Thursday, April 30, 2015

Airlander 10: World’s largest aircraft slowly drifts toward commercial use

Feast your eyes upon Airlander 10, a massive airship that's currently under construction in a suitably oversized hangar in England. The ginormous blimp was originally going to be deployed by the US Army for long-term surveillance, but in 2012 the project had to be canned due to delays and budgetary issues. That wasn't the end of this airship's story, though: Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), the craft's original designer, bought it back from the US in 2013—and now, with grants from the UK government and European Union along with a crowdfunding campaign, the world's largest aircraft will hopefully fly again.
The dirigible dream, for better or worse, is one of those technological boondoggles that simply refuses to die. Airships have enough unique advantages over other types of aircraft that someone, somewhere has always been trying to create a blimp that can either be commercialized (for cargo hauling, telecommunications) or militarized (for surveillance and reconnaissance). The Airlander 10, originally dubbed the Long Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV), was designed by HAV in partnership with Northrop Grumman for the US Army. If everything had gone to plan, there would have been three LEMVs hovering above Afghanistan, acting as communications relays and surveillance platforms.
Only one LEMV was built before the US Army canceled the project, however. There was at least one successful test flight in New Jersey in 2012 (video embedded below), but that was it. In September 2013, Hybrid Air Vehicles bought back the LEMV from the US Army for $301,000. Work continues to reassemble the blimp in Hangar 1 at Cardington Airfield in Bedfordshire, England—which, fittingly enough, has been used for various other airship programs over the last 90 years or so.
According to the Airlander 10's listed tech specs (PDF), it is 92 meters (302 feet) long, 43.5 meters (143 feet) wide, and 26 meters (85 feet) tall. The envelope has a volume of 38,000 cubic meters (1.34 million cubic feet); it's filled with helium, so it won't explode like the Hindenburg. The skin of the envelope is made from a composite of Kevlar, Mylar, and Vectran (all polymers), which Hybrid Air Vehicles claims can withstand some small arms fire. There are four propellers—two at the back, and one each at the front left and front right—powered by four diesel-powered turbocharged V8 engines. Max airspeed is about 80 knots, or 92 mph, with a payload capacity of around 10,000 kg (22,000 pounds).
In February, HAV received a £3.4 million (~$5 million) grant from the UK government; in March, the company got another €2.5 million (~$2.7 million) from the EU; and at the time of writing, HAV has raised £600,000 (~$890,000) via crowdfunding. At the moment, HAV seems to be pitching the Airlander 10 as a greener (i.e., lower carbon footprint) way of moving stuff around as opposed to fuel-guzzling jetliners and trucks. The UK government in general seems to be keen to encourage the growth of small and medium sized businesses, especially in the realms of science, technology, and aerospace.
The Airlander 10, like every other airship that has come before it, is a complicated proposition. On the one hand, it certainly feels like we should be able to find a use for a green(er), low-operating-cost aircraft that can stay up in the sky for weeks on end. On the other hand, given their low cruising speed and the massive amounts of investment going into competing technologies such as conventional unmanned aerial vehicles and low-level satellites, we think it will be hard for airships to carve out more than a token slice of the aircraft pie.
It certainly would be cool to see giant airships puttering through the skies, though, carrying cargo and providing high-speed network connectivity both in rural and urban areas.
Hybrid Air Vehicles had planned to carry out its first UK test flight last year, but it never occurred. Now the company's stance is a little less bold; it's still working toward a test flight, but no exact date is being publicized.

Violent clashes at Brazil teachers' protest in Curitiba

Policemen clash with teachers during a protest in Curitiba in Parana state April 29, 2015.

