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One Killed In Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Test Flight Crash: VIDEO


Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane exploded and crashed during a test flight over California's Mojave Desert this afternoon, NBC News reports:

WhiteknighttwoThe explosion scattered debris across a two-mile swath of the desert floor outside Mojave, California, and came after the plane was released from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier airplane. SpaceShipTwo was testing its rocket engine in flight for the first time in more than nine months.

"During the test, the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of the vehicle," Virgin Galactic said in a statement. "The WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft landed safely. Our first concern is the status of the pilots."

Jesse Borne, an officer at the California Highway Patrol, told NBC News that there was one fatality and one major injury.

TechCrunch adds:

SpaceShipTwo was designed primarily for space tourism, meant to carry passengers high enough to experience near-weightlessness for roughly $200,000 per ticket. This was a test flight, however, so no passengers are believed to have been onboard.

Watch a ABC Los Angeles report on the developing story, AFTER THE JUMP...

[bottom photo via Twitter]

Continue reading "One Killed In Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Test Flight Crash: VIDEO" »

Anti-Gay Sultan of Brunei Eyeing Iconic New York Hotels - VIDEO


Hassanal Bolkiah, the homophobic Sultan of Brunei, has offered to pay around $2 billion to buy New York’s Plaza Hotel, along with Grosvenor House in London and the Dream Hotel in lower Manhattan, reports Huffington Post.

Bolkiah has faced severe criticism for Brunei’s new penal code which includes death by stoning as a punishment for homosexuality.

A number of celebrities - including Virgin founder and CEO Richard Branson - have protested against the Brunei-owned luxury hotel operator Dorchester Collection following the implementation of the country’s anti-gay laws. However, Russell Crowe announced his support for Dorchester, claiming that protests would “throw employees under the bus to make a political point.”

A statement from the hotel chain said that the company continues to “abide by the laws of the countries we operate in and do not tolerate any form of discrimination of any kind.”

However, activist group Human Rights Campaign’s Director of Global Engagement Ty Cobb said “the American profit stream that flows from [Bolkiah’s] hotels back to his regime needs to stop. We urge all New Yorkers to have one simple and straight-forward message for the Sultan: take your business elsewhere."

Watch a CBS News report, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Richard Branson Condemns Anti-Gay Persecution in Africa, is Meeting with Nigerian Leaders

In a post written before the Ugandan President rejected the anti-homosexuality bill, Virgin founder Richard Branson spoke out against the anti-gay law and said he would be meeting with leaders, including Nigerian officials (where his help might be better used at the moment), about ending anti-gay persecution.

Writes Branson, in part: Branson

We are now working with Ugandan business people to put together a strong list of like-minded entrepreneurs and companies to appeal to the Ugandan President to not sign the bill into law. In other countries where civil rights of individuals are being abused we are also working with like-minded business people to tackle this sort of discriminatory behaviour.  Ideally, businesses and organisations should work with governments to try to change their attitudes from within countries.

I have spoken out against discrimination on many occasions, from supporting equal marriage to challenging Malaysia’s leaders on Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s trial. Next week I am going to meet government leaders from countries including Nigeria to discuss issues such as gay rights and try to encourage progress. We want to work with governments around the world – in countries we do and don’t operate in - to change attitudes for the better. Everyone should speak out to ensure people are free to love whoever they want.

Those politicians passing draconian laws against gay people may discover their own children were born gay. Would they really want to see them locked up for life? Or tortured? We need love and understanding not punishment.

Richard Branson Boycotting Uganda Over Anti-Gay Law, Urges Others to Do the Same

Sir Richard Branson has written a post on the Virgin website urging companies worldwide to stop doing business with Uganda because of its anti-homosexuality law and points out other countries where such laws exist.

BransonWrites Branson:

Ugandan MPs have passed a new law making homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment. The law also means people who do not report gay people can be sent to prison.

I have been courted by various people and government officials to do business in Uganda. I was seriously considering it.

However, the dreadful witch hunt against the gay community and lifetime sentences means it would be against my conscience to support this country.

I would urge other companies worldwide to follow suit. Uganda must reconsider or find it being ostracised by companies and tourists worldwide.

The Economist published a graphic showing where homosexuality is illegal in 2013, which makes for distressing viewing. More than 80 countries worldwide criminalise homosexuality, with the death penalty in place in five countries and areas of Nigeria and Somalia.

Governments must realise that people should be able to love whoever they want. It is not for any government (or anyone else) to ever make any judgements on people's sexuality. They should instead celebrate when people build loving relationships that strengthen society, no matter who they are.

You may recall that Branson, in 2011, spoke out against a similar anti-homosexuality law in Nigeria.

Virgin Galactic's Commercial Spaceship Completes Second Successful Test Flight: VIDEO

Virgin Galactic SS2

Having successfully launched themselves into space two years ago, Virgin Galactic proceeded with their second test flight this past Thursday as they progress towards providing commercial space flight in 2014. The test flight was a rousing success, "flawless" according to the pilots in a Virgin Galactic press release.

The SpaceShipTwo (SS2) reached a height of 69,000 feet and broke the sound barrier to reach a top speed of Mach 1.43 before touching down safely thanks to the feathering re-entry system. Founder of Virgin Galactic Sir Richard Branson expressed his pleasure with the test flight:

It was particularly thrilling to see for the first time today the whole elegant system in action during a single flight, including the remarkable feathering re-entry system. It was this safety feature more than anything else that originally persuaded us that the overall design of the system was uniquely fit for purpose. Everything we have seen today just confirms that view. Congratulations to all involved!

You can see footage of the flight shot facing the tail of the SS2 AFTER THE JUMP...

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Sir Richard Branson Dons Drag, Serves as Flight Attendent After Losing Bet: VIDEO


Passengers aboard an AirAsia flight from Perth to Kuala Lumpur were treated to the sight of Virgin mogul Richard Branson in drag. Branson lost a Formula One racing bet with AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes in 2010 and paid it off by serving as a flight attendant.

Branson dumped a tray of orange juice deliberately on Fernandes' lap during the flight, the AP reports:

"I wanted to kill him actually" for spilling the juice, the Malaysian told reporters.

"He looked at me, I said, `don't you dare,' and the next thing I know, he tipped the whole tray on me," Fernandes added. "He and the girls mopped it up, but I was walking around the flight in my underwear for a while because I didn't bring another pair of trousers."

Watch Branson fulfill his duties, AFTER THE JUMP...

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