.”

He was killed by a member of a SWAT team firing from more than 100 yards away, police officials say.

After that information was released to the public, Dabadie addressed criticisms his department has received over its tactics.

“We’ve been questioned for the last three or four weeks about our militarized tactics and our militarized law enforcement,” he said. “This is why. Because we are up against a force that is not playing by the rules. … They didn’t play by the rules in Dallas and they didn’t play by the rules here.

“We don’t ever want to use it but we have to have the ability to use it when we needed it, and we needed it here,” he said. “As several have said, this guy was going to another location. He was not going to stop here. After he was finished here I have no doubt he was heading to our headquarters and he was going to take more lives.

“Our militarized tactics, as they’re being called, saved lives here.”

Dabadie made a similar point last week, after three people were arrested for allegedly stealing weapons to use to shoot police officers. As we noted then, Baton Rouge police had recently been criticized for carrying batons, long guns and shields at protests where they arrested around 200 people.

NPR’s Eyder Peralta and David Eads reported on militarized equipment and tactics last year, when the White House announced a plan to block local police forces from acquiring military-type equipment from the federal government. They noted there’s a long history of debate over police forces and militarization:

“Local police began acquiring significant amounts of military-style equipment after the urban riots of the 1960s. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a law in 1968 that gave local police grants to purchase equipment to suppress riots.

“As Radley Balko writes in Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, President Richard Nixon then declared a rhetorical war on crime and drugs, which was followed by President Ronald Reagan’s real war on drugs. Police began acquiring tactical equipment to conduct raids, and as they seized property, local forces found themselves with more money to buy equipment on their own.

“The 1033 program, one of the main sources for military-style equipment for local agencies, was created in 1990 when Congress authorized the Department of Defense to transfer excess property to local law enforcement. It was intended to help drug-enforcement efforts, but was expanded in 1997 to include other law enforcement purposes.

“In a report last year, the American Civil Liberties Union concluded policing in the U.S. had become ‘excessively militarized.’ It found, for example, that 79 percent of SWAT team deployments were for the purpose of simply executing a search warrant. Only 7 percent of deployments were for ‘hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios.’ SWAT teams also were found to be more likely than other police to use ‘violent tactics and equipment.’

“The ACLU called on the federal government to rein in ‘the programs that create incentives for local police to engage in excessively militarized tactics.’

You can read Eyder and David’s full report here.

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Metropolis: 07/16/16

Classixx’s song “Faraway Reach” is featured on this week’s episode of Metropolis. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

This Week’s Playlist
  • Machinedrum, “Angel Speak [feat. Melo X]” (Ninja Tune)
  • Jagwar Ma, “O B 1” (Mom+Pop)
  • Pierre Henry & Michael Colombier, “Psyche Rock [William Orbit Invisible Mix]” (Philips)
  • Disclosure, “Feel Like I Do [feat. Al Green]” (Capitol)
  • Classixx, “Faraway Reach” (Innovative Leisure)
  • Classixx, “Eyes On Me [feat. Harriet Brown]” (Innovative Leisure)
  • Justice, “Safe And Sound” (Because/Atlantic)
  • Jurassic 5, “Swing Set” (Interscope)
  • Disclosure, “In The Moog For Love” (Capitol)
  • Caravan Palace, “Mighty” (Wagram)
  • Mr. Scruff, “Get A Move On” (Ninja Tune)
  • Kungs, “This Girl” (Republic)
  • Ipanema, “Ipanema 2 [Bart B More Edit]” (White Label)
  • Betoko & Teenage Mutants, “Muerte” (Bunny Tiger Dubs)
  • Unknown Mortal Orchestra, “First World Problem” (Jagjaguwar)
  • Bondax, “Love Me Blind [feat. Eric Hassle]” (White Label)
  • Kaytranada, “Lite Spots” (XL)
  • Katy B, Four Tet & Floating Points, “Calm Down” (Rinse)
  • Aeroplane & Purple Disco Machine, “Sambal” (Spinnin’ Deep)
  • Lee Burridge & Lost Desert, “Lingala [Gorje Hewek & Izhevski Remix]” (Get Weird)
  • Choir Of Young Believers, “Hollow Talk [Wisternoff, James Grant, Lane 8 Mix]” (Ghostly International)
  • Evil Nine, “Hired Goons” (Marine Parade)
  • ILS, “6 Space [Next Level]” (Immergent)
  • Tycho, “Division” (Ghostly International)
  • Moby, “I Love To Move In Here [Holy Ghost Remix]” (Mute)
  • Duke Dumont, “Be Here” (Astralwerks)
  • Lovebirds, “Gentle [Ian Pooley Mix]” (Teardrop)
  • Unknown, “Zoom Zoom” (White Label)
  • Damian Lazarus & The Ancient Moons, “Sacred Dance Of The Demon”

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Many Cops Under Tremendous Stress After High-Profile Killings

Dallas police officers comfort each other after the funeral for Dallas Police Sr. Cpl. Lorne Ahrens at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, on Wednesday. Ahrens and four other officers were shot and killed during a protest two weeks ago in downtown Dallas.

