Jeff Bezos accusing National Enquirer/AMI of blackmail and extortion

Jeff Bezos, founder and major shareholder of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post, has accused ‘the top people’ at the National Enquirer/AMI of blackmail and extortion in trying to stop further investigations by the Washington, and to get Bezos to issue a statement saying they have no knowledge of AMI coverage being politically motivated or ‘influenced by political forces’.

AMI owner David Pecker has been a strong supporter of Donald Trump. In December AMI was entered into an immunity deal with the Department of Justice over to their role in the so-called “Catch and Kill” process on behalf of President Trump and his election campaign. If they have acted illegally with the alleged threats that could affect that immunity deal.

Yesterday Bezos posted No thank you, Mr. Pecker

Something unusual happened to me yesterday. Actually, for me it wasn’t just unusual — it was a first. I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse. Or at least that’s what the top people at the National Enquirer thought. I’m glad they thought that, because it emboldened them to put it all in writing. Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten.

…I didn’t know much about most of that a few weeks ago when intimate texts messages from me were published in the National Enquirer. I engaged investigators to learn how those texts were obtained, and to determine the motives for the many unusual actions taken by the Enquirer. As it turns out, there are now several independent investigations looking into this matter.

To lead my investigation, I retained Gavin de Becker

Several days ago, an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is “apoplectic” about our investigation. For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve.

A few days after hearing about Mr. Pecker’s apoplexy, we were approached, verbally at first, with an offer. They said they had more of my text messages and photos that they would publish if we didn’t stop our investigation.

My lawyers argued that AMI has no right to publish photos since any person holds the copyright to their own photos, and since the photos in themselves don’t add anything newsworthy.

AMI’s claim of newsworthiness is that the photos are necessary to show Amazon shareholders that my business judgment is terrible.

Email sent Howard, Dylan (Chief Content Officer, AMI) to Martin Singer (litigation counsel for Mr. de Becker) includes:

However, in the interests of expediating this situation, and with The Washington Post poised to publish unsubstantiated rumors of The National Enquirer’s initial report, I wanted to describe to you the photos obtained during our newsgathering.

In addition to the “below the belt selfie — otherwise colloquially known as a ‘d*ck pick’” — The Enquirer obtained a further nine images.

The photos are described.

It would give no editor pleasure to send this email. I hope common sense can prevail — and quickly.

Bezos:

Well, that got my attention. But not in the way they likely hoped. Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there’s a much more important matter involved here. If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can? (On that point, numerous people have contacted our investigation team about their similar experiences with AMI, and how they needed to capitulate because, for example, their livelihoods were at stake.)

In the AMI letters I’m making public, you will see the precise details of their extortionate proposal: They will publish the personal photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press that we “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”

If we do not agree to affirmatively publicize that specific lie, they say they’ll publish the photos, and quickly. And there’s an associated threat: They’ll keep the photos on hand and publish them in the future if we ever deviate from that lie.

These communications cement AMI’s long-earned reputation for weaponizing journalistic privileges, hiding behind important protections, and ignoring the tenets and purpose of true journalism. Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks, and corruption. I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out.

From an email on Wednesday from Fine, Jon (Deputy General Counsel, AMI) to Martin Singer (Mr de Becker’s attorney)

Here are our proposed terms:

2. A public, mutually-agreed upon acknowledgment from the Bezos Parties, released through a mutually-agreeable news outlet, affirming that they have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AM’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces, and an agreement that they will cease referring to such a possibility.

3. AM agrees not to publish, distribute, share, or describe unpublished texts and photos (the “Unpublished Materials”).

6. In the case of a breach of the agreement by one or more of the Bezos Parties, AM is released from its obligations under the agreement, and may publish the Unpublished Materials.

Whether that constitutes blackmail and/or extortion, or whether it will warrant legal action or investigation, will no doubt unfold.

AMI has issued a statement in response:

“American Media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos. Further, at the time of the recent allegations made by Mr. Bezos, it was in good faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him. Nonetheless, in light of the nature of the allegations published by Mr. Bezos, the Board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims. Upon completion of that investigation, the Board will take whatever appropriate action is necessary.”

Pecker is one of four AMI board members.

CNBC: National Enquirer publisher believes it ‘acted lawfully’ on Bezos story, vows to investigate matter

AMI’s assertion that it violated no laws in its reporting matters beyond the Bezos affair. In December, the tabloid publisher struck an immunity deal with federal prosecutors in connection with the $150,000 hush-money payment the supermarket tabloid gave to a Playboy model who claims she had an affair with Trump.

That agreement requires that AMI “shall commit no crimes whatsoever.” If it turns out that Bezos’ blackmail allegations are confirmed, AMI could lose its immunity.

Brett Kappel, a lawyer specializing in political finance and ethics at Akerman LLP, said AMI’s immunity deal could be at risk.

