December 15, 2005 in Nation/World

Branson sets sights on N.M. spaceport

Compiled from wire reports The Spokesman-Review
 
Associated Press photo

Entrepreneur Richard Branson signs autographs Wednesday in Upham, N.M.
(Full-size photo)

Upham, N.M. Space is the place for Virgin founder Richard Branson. But for now he’s thrilled with New Mexico.

The international playboy-entrepreneur unveiled plans Wednesday for a commercial space station in the southwestern desert.

“We’re going where no one has gone before. There’s no model to follow, nothing to copy,” Branson said.

He’s already started a space tourism company called Virgin Galactic. Now he just needs a “spaceport.” And the local government sounds excited to fork over the $225 million to build one.

Gov. Bill Richardson, who says he will ask the Legislature in January for $100 million over three years to begin building infrastructure for the spaceport, sees it as an investment that will draw high-wage jobs and transform the southern New Mexico economy.

Richardson said the spaceport complex could be under construction in 2007 and open as early as 2009, and Virgin Galactic wouldn’t be the only company in the area. While the spaceport is under construction, Virgin Galactic would send its initial flights up from Mojave, Calif., after 50 to 60 test flights, company officials said. Branson said he and some of his family would be on the first flight.

The paid flights would last 2½ hours and offer about six minutes of weightlessness and a view of Earth through huge windows, company officials said. Passengers would have 3½ days of training in advance.

Freud’s grandson wins Swiss bank lawsuit

New York The grandson of pioneering psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud was awarded $168,000 on Wednesday in a case against Swiss banks accused of betraying their Holocaust-era customers in favor of the Nazis.

The estate of Anton Walter Freud, who died last year at age 83, will receive the money as part of a $3 million payout to 23 claimants, according to a ruling by U.S. District Judge Edward Korman in Brooklyn.

A tribunal investigation found convincing evidence that Sigmund Freud was a victim of persecution and that “much of (his) property and assets were confiscated” by the Nazis, the judge wrote. Freud and his family were allowed to leave Austria for London in June 1938. He died in exile in September 1939 at age 83.

Wikipedia’s accuracy defended by Nature

San Francisco Wikipedia, the encyclopedia that relies on volunteers to pen nearly 4 million articles, is about as accurate in covering scientific topics as Encyclopedia Britannica, the journal Nature wrote in an online article published Wednesday.

The finding, based on a side-by-side comparison of articles covering a broad swath of the scientific spectrum, comes as Wikipedia faces criticism over the accuracy of some of its entries.

Two weeks ago prominent journalist John Seigenthaler Sr. revealed that a Wikipedia entry that ran for four months had incorrectly named him as a longtime suspect in the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert.

Such errors appear to be the exception rather than the rule, Nature said in Wednesday’s article, which the scientific journal said was the first to use peer review to compare Wikipedia to Britannica. Based on 42 articles reviewed by experts, the average scientific entry in Wikipedia contained four errors or omissions, while Britannica had three.

Of eight “serious errors” the reviewers found – including misinterpretations of important concepts – four came from each source, the journal reported.

“We’re very pleased with the results and we’re hoping it will focus people’s attention on the overall level of our work, which is pretty good,” said Jimmy Wales, who founded St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Wikipedia in 2001.


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