Dallas police officers comfort each other after the funeral for Dallas Police Sr. Cpl. Lorne Ahrens at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, on Wednesday. Ahrens and four other officers were shot and killed during a protest two weeks ago in downtown Dallas. LM Otero/AP hide caption

toggle caption LM Otero/AP

It’s a warm and muggy summer afternoon in Chicago, but that doesn’t seem to bother the kids clamoring to ride the Ferris wheel, the Rock-O-Plane and other carnival rides set up in this southwest suburban park.

At the annual Chicago Fraternal Order of Police summer picnic, city cops and their families hauled in coolers and set up grills to enjoy food, and to bond with brothers and sisters in blue.

But there’s something hanging over this picnic: the stress and strain of the job, and the scrutiny that many here say is harsher than ever.

Police across the country were already shaken, mourning the loss of the five officers in Dallas killed by a sniper last week. And then the police killings in Baton Rouge happened.

The deadly attacks on law enforcement, and the recent killings of black men by police, have many wondering if the relationship between the police and the communities they serve will get worse before it gets better.

“We’re being judged for every little thing. And when it gets portrayed, the story only shows a portion of it, and nobody wants to end up that way,” says one officer at the picnic.

The annual Chicago Fraternal Order of Police summer picnic for city cops and their families.

The annual Chicago Fraternal Order of Police summer picnic for city cops and their families. David Schaper/NPR hide caption

toggle caption David Schaper/NPR

The FOP allowed willing officers to talk with NPR for this story, only if they were not identified by name.

Chicago in particular is a city where tensions are high and police-community relations are poor. Shootings are up in the city; the number of homicides are higher than any time since the ’90s.

A white, middle-aged 15-year veteran of the city’s gang crimes unit laments that, despite all the work they do, all of the attention seems to be on the few incidents police get wrong.

“And it’s disheartening to see what’s happening with us and how, I hate to say it, the media and the politicians are dropping it all on our backs and pointing the blame on us,” the officer says. “It’s just a shame.”

Morale, he said, continues to drop.

“I wish I’d have stayed in school,” he says. “My kids wanted to be the police. I’m definitely wanting them to go a different way.”

“If I could retire right now,” the officer adds, “I’d be gone.”

What keeps this officer going are the friendships, trust and bonds he shares with his fellow officers.

“This is all we got. I bleed blue,” he says. “The majority of people I’ve ever worked with, I wouldn’t hesitate going through a door.”

This picnic, in fact, is a chance for these Chicago police officers and their families to enjoy each other away from the stress of the job, sipping beers and cooking burgers over one grill, or turning thinly sliced and perfectly seasoned meat on another.

A Latina officer who has had nine years in the Chicago Police Department is cooking carne asada.

“It’s very difficult,” she says. “We’re under a tremendous amount of stress.”

And that is stress this officer has a hard time leaving at work.

“Let’s just say I have a lot sleepless nights, replaying stuff in my mind,” she says. “And I have little kids. And I can’t bring that home. So you need to learn how to cope with it so that it doesn’t start affecting your family. It’s not easy.”

No matter how hard they try, many police families are even more on edge after the killings in Dallas and Baton Rouge. It’s not just spouses who worry.

“I fear for my sons. I have two sons that’s policemen, so I say a prayer for them,” says Gwendolyn Scott, another picnic attendee.

Scott worries that all police officers are being painted with the same broad brush, because of the high profile shootings of young black men.

“‘Cause all police are not crooked,” she says. “Now, as a black mother, I’m upset that this is happening to our black men. And it’s sad to say that it’s white police officers that’s doing this.”

Scott says she prays for the protection of not just her sons, but every citizen.

“I’m tired of all the killing. I really am,” she says. “And I’m not saying I want them to quit their job because we need policemen, we need protection. Only thing I can do is pray.”

Among African-American officers in particular, the strained relations between the community and the police are especially difficult.

A 16-year veteran officer says there’s a lot of anger out there.

“Some people, you’d wave at them, they’d flip you the finger and you’re just saying good morning,” she says. So she tries to just shrug it off.

“It is what it is. I mean the reality of it is, we spend most of our time encountering people at their worst,” she says. “We don’t usually encounter people at their best. There’s usually an issue or situation.”

But this officer also says the tragedy in Dallas seems to have brought about a better understanding of the dangers police face. That goes a long way for the many police officers who right now feel under siege.

“I’ve actually had more people recently stop us on the street as we’re working, saying, ‘Thank you, we appreciate you, we’re glad you’re here.'”

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