Friday, August 31, 2012

Cool Marriage Proposal



"On Wed. May 23rd I told my girlfriend, Amy, to meet me at my parent's house. When she arrived I had stationed my brother to sit her on the back of a Honda CRV with some headphones on..."

Portland-based actor Isaac Lamb gathered 60 friends and surprised his girlfriend Amy Beth Frankel.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fake Celebrity Pranks New York City



On the night of July 27th, 2012, a huge prank was pulled in New York City and this is the video of what took place. Brett Cohen came up with a crazy idea to fool thousands of pedestrians walking the streets of Times Square into thinking he was a huge celebrity, and it worked! Not only did it work, it caused quite a stir. This social experiment, of sorts, makes a profound statement about how modern culture is so attracted to pop culture, without any real credibility needed.

He dressed up like a typical celebrity and was accompanied by an entourage of two professional bodyguards, two assistants, and photographers pretending to be paparazzi. While the assistants and photographers waited for Brett to exit the 49th street marquee at NBC Studios, they started a buzz that a "big star" was about to walk out, thus making it worth their while to wait and get a picture. Many asked the crew whom Brett was, and no answer was given. They were forced to either make something up, or just take a picture with him in hopes that their Facebook friends or Twitter followers might have a better idea.

As the crew walked over to Times Square, the crowds around Brett grew on each consecutive block. Very few people even questioned who he was, where he was from, or what he does. Brett took pictures with nearly 300 people before the stunt ended. The video even includes interviews with people who had just taken a picture with Brett, and puts them in an awkward position when they're asked questions such as, "Where do you know Brett from?" and "What's your favorite movie he was in?" Many of them were overwhelmingly excited over Brett's walk through Times Square, and it showed.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Volvo Trucks - The Ballerina Stunt



World record-holding highliner Faith Dickey battles in the wind to cross the line between two speeding trucks. Will she make it before the trucks reach the tunnel that lies behind the next bend? Please like, share and comment!

The stunt was set up to show the precise handling of the new Volvo FH. Filmed on an unopened highway in Croatia in cooperation with Hollywood stunt director Peter Pedrero (James Bond, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean.) Directed by Academy Award nominee Henry Alex Rubin.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Archie Karas - Greatest Gambler of All Time

Source



Archie Karas (born Anargyros Karabourniotis[1] in 1950) is a Greek-American gambler, high roller, poker player, and pool shark famous for the largest and longest documented winning streak in gambling history simply known as The Run when he turned $50 in December 1992 into over $40 million by the beginning of 1995, only to lose it all later that year. He is considered by many to have been the greatest gambler of all time and has often been compared to Nick the Greek, another high stakes gambler.[2][3] Karas himself claims to have gambled with more money than anyone else in history.[4]

Gambling career
After arriving in America, he worked at a restaurant in Los Angeles which was next to a bowling alley and a pool hall. There he honed his pool skills and eventually made more money playing pool than he did as a waiter. When his victims from the pool hall thinned out, he went to Los Angeles card rooms to play poker. He quickly became an astute poker player, building his bankroll to over $2,000,000. In December 1992, he had lost all but $50 playing high stakes poker. Instead of reevaluating his situation and slowing down, he decided to go to Las Vegas in search of bigger games. He claims to have gone from broke to millionaire and back several times before he went to Las Vegas. What happened in the next three years would go down in legend as the greatest run in gambling history.[1]

“ You've got to understand something. Money means nothing to me. I don't value it. I've had all the material things I could ever want. Everything. The things I want money can't buy: health, freedom, love, happiness. I don't care about money, so I have no fear. I don't care if I lose it.[4]

The Run

Karas drove to Vegas with nothing more than his car and $50 in his wallet. His initial run lasted for six months where he turned $50 into $17 million playing poker and pool. After arriving at the Binion's Horseshoe, he started gambling and went on a hot streak. Karas recognized a fellow poker player from the Los Angeles scene and convinced him to loan him $10,000, which Archie quickly turned into $30,000 playing $200/$400 limit Razz. Karas returned $20,000 to his backer, who was more than content.