More than 200 people are reported to have been injured in clashes between police and teachers protesting in the Brazilian city of Curitiba.
Police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at demonstrators in the southern city on Wednesday.
Officers said they had been forced to act when a group of protesters tried to break through police lines around the state legislative assembly.
The teachers were protesting against proposed changes to their pension.
Curitiba city officials said 213 people had been injured. The emergency services reported that eight were in a serious condition in hospital.
Policemen fire rubber bullets and tear gas against teachers during a protest in Curitiba in Parana state April 29, 2015.
Protesters said the police used excessive force
Writing on Twitter, Curitiba Mayor Gustavo Fruet said the scene resembled "a war zone".
However, the government of Parana state put the number of injured protesters much lower. It said 40 protesters and 22 police officers were hurt.
The organisers of the protests said 20,000 people attended the march, but there has been no independent confirmation of those number.
The teachers were trying to prevent members of the state assembly from voting on a proposal which would move their state pensions to a different fund.
The teachers are worried the new fund will not be as secure and have repeatedly gone on strike in an attempt to prevent it.
The vote went ahead on Wednesday with thee state assembly approving the changes.

Indonesia executions: Brazilian was 'unaware until end'

A Brazilian man executed in Indonesia for drug smuggling did not know that he was going to die, says his priest.
Father Charlie Burrows has said that Rodrigo Gularte was hearing voices and did not understand that he was to be shot by firing squad until the end.
Gularte had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Seven foreigners and one Indonesian were executed on Wednesday, sparking a diplomatic outcry.

Hearing voices

Father Charlie Burrows said he had tried to prepare Gularte for his execution but that the Brazilian had not realised what was happening to him until his final moments.
"I had time to get him ready because he had to be put in chains, because he doesn't like being touched," he told ABC News Australia.
"He started to get the message, and when the chains started going on he said to me, 'Oh no, oh Father, am I being executed?'"
Father Burrows said that Gularte had been hearing voices in his final days that had promised him that everything would be fine.
"He believes the voices more than he does anybody else," he said.

Hugo Bachega, BBC Brasil

A woman displays a photograph of executed Brazilian drug convict Rodrigo Gularte at the hospital morgue in Jakarta on April 29, 2015.
Gularte's cousin told the BBC that the Brazilian was "delusional"
One of Gularte's last requests was that he be buried in Brazil so that "if he was resuscitated" he would be close to his family, a Brazilian diplomat who met him told the BBC.
The diplomat said that this was further evidence of Gularte's poor mental health.
A cousin who visited him regularly in prison said that Gularte was delusional.
She said his favourite topics were "his past lives in Egypt and other surreal stories that never happened".
Gularte claimed that the water and food at the prison were contaminated and was constantly seen talking to walls and ghosts, the cousin said.
Ricky Gunawan, Gularte's Indonesian lawyer, told the BBC that his execution was "outrageous".
"Indonesia has closed its eyes and ears and just wanted to execute him regardless of the plausible evidences we had to avoid the execution."
Brazil had asked the Indonesian government to spare Gularte on the grounds that he was severely mentally ill.

'Deep regret'

He was the second Brazilian to be executed for drug smuggling in Indonesia in four months.
Earlier, Brazil described the latest execution was "a serious event in the relations between the two countries".
Gularte, 42, was arrested in 2004 for trying to smuggle cocaine into Indonesia hidden in surfing gear.
Filipino protesters hold placards protesting the planned execution of Mary Jane Veloso in Makati, Philippines, 24 April 2015
Family, friends and foreign diplomats appealed for the death sentences to be overturned
Wednesday's executions have been heavily criticised by the international community.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed "deep regret" over the incident.
In a statement, Mr Ban said the death penalty had "no place in the 21st Century" and urged Indonesia to spare all other death row prisoners.
Among those killed, were two Australian men - Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.
Australia, a key ally of Indonesia, has recalled its ambassador in protest.
Nigeria has also expressed "deep disappointment" at the execution of four of its nationals.

Hokusai and the wave that swept the world

(Credit: Katsushika Hokusai / Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