“AMI is looking at the very real possibility that it may be found to have breached the nonprosecution agreement and could be prosecuted both for the crimes that were the subject of the nonprosecution agreement and any subsequent crimes,” Kappel told CNBC.

“In addition, the lawyers involved will almost certainly face disciplinary proceedings by the New York State Bar and could be disbarred,” Kappel added.

Former federal prosecutor David Weinstein told CNBC that Bezos’ accusation “certainly sounds like extortion or blackmail.” But he cautioned that “sounding like something and actually filing charges are two different things. AMI will undoubtedly argue that their statements were simply litigation negotiation strategy.”

This raises the tensions between media and politics in the US. There is big money and big power in both politics and the media there. The whole kaboodle looks dysfunctional and a corruption of power.

Whether this latest move from Bezos lifts a scab or just adds more puss is yet to be seen.

HDCA: cot case bar set for ‘harm’

A judgment was been given on an application to dismiss a prosecution under the Harmful Digital  Communications Act that suggests that to succeed with a prosecution the victim would virtually have to become a cot case.

Judge C J Doherty ruled that the posting of semi-nude photos on Facebook had taken place with the intention of causing harm to the victim, but that there was insufficient evidence that “serious emotional distress” had occurred (as defined in s 4 of the HDCA).

It appears from this that the legislation, backed by this judgment, has set a very high bar for a prosecution under the HDCA.

This rules out a conviction under the act for malicious digital communications that may seriously harm someone’s reputation but that they don’t get ‘seriously distressed’ about. Getting very pissed off or angry or upset with a harmful attack would seem to be insufficient.

In this case an estranged husband still has to face a charge of breaching a protection order, but the judge ruled on a breach of s 22 of the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 (HDCA) “that the prosecution has not established a prima facie case that the complainant in fact suffered harm as defined in s 4”.

[3] The second charge alleges a breach of s 22 of the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 (HDCA) (“the second charge”). It is alleged that the defendant posted a digital communication, being semi-nude images of Mrs Iyer, from whom he is separated. The prosecution alleges that: in posting the communication, the defendant intended to cause Mrs Iyer harm; that posting the communication would cause harm to an ordinary reasonable person in Mrs Iyer’s position; and that posting the communication caused serious emotional distress to Mrs Iyer.

From the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015:

22 Causing harm by posting digital communication:

(1) A person commits an offence if—

(a) the person posts a digital communication with the intention that it cause harm to a victim; and
(b) posting the communication would cause harm to an ordinary reasonable person in the position of the victim; and
(c) posting the communication causes harm to the victim.

4 Interpretation: ‘harm means serious emotional distress’.

Posting a digital communication

First the judge considered in detail whether posting to Facebook constituted a digital communication:

“the defendant claims the prosecution has not proved that a Facebook post qualifies as a digital communication, as defined by s 4 of the HDCA”

The HDCA definition:

digital communication-
(a) means any form of electronic communication; and
(b) includes any text message, writing, photograph, picture, recording, or other matter that is communicated electronically

The judge ruled against the defendant on that:

I am satisfied, without evidence of the precise protocol and technological basis of Facebook, that the photographs included on the [name of account deleted] account constituted digital communications.

It would have been absurd if posting to Facebook was not a digital communication.

The judge next found that the timing of the posting of the photograph had happened after the HDCA came into force on 1 July 2015.

The judge then considered intention  to cause harm.

[51] The evidence must tend to prove that the defendant posted the “digital communication with the intention that it cause harm to a victim” (in this case Mrs Iyer). Harm is further defined in s 4 of the HDCA as “serious emotional distress”.

[52] I have been unable to find the phrase “serious emotional distress” in any other piece of legislation. Accordingly, it does not appear to have been judicially defined, thus I must consider the definition in terms of the plain meaning of the words, and the wider purpose of the HDCA.

[54] It is clear from the inclusion of the word “serious” that the intended harm must be more than trivial. Being merely upset or annoyed as a consequence of a digital communication would not be sufficient to invoke the sanction of criminal law.

Also, I emphasise that the conduct criminalised by the HDCA is harmful conduct. Offensive, morally repugnant or merely upsetting conduct will not suffice. In order to attract criminal sanction, the conduct must go further.

[56] Turning to the purposive approach, in my view it is clear that the definition of serious emotional distress is designed to balance two competing concerns: the serious effects of calculated emotional harm, and the importance of maintaining free speech.

[58] This Parliamentary discussion reveals that any harm associated with digital communication must be taken seriously. It is important that the court does not assume that emotional distress caused by digital communications is inherently any less harmful than other forms of harm. From this, I interpret that the bar to a successful criminal prosecution must not be set too high.

But:

[59] However, it is also clear that the need to deter harmful online conduct must be weighed against the value of freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is a right protected by s 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (NZBORA). It includes the right to “impart information and opinions of any kind in any form”.