With a little over $10,000 in his pocket, Karas began looking for pool action. He found a wealthy and respected poker and pool player, Karas refused to reveal the name of his opponent for the sake of his opponent's reputation; he simply referred to him as "Mr. X". They started playing pool at $10,000 a game. After Karas won several hundred thousand dollars, they raised the stakes to $40,000 a game. Many gamblers and professional poker players watched Archie play with stakes never seen before. Karas ended up winning $1,200,000. He then played Mr. X in poker and won an additional $3,000,000 from him. Karas was willing to gamble everything he made and continued to raise the stakes to a level few dared to play at.[6]

With a bankroll of $4 million, Karas gambled his bankroll up to $7 million after spending only three months in Vegas. By now many poker players had heard of Mr. X's loss to Archie. Only the best players dared to challenge him. Karas sat at the Binion's Horseshoe's poker table with 5 of his 7 million dollars in front of him waiting for any players willing to play for such stakes.[7]

The first challenger was Stu Ungar, a three-time World Series of Poker champion widely regarded as the greatest Texas Hold'em and gin rummy player of all time. Stu was backed by Lyle Berman, another professional poker player and business executive who co-founded Grand Casinos. Karas first beat Stu for $500,000 playing heads-up Razz. Ungar then attempted to play him in 7-card stud, which cost him another $700,000. The next player was Chip Reese, widely regarded as the greatest cash game player. Reese claims that Karas beat him for more money than anyone else he ever played. After 25 games, Reese was down $2,022,000 playing $8,000/$16,000 limit. [4]

Karas continued to beat many top players, from Doyle Brunson to Puggy Pearson to Johnny Moss. Many top players would not play him simply because his stakes were too high. The only player to beat Karas during his run was Johnny Chan, who beat him for $900,000 after losing to Karas the first two games. By the end of his six-month-long winning streak, Karas had amassed more than $17 million.[8]

The poker action for Karas had mostly dried up due to his reputation and stakes. He turned to dice rolling for $100,000 on one roll.[2] He said that he could quickly win $3 million on dice, while it would take days to weeks with poker. He said that "With each play I was making million-dollar decisions, I would have played even higher if they'd let me."

Transporting money became a hassle for Karas as he was moving several millions of dollars in his car every day. He carried a gun with him at all times and would often have his brother and casino security guards escort him. At one point, Karas had won all of the Binion's casino's $5000 chips, which were the highest denomination of chips at the time.[9] By the end of his winning streak he had won a fortune of just over $40 million.[10]
Downfall

By mid 1995, Karas lost all of his money in a period of three weeks. He lost $20 million playing dice and then lost the $2 million he won from Chip Reese back to him. Following these losses he switched to baccarat and lost another $17 million, for a total of $30 million. With $12 million left and needing a break from gambling, he returned to Greece. When he came back to Las Vegas, he went back to the Horseshoe shooting dice and playing baccarat at $300,000 per bet, and in less than a month, lost all but his last million.

With his last million, he went to the Bicycle Club and played Johnny Chan in a $1,000,000 freeze out event. This time, Chan was also backed by Lyle Berman and both took turns playing Karas. He preferred playing the both of them instead of just Chan, as he felt Chan was a tougher opponent. Karas won and doubled his money, only to lose it all at dice and baccarat, betting at the highest limits in just a few days.[11]
Mini-streaks
Since he lost his $40 million, he has gone on a few smaller streaks. Less than a year later, he turned $40,000 into $1,000,000 at the Desert Inn. He then went back to the Horseshoe and won an additional $4 million before losing it all the next day.

A few years later, Karas went on another streak at the Gold Strike Casino, 32 miles outside Las Vegas. He went with $1,800 and lost $1,600 until he was down to just $200. Then after getting something to eat, he decided to gamble the rest of it. He shot dice and ran his $200 into $9,700 and then headed to Las Vegas. He stopped at Fitzgeralds Casino & Hotel and won another $36,000 betting $1,000 with $2,000 odds. He went back to Binion's and won another $300,000 at the Horseshoe and by the third day, had won a total of $980,000 from that $200 start.[12]

Top 10 Biggest and Best Jumps Ever

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Performance Enhancing Drugs in Professional Sports (Long)(Interview)

Source

Interview is with an insider whistle-blower who understands 'the game' that is played between sporting cartels (drug testers) and athletes (drug takers).

Original article (in german) here:http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/0,1518,571031,00.html

Heredia was a 'dealer' who supplied athletes with what they wanted. During the time of this article she was under investigation and entangled in the court system with various allegations.
_____

2008

Angel Heredia, once a doping dealer and now a chief witness for the U.S. Justice Department, talks about the powerlessness of the investigators, the motives of athletes who cheat and the drugs of the future.

He had been in hiding under an assumed name in a hotel in Laredo, Texas, for two years when the FBI finally caught up with him. The agents wanted to know from Angel Heredia if he knew a coach by the name of Trevor Graham, whether he carried the nickname “Memo”, and what he knew about doping. "No", "no", "nothing" – those were his replies. But then the agents laid the transcripts of 160 wiretapped telephone conversations on the table, as well as the e-mails and the bank statements. That’s when Angel "Memo" Heredia knew that he had lost. He decided to cooperate, and he also knew that he would only have a chance if he didn’t lie – not a single time. “He’s telling the truth,” the investigators say about Heredia today.


SPIEGEL: Mr. Heredia, will you watch the 100 meter final in Beijing?

Heredia: Of course. But the winner will not be clean. Not even any of the contestants will be clean.