In the beginning was the wave. The blue and white tsunami, ascending from the left of the composition like a massive claw, descends pitilessly on Mount Fuji – the most august mountain in Japan, turned in Katsushika Hokusai’s vision into a small and vulnerable hillock. Under the Wave off Kanagawa, one of Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, has been an icon of Japan since the print was first struck in 1830–31, yet it forms part of a complex global network of art, commerce, and politics. Its intense blue comes from Hokusai’s pioneering use of Prussian Blue ink – a foreign pigment, imported, probably via China, from England or Germany. The wave, from the beginning, stretched beyond Japan. Soon, it would crash over Europe.
This week the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, home to the greatest collection of Japanese art outside Japan, opens a giant retrospective of the art of Hokusai, showcasing his indispensible woodblock prints of the genre we call ukiyo-e, or ‘images of the floating world’. It’s the second Hokusai retrospective in under a year; last autumn, the wait to see the artist’s two-part mega-show at the Grand Palais in Paris stretched to two hours or more. American and French audiences adore Hokusai – and have for centuries. He is, after all, not only one of the great figures of Japanese art, but a father figure of much of Western modernism. Without Hokusai, there might have been no Impressionism – and the global art world we today take for granted might look very different indeed.
Hokusai’s prints didn’t find their way to the West until after the artist’s death in 1849. During his lifetime Japan was still subject to sakoku, the longstanding policy that forbade foreigners from entering and Japanese from leaving, on penalty of death. But in the 1850s, with the arrival of the ‘black ships’ of the American navy under Matthew Perry, Japan gave up its isolationist policies – and officers and diplomats, then artists and collectors, discovered Japanese woodblock printing. In Japan, Hokusai was seen as vulgar, beneath the consideration of the imperial literati. In the West, his delineation of space with color and line, rather than via one-point perspective, would have revolutionary impact.
Both the style and the subject matter of ukiyo-e prints appealed to young artists like Félix Bracquemond, one of the first French artists to be seduced by Japan. Yet the Japanese prints traveling to the West in the first years after Perry were contemporary artworks, rather than the slightly earlier masterpieces of Hokusai, Hiroshige, and Utamaro. Many of the prints that arrived were used as wrapping paper for commercial goods. Everything changed on 1 April, 1867, when the Exposition Universelle opened on the Champ de Mars, the massive Paris marching grounds that now lies in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. It featured, for the first time, a Japanese pavilion – and its showcase of ukiyo-e prints revealed the depth of Japanese printmaking to French artists for the first time.
Monet drew inspiration from his Japanese garden at Giverny for many of his famous works
Monet drew inspiration from his Japanese garden at Giverny for many of his famous late works (Credit: The Print Collector/Getty Images)
Claude Monet went, we know, and soon enough Monet had acquired 250 Japanese prints, including 23 by Hokusai, which covered the walls of his house in Giverny in the north of France. Monet’s series of grainstacks and poplars, of Rouen Cathedral and Waterloo Bridge, owe a great deal to Hokusai’s earlier experiments of depicting a single subject over dozens of images. The influence ran from Monet’s art into his life. His wife wore a kimono around the house. His garden at Giverny is modeled directly after a Japanese print, right down to the arcing bridge and bamboo.
Other artists were influenced less by Hokusai’s landscapes than by his renderings of human forms. Edgar Degas, especially, found in Hokusai’smanga – his thousands of sketches of fish, sumo wrestlers, geisha, and everyday city-dwellers – the inspiration for his drastic depictions of women in fin-de-siècle Paris. His dancers, backs curved and faces in profile, display some characteristics of Japanese portraiture, but one sees the influence of Hokusai especially in Degas’s bathers: both artists were uncommonly interested in women’s private, rather than public, appearances. Degas’ pastel The Tub, from 1866 and now at the Musée d’Orsay, is a proudly two-dimensional composition with heavy debts toukiyo-e. And his etching of Mary Cassatt at the Louvre quotes directly from Hokusai’s manga: Cassatt has shifted her weight to one leg, while the woman whose pose she imitates is being dragged off by a wild horse.
The composition of Degas’ The Tub shows a heavy debt to Japanese printmaking
The composition of Degas’ The Tub shows a heavy debt to Japanese printmaking (Credit: Edgar Degas/Musée d'Orsay, Paris)
That Degas etching reveals another influence of Hokusai and other printmakers: they elevated the reputation of graphic arts in France, and made printmaking into a more respectable medium for fine artists. “Seriously, you must not miss it,” Cassatt wrote to her fellow artist Berthe Morisot on the occasion of a Japanese prints exhibition. “You who want to make colour prints, you couldn't imagine anything more beautiful… You must see the Japanese — come as soon as you can.” Her modern printmaking coincided almost exactly with the arrival of Japanese art in France, and no one embraced the two as passionately as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Though he started as a painter, Lautrec soon moved almost exclusively to prints and posters.
His poster for the Divan Japonais, a Paris nightclub decorated with bamboo and paper lanterns, shows the cancan dancer Jane Avril in severe, Orientalised profile. Lautrec’s fascination with ukiyo-e was social as much as formal. The large panels of solid colour that recur in Lautrec’s prints and posters derive from the example of Hokusai and other Japanese artists. But just as much, ukiyo-e prints showed Lautrec that louche life – teahouses, restaurants, brothels – could be the stuff of art.
Toulouse-Lautrec embraced both Japanese art and printmaking
Toulouse-Lautrec embraced both Japanese art and printmaking, as in his poster for the nightclub Le Divan Japonais (Credit: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec/Wikipedia)
Rising in the East
It’s worth recalling that what brought Hokusai and other ukiyo-eprintmakers to the attention of Monet, Degas, Cassatt, and Lautrec were trade deals, on uneven terms, between Japan and the West. France and other industrial powers were thriving; Japan was in upheaval, as the shogunate gave way to the Meiji Restoration. So the exchange was uneven from the start, economically and culturally as well. Japan, in theJaponiste imagination, was a country preserved in amber – unchanged over its two-and-a-half centuries of isolation. It was a place where daily life still had the beauty and the purity that industrialisation had blasted from European society. Few western artists were interested in the full depth of Japanese art – the monumental sculpture, the Chinese-influenced painting, the Buddhist reliquaries. Their interest, rather, was more like that of the American naval officer in Puccini’s opera Madam Butterfly: in love with a girl in Nagasaki, but never in doubt that he holds the power in their unequal relationship.
By 1905, however, when the Imperial Army thumped to victory in the Russo-Japanese War, that fantasy could no longer hold. The Japan of the early 20th Century was a world power, a modern empire, and suddenly not so easy to imagine as a fairy land of beautiful women in communion with nature. Japan retained its aesthetic reputation for elegance, harmony, and simplicity for Westerners of the early 20th Century – the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, for one, was a huge Japanophile and a major ukiyo-e collector. But it is no coincidence that Picasso, Braque, Rousseau, and other French artists who came of age after Japonisme turned to Africa (and to a lesser extent Oceania) to fulfill their primitivist fantasies. Breaking free of the rigours of Western representation, as the Impressionists began to do and as the Cubists may indeed have required a gaze onto worlds beyond Europe. But the one thing they could not stand was when the people of those worlds gazed back.

