Monday, January 01, 2018

Breaking a "juvenile taboo" on UFOs

In the $600 billion annual Defense Department budgets, the $22 million spent on the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program was almost impossible to find.

Which was how the Pentagon wanted it.

For years, the program investigated reports of unidentified flying objects, according to Defense Department officials, interviews with program participants and records obtained by The New York Times. It was run by a military intelligence official, Luis Elizondo, on the fifth floor of the Pentagon’s C Ring, deep within the building’s maze.

The Defense Department has never before acknowledged the existence of the program, which it says it shut down in 2012. But its backers say that, while the Pentagon ended funding for the effort at that time, the program remains in existence. For the past five years, they say, officials with the program have continued to investigate episodes brought to them by service members, while also carrying out their other Defense Department duties.

The shadowy program — parts of it remain classified — began in 2007, and initially it was largely funded at the request of Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who was the Senate majority leader at the time and who has long had an interest in space phenomena. Most of the money went to an aerospace research company run by a billionaire entrepreneur and longtime friend of Mr. Reid’s, Robert Bigelow, who is currently working with NASA to produce expandable craft for humans to use in space.

On CBS’s “60 Minutes” in May, Mr. Bigelow said he was “absolutely convinced” that aliens exist and that U.F.O.s have visited Earth...


"Like a rat up a drainpipe"

In a spin: Alan Bennett on the streets near his North London home
Old fart on a bike

"People say that life is the thing; but I prefer reading." (Logan Pearsall Smith)

In his annual Diary entries in the London Review of Books, Alan Bennett sorts his books as he gets ready to move out of the house he lived in for 50 years. As an old bibliophile myself, I sympathize with this:

...Once upon a time I would have saved books because I planned to read them in the future or use them in something I might write, but now one can’t avoid the realisation that there is no time: no time to read them, no time to write about or around them...

I'm not quite as old as Bennett, but I share the running-out-of-time sensation about my books.

I like this ruthlessly honest entry about AIDS and Princess Diana:

Angels in America opens at the National. When I saw the original production at the Cottesloe in 1992 I found I was sitting behind Derek Jarman. I knew Derek slightly since he had been in the adaptation of Orton’s Prick Up Your Ears, and I knew, too, that he had been diagnosed with HIV. 

On my way to the theatre I had grazed my hand slightly as I came down the stairs from Waterloo Bridge, and I found myself desperate lest Jarman turn round and shake hands. So I shamefully kept mum until the interval, when I rushed upstairs to the NT office where I got some sticking plaster, then came back and made myself known, though whether he shook hands or not I can’t remember. I tell the story only as a reminder of the hysteria of that time, to which I was not immune. I have mixed feelings about Princess Diana, but when nowadays her concern for and embracing of Aids sufferers is disparaged as being of no particular consequence I very much disagree. It was a kind of courage of which I would have been incapable.

And there's this entry that contains a remarkable and unflattering metaphor for sex that was new to me:

I sit in the kitchen all this hot afternoon, idly watching a 1940s film about Caribbean pirates with Tyrone Power. As a boy I adored Tyrone Power and thought him the handsomest man I’d ever seen, and when in later life I worked with Coral Browne and found out (it wasn’t something she boasted about) that she and Tyrone Power had had an affair it hugely augmented her glamour. That he was also gay came out around the same time, Coral often taking on such ambiguous figures, with Cecil Beaton another example. When I said to Coral that I’d thought Beaton was gay she remarked, ‘Not when he was with me, darling. Like a rat up a drainpipe.’

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What the US can do about Iran

Thanks to Harry's Place 

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