Hubble captures rare Uranus eclipse

HubbleSite – Uranus and Ariel – Image – 8/31/2006
The Hubble has taken pictures of a never-before-seen astronomical alignment of a moon traversing the face of Uranus, and its accompanying shadow.
Though such “transits” by moons across the disks of their parents are commonplace for some other gas giant planets, such as Jupiter, the satellites of Uranus orbit the planet in such a way that they rarely cast shadows on the planet’s surface.

Men without a country, by fiat

Updated slightly to respond to a comment.
Via Glenn Greenwald’s Blog
From the NY Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/29/us/29hayat.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Federal authorities have prevented two relatives of a father and son convicted recently in a terrorism-related case from returning home to California from Pakistan unless they agree to be interviewed by the F.B.I.
It is unclear whether the men, Muhammad Ismail, 45, and his son Jaber, 18, have a direct connection to the terrorism case or if they have been caught up in circumstance.
The United States attorney’s office in Sacramento declined Monday to answer questions about the Ismails beyond confirming that the men had not been permitted to fly into the United States and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation wanted to question them.

U.S Citizens, the both of them. Denied re-entry to the United States, the only country to which they have citizenship, by fiat.
A commenter (my brother) points out:
Oh Yes. Quite coincedental. They just happen to be realitives of
someone CONVICTED in a terrorism-related case. They just happened to
travel to the same country. Pakistan is quite known for it’s wacky
fun-loveing peace-nik camps. Lovely vistas, so I am told.

Perhaps so, but under what authority does the Executive branch have to bar citizens from their own country, without formal charges filed and no court authorization? The same authority it has to engage in warrantless wiretapping, detention of american citizens without trial, and an ever expanding set of unchecked executive branch assertions of power that are more in line with the dreams of authoritarian regimes, rather than democratic ones.

Pluto demoted

NPR : Astronomers Say Pluto Is Not a Planet
The official word from the IAS is that Pluto is no longer to be considered a planet. The new definition of a planet mandates that
“a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a … nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.”
Pluto is now just a dwarf planet and not even the largest of those. “Xena” is larger than Pluto.
Poor Charon is now a moon of a dwarf planet, when it looked for a while that it might jump up to full planethood itself.
I still think Pluto should have been grandfathered in. It’s Brontosaurus versus Apatosaurus all over again.

Tax farming!

Via a couple of places like Obsidian Wings, I found a NY times article that mentions President’s Bush newest “so old its new” idea.
If you owe back taxes to the federal government, the next call asking you to pay may come not from an Internal Revenue Service officer, but from a private debt collector.
Within two weeks, the I.R.S. will turn over data on 12,500 taxpayers — each of whom owes $25,000 or less in back taxes — to three collection agencies. Larger debtors will continue to be pursued by I.R.S. officers.
The move, an initiative of the Bush administration, represents the first step in a broader plan to outsource the collection of smaller tax debts to private companies over time. Although I.R.S. officials acknowledge that this will be much more expensive than doing it internally, they say that Congress has forced their hand by refusing to let them hire more revenue officers, who could pull in a lot of easy-to-collect money.

The Roman Republic and Empire were past masters of this, among other entities throughout history. Its called Tax Farming.
Its a system which is overripe for abuse.
Clinton wanted to build a bridge to the 21st century. George Bush, with monarchial ideas about the limits of presidential powers, torture, and things like this, seems to want to build a bridge to the 17th.

Something Wicked this way comes…

Ray Bradbury – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Something wicked this way comes, since today is the birthday of Ray Bradbury.
While I might have preferred Asimov and Heinlein to Bradbury overall, The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, and The October Country, among others, will always have a place in the library of my mind.
And I found out a few weeks ago, in a show about John Huston, that Bradbury wrote the screenplay to the 1956 adaptation that Huston did of Moby Dick.