Windows 'open' for Apple and Android

Windows 10 laptop

Microsoft is releasing software tools that make it easier to run popular Apple and Android apps on Windows mobile devices.
By changing a "few percent", Apple app makers should be able to run code on Windows 10 mobile devices, it said.
And many Android apps should run with no changes.
Experts said the move was an "imperfect solution" to Microsoft's problems persuading people to use Windows mobile.

Popular vote

For iOS, Microsoft has unveiled an initiative called Project Islandwood, which has led to the creation of a software interpreter that works with the development tools Apple coders typically pick.
By piping code through this interpreter and changing a few other parts, it would be possible to transfer or port iOS apps to Windows 10, Microsoft said in a presentation at its Build developer conference in Seattle.
Already developers working for game-maker King have ported the massively popular Candy Crush Saga to Windows using these tools.
A separate initiative, called Project Astoria, is aimed at Android and involves code built in to Windows itself that spots when an Android app is running and gives it the responses it expects.
Microsoft said this meant many Android apps would run with no changes on Windows mobile devices.
However, the way that Android is built means changes will have to be made to some apps.
The tactic is seen as a way for Microsoft to to boost its popularity and persuade developers to include Windows 10 in their plans.
While many apps are already available on the Windows store, some popular ones, such as Pinterest and Plants v Zombies 2, are absent.
Microsoft has also added tools that let Android apps reach some parts of Windows, such as its Cortana personal assistant, they would not otherwise be able to use.
CCS Insight analyst Geoff Blaber said: "The decision to embrace Android and iOS applications is an imperfect solution to an undesirable problem.
"Nonetheless, it's a necessary move to attract developers otherwise lost to Apple and Google."