Although NZBORA rights are not absolute, s 6 of NZBORA requires that I consider s 14 when interpreting other statutes, a requirement that is reinforced by s 6(2)(b) of the HDCA.

This demands that the courts do not give an interpretation that would have an unduly restrictive effect on free speech. Indeed, this risk is heightened in the HDCA context, which criminalises expression that would not attract liability if it were communicated through a different medium.

Accordingly, I consider I must not reach an interpretation of “serious emotional distress” that is set too low. Taking a purposive approach requires that I balance the deterrence of online harm with the preservation of freedom of speech.

[60] The text of the statute and the wider purposive context both bring me to the same conclusion. In order to attract liability under s 22 of HDCA, conduct must be harmful to an identifiable victim. I conclude that the definition of “harm”, being “serious emotional distress”, may include a condition short of a psychiatric illness or disorder, or distress that requires medical or other treatment or counselling.

[61] The nub of this element is the intention of the defendant. An intention to elicit a serious response of grief, anguish, anxiety or feelings of insecurity would, in my view, qualify as intention to cause harm for the purposes of HDCA s 22(1).

[63] I stress that at this stage I need only find that the prosecution has made out a prima facie case. It is open to the defence to prove that the defendant was not motivated to control the complainant’s life, or that he could have achieved his motive without inflicting serious emotional distress. However, at this stage of proceedings I find that the prosecution has established a case to answer for this element.

Next the judge considered “where posting the digital communication would cause harm to a reasonable person in the position of the victim”

[64] The prosecution must prove that the communication would cause harm to an ordinary reasonable person in the position of Mrs Iyer (HDCA s 22(1)(b)). Section 22(2) sets out a non-exhaustive list of factors which the court may consider, including:

(a) the extremity of the language used:
(b) the age and characteristics of the victim:
(c) whether the digital communication was anonymous:
(d) whether the digital communication was repeated:
(e) the extent of circulation of the digital communication:
(f) whether the digital communication is true or false:
(g) the context in which the digital communication appeared.

[65] I consider that factors (b); (c); (d); (e); and (g) are relevant to the present
case.

[71] I find that the prosecution has established a prima facie case that the posting would cause serious emotional distress to an objective person in the position of Mrs Iyer.

Finally “whether posting the communication causes harm to the victim”:

[72] It is not enough to prove that the digital communication would cause harm to an objective person. The prosecution must establish that the communication did, in fact, cause harm to the victim.

[73] I have found that discovering the post of the photographs resulted in Mrs Iyer being frustrated, angry, anxious and very upset and that she considered taking time off work. (although she did not recall that she did so).

The only other evidence was from Ms Shroad who reported that at the time she viewed the post, Mrs Iyer almost cried and appeared “very depressed” and required someone to be with her for support. I hasten to add this was not a clinical diagnosis but a lay person’s description of what she observed.

Mrs Iyer did not elaborate on her frustration, anger, anxiety or upset. Ms Shroad did not elaborate on what she meant by “depressed” nor describe Mrs Iyer as exhibiting feelings of serious anxiety or insecurity. What Ms Shroad meant by Mrs Iyer needing “someone to be with her for support” was not elaborated upon.

While the evidence clearly points to some degree of emotional distress, it is not sufficient to satisfy me it has reached the threshold of serious emotional distress (as explored above at paragraphs [52]–-[60]).

I do not overlook the fact that Ms Shroad’s observation, while proximate to the time of discovery of the post, is not necessary determinative of the distress of Mrs Iyer; the distress may have manifest itself later. Nor have I ignored the notion that an inference might be drawn that the needing of support itself meant Mrs Iyer was suffering serious emotional distress.

But the absence of specific evidence as to the root cause of her need is a telling factor against the drawing of such an inference.

[74] The prosecution need only prove that the electronic communication caused harm; not that it caused harm immediately. Whether harm in the form of serious emotional distress was caused is a matter of fact. The prosecution has not led cogent evidence to this effect. Such evidence could have been provided by more detailed and specific evidence from Mrs Iyer as to her reactions, feelings or physical symptoms and their duration or by expert evidence, such as the evidence of a psychologist or counsellor. However, none has been led.

[75] On this basis, I consider that the prosecution has not established a prima facie case that the complainant in fact suffered harm as defined in s 4.

So in summary the judge ruled that:

  • Posting photos to Facebook constitutes a digital communication
  • The defendant intended to cause harm
  • The posting would cause serious emotional distress to an objective person in the position of the defendant

But

  • There was insufficient evidence of harm defined as “serious emotional distress”.

Based on this it seems that prosecutions for ‘harm’ under the HDCA will only succeed in fairly extreme cases proving “serious emotional distress”.

I don’t think this is the judge’s fault, he went to some length to understand and comply with the Act.