Time Magazine's Baltimore Cover Harkens Back To 1968

Time magazine's cover story this week makes a strong statement about the systemic injustice millions of Americans still face, drawing parallels between unrest in Baltimore and the riots dozens of U.S. cities saw in the late 1960s.
"The roots of these days of rage, whether in Ferguson or North Charleston or Baltimore, reach down through decades of compounded failures," journalist David Von Drehle writes in the story. "Each flash point is different; so was each community’s response. But there is something universal about them all."
The cover photo was taken by Devin Allen, a 26-year-old aspiring photographer and resident of West Baltimore.
“For me, who’s from Baltimore city, to be on the cover of Time Magazine, I don’t even know what to say. I’m speechless,” he told Time. "It’s inspiring me to go further. It gives me hope and it gives a lot of people around me hope."
"After my daughter, who’s my pride and joy, this is the best thing that’s happened to me," he added.
Cover image courtesy of Time.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Twitter Unveils New Plan To Battle Abusive Users

LEON NEAL via Getty Images

Twitter is cracking down even harder on abusive content.
The company on Tuesday announced policy changes aimed at finding, flagging and deleting harassment or abusive material. And for the first time, Twitter will actively enforce its rules by locking offending accounts for a short period.
"In addition to other actions we already take in response to abuse violations (such as requiring users to delete content or verify their phone number), we’re introducing an additional enforcement option that gives our support team the ability to lock abusive accounts," Twitter management wrote on its blog.
The company also expanded its definition of "violent threats," from "direct, specific threats of violence against others” to “threats of violence against others or promoting violence against others.”
The blog mentions a new "product feature to help us identify suspected abusive tweets and limit their reach," and this can take into account other similar material that has been flagged in the past.
Twitter outlined its enforcement options in a graphic:
This likely means that more users will be subject to the new enforcement rules. But it wasn't immediately clear how automated the new flagging and enforcement process will be.
Twitter representatives didn't immediately return requests for comment by The Huffington Post.
The blog states that the former policy on abusive material was "unduly narrow," and notes that the changes reflect a need to make Twitter a safer place:
We’ll be monitoring how these changes discourage abuse and how they help ensure the overall health of a platform that encourages everyone’s participation. And as the ultimate goal is to ensure that Twitter is a safe place for the widest possible range of perspectives, we will continue to evaluate and update our approach in this critical arena.
In a separate move on Monday, the site also started allowing users to receive direct messages from anyone, not just users they follow.

If You're Worried About Loved Ones In Nepal, This App Could Help


In the wake of a devastating earthquake in Nepal, a Facebook app could help people worldwide find out if their loved ones in the affected regions are all right.
“Safety Check” is a tool launched in October for the purpose of allowing users to easily alert their Facebook friends that they are OK in the case of natural disasters. If you have the app and are in an area affected by a natural disaster, you’ll get an alert asking you if you are safe. The app determines your location based on where you are using the Internet, the city listed in your profile or the last location where you were tagged.
The app’s creation was inspired by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement when Facebook made the app available worldwide.
Facebook users with the app can also check to see how many friends are in an affected area and how many of those friends have checked in as safe.
The app does have some limitations -- a person must have a Facebook account, the app downloaded and access to the Internet to “check in.” However, Facebook does allow users to check in on behalf of friends who also have the app.
The earthquake, the epicenter of which was 50 miles east of Pokhara, was the worst Nepal has seen in over 80 years. “Almost the entire country has been hit," Krishna Prasad Dhakal, deputy chief of mission of Nepal's embassy in New Delhi, told Reuters.
As of Saturday afternoon, at least 1,130 people had been confirmed killed by the quake, which set off a deadly avalanche on Mt. Everest.
Neighboring countries were hit with deadly tremors, with 34 dead in India, six in Tibet, two in Bangladesh and two on the Nepal-China border.

The Coming Problem of Our iPhones Being More Intelligent Than We Are


Ray Kurzweil made a startling prediction in 1999 that appears to be coming true: that by 2023 a $1,000 laptop would have the computing power and storage capacity of a human brain. He also predicted that Moore's law, which postulates that the processing capability of a computer doubles every 18 months, would apply for 60 years -- until 2025 -- giving way then to new paradigms of technological change.
Kurzweil, a renowned futurist and the director of engineering at Google, now says that the hardware needed to emulate the human brain may be ready even sooner than he predicted -- in around 2020 -- using technologies such as graphics processing units (GPUs), which are ideal for brain-software algorithms. He predicts that the complete brain software will take a little longer: until about 2029.
The implications of all this are mind-boggling. Within seven years -- about when the iPhone 11 is likely to be released -- the smartphones in our pockets will be as computationally intelligent as we are. It doesn't stop there, though. These devices will continue to advance, exponentially, until they exceed the combined intelligence of the human race. Already our computers have a big advantage over us: They are connected via the Internet and share information with each other billions of times more quickly than we can. It is hard to even imagine what becomes possible with these advances and what the implications are.
Doubts about the longevity of Moore's law and the practicability of these advances are understandable. After all, there are limits to how much transistors can be shrunk: Nothing can be smaller than an atom. Even short of this physical limit, there will be many other technological hurdles. Intel acknowledges these limits but suggests that Moore's law can keep going for another five to 10 years. So the silicon-based computer chips in our laptops will likely sputter their way to match the power of a human brain.
Kurzweil says Moore's law isn't the be-all and end-all of computing, and that the advances will continue regardless of what Intel can do with silicon. Moore's law itself was just one of five paradigms in computing: electromechanical, relay, vacuum tube, discrete transistor, and integrated circuits. In his 2001 essay "The Law of Accelerating Returns," Kurzweil explains that technology has been advancing exponentially since the advent of evolution on Earth, and that computing power has been rising exponentially, from the mechanical calculating devices used in the 1890 U.S. Census to the machines that cracked the Nazi enigma code to the CBS vacuum-tube computer to the transistor-based machines used in the first space launches to the integrated-circuit-based personal computer.
With exponentially advancing technologies, things move very slowly at first and then advance dramatically. Each new technology advances along an S-curve -- an exponential beginning, flattening out as the technology reaches its limits. As one technology ends, the next paradigm takes over. That is what has been happening, and why there will be new computing paradigms after Moore's law.
Already there are significant advances on the horizon, such as the GPU, which uses parallel computing to create massive increases in performance, not only for graphics but for neural networks, which constitute the architecture of the human brain. There are 3D chips in development that can pack circuits in layers. IBM and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are developing cognitive-computing chips. New materials, such as gallium arsenide, carbon nanotubes, and graphene, are showing huge promise as replacements for silicon. And then there is the most interesting -- and scary -- technology of all: quantum computing.
Instead of encoding information as either a 0 or a 1, as today's computers do, quantum computers will use quantum bits, or qubits, whose states encode an entire range of possibilities by capitalizing on the quantum phenomena of superposition and entanglement. Computations that would take today's computers thousands of years will occur in minutes on these.
Add artificial intelligence to the advances in hardware and you begin to realize why luminaries such as Elon MuskStephen Hawking, and Bill Gates are worried about the creation of a "super intelligence." Musk fears that "we are summoning the demon." Hawking says it "could spell the end of the human race." And Gates wrote, "I don't understand why some people are not concerned."
Kurzweil tells me he is not worried. He believes we will create a benevolent intelligence and use it to enhance ourselves. He sees technology as a double-edged sword, just like fire, which has kept us warm but has also burned down our villages. He believes that technology will enable us to address the problems that have long plagued human civilization -- such as disease, hunger, energy, education, and clean water -- and that we can use it for good.
These advances in technology are a near-certainty. The question is whether humanity will rise to the occasion and use them in a beneficial way. We can either build a Star Trek future, in which our civilization rises to new heights, or descend into a Mad Maxworld. It is up to us.