Those who deliberately set out to cause harm online shouldn’t have much difficulty keeping degree of the damage below this threshold, unless they misjudge someone’s emotional state and tip them over the edge.

The judgment is here: RESERVED DECISION OF JUDGE C J DOHERTY ON APPLICATION FOR DISMISSAL PURSUANT TO S 147(4)(B) CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ACT 2011

Rachinger public apology

Ben Rachinger has been pressed to at least apologise for sending pictures of a journalist that ended up being published by Lauda Finem.

He responded on this on Your NZ yesterday:

I’ve already acknowledged to JW as much as I can say. I don’t see that relitigating it in public for white knights helps her. She can raise the issue in public as she sees fit.

Insofar as Slater received the pictures and forwarded them to Lauda Finem?

That’s a whole basket of can’t comment. For obvious and very good reasons. A lot of people have been up to some very dodgy stuff. In some cases, criminal.

What I’m supposed to have done is unethical but not illegal. What Slater has allegedly done?

That’s definitely criminal 🙂

Thanks

This morning in what appear to be authentic tweets:

Unconditionally apologise to for sending pictures to who then sent them to . Worst thing I’ve ever done

I have no excuses for what is extremely shithouse and immoral behaviour. I can only make amends by writing and by taking Slater down.

Would like to say that my ex had no knowledge of any of pics. She’s her own person. We don’t speak anymore. Onwards to literary infamy! 🙂

Ben has said he is writing a book.

He can confirm if these tweets are from him but to me it looks authentic.

 

Pluto views through the years

This week is the first time we have seen what Pluto actually looks like. Previously we have only had light blobs and artist’s impressions.

NASA have put together an animation of Views of Pluto Through the Years (it’s too fast for me to see properly) but also helpfully provided links to the source images.

Clyde Tombaugh, Lowell Observatory, 1930: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/multimedia/display.cfm?IM_ID=19989
Note: This image is property of the Lowell Observatory Archives. Any public use requires written permission of the Lowell Observatory Archives.

Hubble Space Telescope, 1994: Hubble Portrait of the “Double Planet” Pluto & Charon

MAY 16, 1994: This is the clearest view yet of the distant planet Pluto and its moon Charon, as revealed by the Hubble telescope.

Hubble snapped this image when the planet was 2.6 billion miles (4.4 billion kilometers) from Earth, or nearly 30 times the separation between Earth and the Sun. The two objects are shown as clearly separate and sharp disks.

Hubble’s corrected optics show the two objects as clearly separate and sharp disks. This now allows astronomers to measure directly (to within about 1 percent) Pluto’s diameter of 1440 miles (2320 kilometers) and Charon’s diameter of 790 miles (1270 kilometers). The Hubble observations show that Charon is bluer than Pluto. This means that both worlds have different surface composition and structure. A bright highlight on Pluto suggests it has a smoothly reflecting surface layer.

A detailed analysis of the Hubble image also suggests there is a bright area parallel to the equator on Pluto. This result is consistent with surface brightness models based on previous ground-based photometric observations. However, subsequent HST observations will be required to confirm whether the feature is real.

Hubble Space Telescope, 1996: Hubble Reveals Surface of Pluto for First Time

MARCH 7, 1996: For the first time since Pluto’s discovery 66 years ago, astronomers have at last directly seen details on the surface of the solar system’s farthest known planet.

The Hubble telescope’s snapshots of nearly the entire surface of Pluto, taken as the planet rotated through a 6.4-day period, show that Pluto is a complex object, with more large-scale contrast than any planet, except Earth. Topographic features such as basins, or fresh impact craters may cause some of the variations across Pluto’s surface.

The two smaller inset pictures at the top are actual images from Hubble. North is up. Each square pixel (picture element) is more than 100 miles across. At this resolution, Hubble discerns roughly 12 major “regions” where the surface is either bright or dark.

The larger images (bottom) are from a global map constructed through computer image processing performed on the Hubble data. The tile pattern is an artifact of the image enhancement technique.

Opposite hemispheres of Pluto are seen in these two views. Some of the variations across Pluto’s surface may be caused by topographic features such as basins, or fresh impact craters. However, most of the surface features unveiled by Hubble, including the prominent northern polar cap, are likely produced by the complex distribution of frosts that migrate across Pluto’s surface with its orbital and seasonal cycles and chemical byproducts deposited out of Pluto’s nitrogen-methane atmosphere.

The picture was taken in blue light when Pluto was at a distance of 3 billion miles from Earth (4,800,000,000 kilometres).

Hubble Space Telescope, 2002-2003: New Hubble Maps of Pluto Show Surface Changes

(The dates look odd from this link)

FEBRUARY 4, 2010: Since its discovery in 1930, Pluto has been a speck of light in the largest ground-based telescopes. But NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has now mapped the dwarf planet in never-before-seen detail. The new map is so good, astronomers have even been able to detect changes on the dwarf planet’s surface by comparing Hubble images taken in 1994 with the newer images taken in 2002-2003. The task is as challenging as trying to see the markings on a soccer ball 40 miles away.

Hubble’s view isn’t sharp enough to see craters or mountains, if they exist on the surface, but Hubble reveals a complex-looking and variegated world with white, dark-orange, and charcoal-black terrain. The overall color is believed to be a result of ultraviolet radiation from the distant Sun breaking up methane that is present on Pluto’s surface, leaving behind a dark, molasses-colored, carbon-rich residue. Astronomers were very surprised to see that Pluto’s brightness has changed — the northern pole is brighter and the southern hemisphere is darker and redder. Summer is approaching Pluto’s north pole, and this may cause surface ices to melt and refreeze in the colder shadowed portion of the planet. The Hubble pictures underscore that Pluto is not simply a ball of ice and rock but a dynamic world that undergoes dramatic atmospheric changes.

Hubble Space Telescope, 2011: NASA’s Hubble Discovers Another Moon Around Pluto

These two images, taken about a week apart by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, show four moons orbiting the distant, icy dwarf planet Pluto. The green circle in both snapshots marks the newly discovered moon, temporarily dubbed P4, found by Hubble in June.

P4 is the smallest moon yet found around Pluto, with an estimated diameter of 8 to 21 miles (13 to 34 km). By comparison, Pluto’s largest moon Charon is 746 miles (1,200 km) across. Nix and Hydra are roughly 20 to 70 miles (32 to 113 km) wide.

The new moon lies between the orbits of Nix and Hydra, two satellites discovered by Hubble in 2005. It completes an orbit around Pluto roughly every 31 days.

The moon was first seen in a photo taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 on June 28, 2011. The sighting was confirmed in follow-up Hubble observations taken July 3 and July 18.

P4, Nix, and Hydra are so small and so faint that scientists combined short and long exposures to create this image of Pluto and its entire moon system. The speckled background is camera “noise” produced during the long exposures. The linear features are imaging artifacts.

New Horizons, April 9, 2015: First Pluto-Charon Color Image from New Horizons

This image of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, was taken by the Ralph color imager aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on April 9. It is the first color image ever made of the Pluto system by a spacecraft on approach. The image is a preliminary reconstruction, which will be refined later by the New Horizons science team. Clearly visible are both Pluto and the Texas-sized Charon. The image was made from a distance of about 71 million miles (115 million kilometers)-roughly the distance from the Sun to Venus.

New Horizons, May 12, 2015: More Detail as New Horizons Draws Closer

The image of Pluto on the right is part of series of New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) photos taken May 8-12, 2015; the image at left shows LORRI’s view of Pluto just one month earlier. In the month between these image sets, New Horizons’ distance to Pluto decreased from 68 million miles (110 million kilometers) to 47 million miles (75 million kilometers), as the spacecraft speeds toward a close encounter with the Pluto system in mid-July.

Between April and May, Pluto appears to get larger as the spacecraft gets closer, with Pluto’s apparent size increasing by approximately 50 percent. Pluto rotates around its axis every 6.4 Earth days, and these images show the variations in Pluto’s surface features during its rotation.

New Horizons, June 2, 2015: Faces of Pluto

New Horizons, June 15, 2015: Features on the Close Approach Hemisphere

New Horizons, July 1, 2015: Three Views of Pluto

Image details are as follows.
Left: Taken on July 1st at 22:53 UT, from a range of 9.2 million miles (14.9 million km), with a central longitude of 133°.
Center: Taken on July 3rd at 04:38 UT, from a range of 8.3 million miles (13.5 million km), with a central longitude of 63°.
Right: Taken on July 3rd at 23:25 UT, from a range of 7.8 million miles (12.5 million km), with a central longitude of 19°.

New Horizons, July 3, 2015:  A Pluto Color Combo

New Horizons, July 7, 2015: A Heart on Pluto

Just under 5 million miles (8 million kilometers) from Pluto

This view is centered roughly on the area that will be seen close-up during New Horizons’ July 14 closest approach. Most prominent are an elongated dark feature at the equator, informally known as “the whale,” and a large heart-shaped bright area measuring some 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) across on the right. Above those features is a polar region that is intermediate in brightness.

New Horizons, July 8, 2015: Signs of Geology

3.3 million miles (5.4 million kilometers) away. At this range, Pluto is beginning to reveal the first signs of discrete geologic features. This image views the side of Pluto that always faces its largest moon, Charon.

Same image of Pluto with Charon.

New Horizons, July 11, 2015: New Horizons’ Last Portrait of Pluto’s Puzzling Spots

2.5 million miles (4 million kilometers) from Pluto. New Horizons’ last look at Pluto’s Charon-facing hemisphere.