China Now Has More Vineyard Land Than France


China now boasts more land dedicated to wine-making vineyards than France as it tries to satisfy a rapid rise in local demand.
China's vineyards grew to 800,000 hectares (1.9 million acres) last year, putting it behind No. 1 grower Spain but ahead of France.
Because its production is less effective than more established wine-making countries, China's output is only the seventh-biggest, according to figures released Monday by the Paris-based International Organization of Vine and Wine.
France took over the title of top producer from Italy last year, with 46.7 million hectoliters, or 6.2 billion bottles. EU countries have intentionally reduced vineyards in recent years to make them more efficient and improve quality.
By contrast, China's harvest is expected to yield 11.2 million hectoliters. The bulk of that is destined for consumers in China, whose 1.4 billion people knocked back 15.8 million hectoliters (2.1 billion bottles) of wine last year.
The taste for wine has grown rapidly in China over the last 15 years, more than local production can keep up with. Added to the status carried by foreign wines, China has become the world's sixth-largest wine importer, on par with Russia.
According to London-based wine and spirits research firm IWSR China is the world's fourth-largest consumer of red wine, and the fifth-largest consumer overall.
Sparkling wines are also quickly gaining popularity in the country but remain a niche market, with around 13 million bottles drunk in 2013.
The United States remained the world's biggest wine consumer last year, at 30.7 million hectoliters (4.1 billion bottles).
Wine sales worldwide grew 2.6 percent last year in volume, for an overall value of 26 billion euros.

Baltimore and Our Imperfect Union

Those of us alive today owe a tremendous debt to the American women and men that over the course of the last century worked to create a more perfect union by establishing basic worker rights, breaking the back of Jim Crow, shattering some of the strongest glass ceilings for women, and even making equality for gay and lesbians an issue to be addressed and not kept in the closet.
Still, we are not that perfect union we hope to be. Baltimore reminds us of that today.
Before Baltimore it was Ferguson and in between we struggled with a crisis dealing with race and law enforcement in New York City. In recent years, both Seattle andPortland have faced similar issues.
As I have noted in previous forums, for all the gifts of our democracy we are a nation not fully free. A broken system allowed the loser of the popular vote to take the presidency in 2001. Our political system has never fully recovered.
Since then we have given corporations the rights of people and taken away from certain people the right to freely vote. We are not fully free.
We invaded a nation under false pretenses and then tortured our enemies in violation of all international norms, all the while economic policies that benefited the top 1 percent of Americans were enacted, leading to a historic collapse of the economy from which we have yet to fully recover.
The United States keeps company with nations like Russia in incarcerating large numbers of our fellow citizens, and in America those jailings are disproportionally based on skin color and not on crime.
We are not fully free in Missouri or New York or California or Oregon when unarmed African-Americans are killed by uniformed police officers and we know the process of investigation will be neither fair nor balanced.
Ours is a disconnected reality. We live in an age where an African-American can be elected president of the United States. We live in an age where a Latino can serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. We live in an age where a woman can be a serious contender for the presidency. All of these people serve based on the content of their character.
But we are less free when our people are hungry. We are less free when our children are homeless. How can we make the claim that we are the "greatest nation on Earth" when 20,000 or more students will experience homelessness just in Oregon this year?
All of this and more leaves me worried for my daughters and the students I serve at Pacific University. Will the legacy of this generation be one of progress?
The crisis of Ferguson was not an isolated incident but indicative of larger social ills that infect the whole body of our nation. Neither party has done enough to address these morally complex issues but worse is that some politicians seek to use these issues as tools of division instead as opportunities for reform and reconciliation.
Only when we recognize the common humanity that we all share will we all be free. We cannot treat one another as if we can do without the other. We are too interconnected.
In his letter 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote about the church being the body of Christ. These are the words his used, as translated by Eugene Peterson:
For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn't be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, "Get lost; I don't need you"? Or, Head telling Foot, "You're fired; your job has been phased out"? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way--the "lower" the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it's a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn't you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?
These are words that would be understood by nearly any faith traditional or moral philosophical school.
And if you are waiting for a great prophet from God to arise and lead us from darkness to light, remember that God is calling us all to this struggle. We are the inheritors of the dream and whether we like it or not, whether it is convenient or not, whether we are ready or not, for the future of our children and their children and their children, for the future of creation itself, we must loudly answer God's call by saying: Here I am, Lord! Here I am!

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