New Horizons July 11: A Portrait from the Final Approach to Pluto and Charon

A portrait from the final approach. Pluto and Charon display striking color and brightness contrast in this composite image from July 11, showing high-resolution black-and-white LORRI images colorized with Ralph data collected from the last rotation of Pluto. Color data being returned by the spacecraft now will update these images, bringing color contrast into sharper focus.

New Horizons, July 14, 2015: Pluto’s Big Heart in Color

476,000 miles (768,000 kilometers) from the surface. This is the last and most detailed image sent to Earth before the spacecraft’s closest approach to Pluto on July 14. The color image has been combined with lower-resolution color information from the Ralph instrument that was acquired earlier on July 13. 

This view is dominated by the large, bright feature informally named the “heart,” which measures approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) across. The heart borders darker equatorial terrains, and the mottled terrain to its east (right) is complex. However, even at this resolution, much of the heart’s interior appears remarkably featureless—possibly a sign of ongoing geologic processes.

New Horizons, July 15, 2015: Mountains on Pluto

Icy mountains on Pluto and a new, crisp view of its largest moon, Charon, are among the several discoveries announced Wednesday by NASA’s New Horizons team, just one day after the spacecraft’s first ever Pluto flyby.

A new close-up image of an equatorial region near the base of Pluto’s bright heart-shaped feature shows a mountain range with peaks jutting as high as 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) above the surface of the icy body.

The mountains on Pluto likely formed no more than 100 million years ago — mere youngsters in a 4.56-billion-year-old solar system. This suggests the close-up region, which covers about one percent of Pluto’s surface, may still be geologically active today.

“This is one of the youngest surfaces we’ve ever seen in the solar system,” said Jeff Moore of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team (GGI) at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.

Unlike the icy moons of giant planets, Pluto cannot be heated by gravitational interactions with a much larger planetary body. Some other process must be generating the mountainous landscape.

“This may cause us to rethink what powers geological activity on many other icy worlds,” says GGI deputy team leader John Spencer at SwRI.

The new view of Charon reveals a youthful and varied terrain. Scientists are surprised by the apparent lack of craters. A swath of cliffs and troughs stretching about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) suggests widespread fracturing of Charon’s crust, likely the result of internal geological processes. The image also shows a canyon estimated to be 4 to 6 miles (7 to 9 kilometers) deep. In Charon’s north polar region, the dark surface markings have a diffuse boundary, suggesting a thin deposit or stain on the surface.

New Horizons also observed the smaller members of the Pluto system, which includes four other moons: Nix, Hydra, Styx and Kerberos. A new sneak-peek image of Hydra is the first to reveal its apparent irregular shape and its size, estimated to be about 27 by 20 miles (43 by 33 kilometers).

The observations also indicate Hydra’s surface is probably coated with water ice. Future images will reveal more clues about the formation of this and the other moon billions of years ago. Spectroscopic data from New Horizons’ Ralph instruments reveal an abundance of methane ice, but with striking differences among regions across the frozen surface of Pluto.

Comparing Pluto and Charon to another planet:

This graphic presents a view of Pluto and Charon as they would appear if placed slightly above Earth’s surface and viewed from a great distance.  Recent measurements obtained by New Horizons indicate that Pluto has a diameter of 2370 km, 18.5% that of Earth’s, while Charon has a diameter of 1208 km, 9.5% that of Earth’s.

First pictures from Pluto fly-by

NASA is revealing the first photos from the New Horizons fly-by of Pluto (the spacecraft is already 1.5 million kilometres past Pluto already). Better quality images will come later.

They start by looking at some of Pluto’s moons. This is the first picture ever of Hydra:

HydraFirstPic

Since its discovery in 2005, Pluto’s moon Hydra has been known only as a fuzzy dot of uncertain shape, size, and reflectivity. Imaging obtained during New Horizons’ historic transit of the Pluto-Charon system and transmitted to Earth early this morning has definitively resolved these fundamental properties of Pluto’s outermost moon. Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) observations revealed an irregularly shaped body characterized by significant brightness variations over the surface. With a resolution of 2 miles (3 kilometers) per pixel, the LORRI image shows the tiny potato-shaped moon measures 27 miles (43 kilometers) by 20 miles (33 kilometers).

Like that of Charon, Hydra’s surface is probably covered with water ice, the most abundant ice in the universe. Observed within Hydra’s bright regions is a darker circular structure with a diameter of approximately 6 miles (10 kilometers). Hydra’s reflectivity (the percentage of incident light reflected from the surface) is intermediate between that of Pluto and Charon. “New Horizons has finally nailed the basic physical properties of Hydra,” says Hal Weaver, New Horizons Project Scientist and LORRI science operations lead. “We’re going to see Hydra even better in the images yet to come.”

Image Credit: NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI

Hydra was approximately 400,000 miles away from New Horizons when the image was acquired.

Charon natural colour image:

nh-charon

Pluto’s largest moon Charon has youthful terrain & dark area nicknamed ‘Mordor’ in north

Remarkable new details of Pluto’s largest moon Charon are revealed in this image from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), taken late on July 13, 2015 from a distance of 289,000 miles  (466,000 kilometers).

A swath of cliffs and troughs stretches about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) from left to right, suggesting widespread fracturing of Charon’s crust, likely a result of internal processes. At upper right, along the moon’s curving edge, is a canyon estimated to be 4 to 6 miles (7 to 9 kilometers) deep.

Mission scientists are surprised by the apparent lack of craters on Charon. South of the moon’s equator, at the bottom of this image, terrain is lit by the slanting rays of the sun, creating shadows that make it easier to distinguish topography. Even here, however, relatively few craters are visible, indicating a relatively young surface that has been reshaped by geologic activity.

In Charon’s north polar region, a dark marking prominent in New Horizons’ approach images is now seen to have a diffuse boundary, suggesting it is a thin deposit of dark material. Underlying it is a distinct, sharply bounded, angular feature; higher resolution images still to come are expected to shed more light on this enigmatic region.

The image has been compressed to reduce its file size for transmission to Earth. In high-contrast areas of the image, features as small as 3 miles (5 kilometers) across can be seen. Some lower-contrast detail is obscured by the compression of the image, which may make some areas appear smoother than they really are. The uncompressed version still resides in New Horizons’ computer memory and is scheduled to be transmitted at a later date.

The image has been combined with color information obtained by New Horizons’ Ralph instrument on July 13.

Now Pluto zoomed in, the first of a mosaic that will:

nh-plutosurface

New close-up images of a region near Pluto’s equator reveal a giant surprise: a range of youthful mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) above the surface of the icy body.

The mountains likely formed no more than 100 million years ago — mere youngsters relative to the 4.56-billion-year age of the solar system — and may still be in the process of building, says Jeff Moore of New Horizons’ Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team (GGI). That suggests the close-up region, which covers less than one percent of Pluto’s surface, may still be geologically active today.

Moore and his colleagues base the youthful age estimate on the lack of craters in this scene. Like the rest of Pluto, this region would presumably have been pummeled by space debris for billions of years and would have once been heavily cratered — unless recent activity had given the region a facelift, erasing those pockmarks.

“This is one of the youngest surfaces we’ve ever seen in the solar system,” says Moore.

Unlike the icy moons of giant planets, Pluto cannot be heated by gravitational interactions with a much larger planetary body. Some other process must be generating the mountainous landscape.

“This may cause us to rethink what powers geological activity on many other icy worlds,” says GGI deputy team leader John Spencer of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo.

The mountains are probably composed of Pluto’s water-ice “bedrock.”

Although methane and nitrogen ice covers much of the surface of Pluto, these materials are not strong enough to build the mountains. Instead, a stiffer material, most likely water-ice, created the peaks. “At Pluto’s temperatures, water-ice behaves more like rock,” said deputy GGI lead Bill McKinnon of Washington University, St. Louis.

The close-up image was taken about 1.5 hours before New Horizons closest approach to Pluto, when the craft was 478,000 miles (770,000 kilometers) from the surface of the planet. The image easily resolves structures smaller than a mile across.

Image Credit: NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI

The lack of impact craters observed in this picture and on all of Pluto suggests that it is geologically a very young planet.

An isolated small planet that’s showing recent activity. Very active.

The bedrock that makes those mountains must be made of water ice – H2O.

They have no idea at this stage how the mountains have formed.

The youthful surface is a major surprise.

There will be heaps more details and photos to come. This is just the tip of the ice planet.

For reference here is the long distance shot of Pluto from a couple of days ago.

Pluto

The zoomed image above is of the bottom edge of what you see here.

Bradbury refutes claims on journalist images

Martyn Bradbury has emphatically denied claims that he viewed images of a journalist and said they could ruin her career. After the release of embarrassing photos of RadioLive political editor Jessica Williams and accusations that Ben Rachinger had used them to pressure/blackmail it seems that some people have put one and one together with vague memories claimed a ten. It was then claimed on Twitter that Martyn Bradbury (Bomber) had “let’s also remind viewers Bomber had seen the material and intimated it might ruin the journalist” (Giovanni Tiso) and “Martyn Bradbury blogged about having seen the revenge porn images and how it would ‘ruin the career’ of Ben’s ex” (Coley Tangerina). Bradbury has posted a strong denial of this in The latest Rachinger twists and turns and Wellington Emerald Stormtroopers.

Here’s what I actually wrote…

I will say this about Rachinger, if the comments from a certain female political journalist ever see they light of day, they will never work in the industry again

..I had heard about comments made by a Journalist to Rachinger, that is what I was referring to. Claims by ‘Coley Tangerina’ and Giovanni Tiso that I viewed anything are a total lie.

That clearly doesn’t mention images or photos at all, just comments. But it is also potentially confusing, especially without seeing the whole context. It’s not clear whether “they will never work in the industry again” refers to Rachinger, or to the journalist. It could be easily taken either way. I’ll try to get clarification.

I removed that comment as people involved felt it was offensive, which was not my intention at all. The point I was making was the Left have a tendency to see traitors everywhere…

Sure Ben hasn’t helped his cause one inch, but not hacking the Standard deserved some recognition, not pitchforks.

I have no idea of how and what has occurred here, and am as surprised as anyone that there were images released, but the ongoing smears and misinformation by some on Twitter not only reinforce the original point of the blog I wrote about the Left on Twitter, but it’s also childish.

A fairly clear statement that Bradbury was unaware of the images. It could be construed that he was aware of the images but was surprised they were released by my assumption from reading this is that Bradbury did not know the images existed until they were posted on Monday.

However “a total lie” and “misinformation’ may be a bit strong, it’s more likely to be imprecise memories and jumping to conclusions, which are common in social media. But for the wider story Bradbury’s clarification removes from the jumble of evidence one ‘proof’ that existence of the images was common knowledge amongst journalists prior to their publication this week.

As a side story, @b3nraching3r seems to be off-line again.

UPDATE: Martyn has given me some clarifications (at The Daily Blog):

1. The Journalist

2. I’d heard many different things after that blog, I was surprised by their release, not their existence

I had seen nothing, I had heard something that a Journalist had said to Rachinger, that was what I was referring to in the blog. Suggestions by Coley and Tiso that I did are a lie

http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2015/06/11/the-latest-rachinger-twists-and-turns-and-wellington-emerald-stormtroopers/#comment-289636

What’s going on with Mediaworks and Rachinger?

The Rachinger plots took another turn today with a story that has gone international. Noosa News reports Intimate photos of journalist published online.

The images were published on a blog this morning showing Radio Live political editor Jessica Williams in a series of personal photographs. Ms Williams was named Journalist of the Year at this year’s NZ Radio Awards.

The pictures were understood to have been taken and sent in a private context to an individual not involved in the blog which published the images. The Herald will not be publishing the name of the blog.

It claimed it had obtained the images when they were circulated with the intent of embarrassing Ms Williams and harming her career but gave no explanation for why it had published the pictures.

A Mediaworks spokesman said the company was aware of “certain matters relating to the publication of private images” of Ms Williams.

It seems that these images were circulated in December and it has been widely known amongst journalists. There has been mention made of attempted blackmail.

Ben Rachinger has been trying to get media interested in his claims that Cameron Slater paid him to hack rival political blog The Standard.

The Nation ran his story in the weekend. The Nation is broadcast by TV3, a Mediaworks company.

As reported above Mediaworks say they were aware of “certain matters” yet ran a story, highlighting it as ‘Dirty Politics’, that was favourable to Rachinger.

It wouldn’t be too much of stretch to think that their RadioLive political editor was aware of their investigation and story.

This raises questions.Was Williams aware of the investigation/story? If so was she in favour of the story being run? Did she contribute to the story? Did she push for the story to be run? If so was it voluntary or under some sort of pressure?

It’s not inconceivable that Williams and/or Mediaworks wanted the story run to try and avoid embarrassment.

Of course there could be a simpler explanation for all this, but are we likely to get one?

From the missing million? “23 Times Kiwis Didn’t Give A Single F*ck”

From Buzzfeed: 23 Times Kiwis Didn’t Give A Single F*ck

Seriously the most carefree nation in the world.

It’s worth looking through all of them. I recognise quite a few. Here’s the first:

1. When these guys didn’t want to pay for removalists.

An example of poor footwear choice here in New Zealand.

The comment is as funny as the photo. This one is a bit over the top but I’ve seen quite a few interesting modes of moving furniture here in Dunedin’s Scarfyville. Carting mattresses on top of cars is not uncommon.

And another that I remember from Scarfyville:

8. When the cops need a break

How the New Zealand police deal with drunk university/college students….

The expression of the older cop on the right is classic.

More at 23 Times Kiwis Didn’t Give A Single F*ck

School reunion

I’m at a 150th school reunion for the weekend, in Cromwell where I went to Primary School and most of high school (I went to boarding school for the sixth form).

It’s really good to catch up with people, especially from my class, many of whom I haven’t seen since leaving school. Others I haven’t seen since the 125th in 1990.

It was a bit embarrassing when the first person I met I didn’t recognise and had to read her name tag. There’s a few like that, others are still easily recognisable.

I’ve started collating information and old photos – if anyone’s interested see https://cromwellschools.wordpress.com/