SPIEGEL: Of eight runners ...

Heredia: ... eight will be doped.

SPIEGEL: There is no way to prove that.

Heredia: There is no doubt about it. The difference between 10.0 and 9.7 seconds is the drugs.

SPIEGEL: Can drugs make anyone into a world record holder?

Heredia: No, that is a misapprehension: “You take a couple of tablets today and tomorrow you can really fly.” In reality you have to train inconceivably hard, be very talented and have a perfect team of trainers and support staff. And then it is the best drugs that make the difference. It is all a great composition, a symphony. Everything is linked together, do you understand? And drugs have a long-term effect: they ensure that you can recover, that you avoid the catabolic phases. Volleyball on the beach might be healthy, but peak athletics is not healthy. You destroy your body. Marion Jones, for example ...

SPIEGEL: ... five-time Olympic medallist at Sydney 2000 ...

Heredia: ... trained with an unparalleled intensity. Drugs protect you from injury. And she triumphed and picked up all the medals.

SPIEGEL: Are you proud?

Heredia: Of course, I still am. It is still a tremendous achievement, and you must not believe that Marion’s rivals were poor, deceived competitors.

SPIEGEL: This isn’t just an American problem?

Heredia: Are you kidding me? No. All countries, all federations, all top athletes are affected, and among those responsible are the big shoe companies like Nike and Adidas. I know athletes who broke records; a year later they were injured and they got the call: “We’re cutting your sponsorship money by 50 percent.” What do you think such athletes then do?

SPIEGEL: Tell us what you did for your clients.

Heredia: Athletes hear rumors and they become worried. That the competition has other tricks, that they might get caught when they travel. There is no room for mistakes. One mistake can ruin a career.

SPIEGEL: So you became a therapist for the athletes in matters of drugs?

Heredia: More like a coach. Together we found out what was good for which body and what the decomposition times were. I designed schedules for cocktails and regimens that depended on the money the athletes offered me. Street drugs for little money, designer drugs for tens of thousands. Usually I sent the drugs by mail, but sometimes the athletes came to me.

SPIEGEL: With Marion Jones ...

Heredia: ... it was about the recovery phases. In 2000 she competed in one event after another, and she needed to relax. I gave her epo, growth hormone, adrenaline injections, insulin. Insulin helps after training, together with protein drinks: insulin transports protein and minerals more quickly through the cell membrane.

SPIEGEL: Jones was afraid of needles.
Heredia: Yes, that’s why C. J. Hunter, her husband at the time, and her trainer Trevor Graham mixed her three substances in one injection. I advised them against it because I thought it was risky.

SPIEGEL: What kind of relationship did you have with your athletes?

Heredia: Business ties. It was all about levels and dosing. I rarely spoke with Marion. It was done through her coaches.

Part II: How Heredia outwitted the drug testers and became the dealer to the world’s best athletes.

SPIEGEL: Was there a doping cycle?

Heredia: Yes. When the season ended in October, we waited for a couple of weeks for the body to cleanse itself. Then in November, we loaded growth hormone and epo, and twice a week we examined the body to make sure that no lumps were forming in the blood. Then we gave testosterone shots. This first program lasted eight to ten weeks, then we took a break.

SPIEGEL: And then the goals for the season were established?

Heredia: Yes, that depended on the athlete. Some wanted to run a good time in April to win contracts for the tournaments. Others focused on nothing but the trials, the U.S. qualification for international championships. Others cared only about the Olympics. Then we set the countdown for the goal in question, and the next cycle began. I had to know my athletes well and have an overview of what federation tested with which methods.

SPIEGEL: Where does one get this information?

Heredia: Vigilance. Informers.

SPIEGEL: You were once a good discus thrower yourself.

Heredia: Very good in Mexico, but very average by international standards. I had played soccer, boxed and done karate before I ended up in track and field. At 13 or 14 I believed in clean sports. Doping was a crime to me; back then I even asked my father if I could take aspirin.

SPIEGEL: Why did you begin doping?

Heredia: Like all athletes: because others were doing it. All of a sudden, kids that I used to beat were throwing ten meters further. Then I had an injury but I wanted to qualify for the Olympic team anyway. Doping became to me what it is for most athletes: part of the sport. If you train for 12 hours today and your trainer expects you to train for 12 hours again tomorrow, you dope. Otherwise you can’t do it.

SPIEGEL: What did you take?

Heredia: Growth hormone. Testosterone.

SPIEGEL: But you failed to qualify for the Olympics anyway.

Heredia: Yes, but I read anything I could find about medicine, spoke with other athletes, and soon people were saying: Angel knows how it’s done. He knows how to pass the tests. The first athletes began to ask me for advice. That’s how it started, and at some point the trainer Trevor Graham asked me if I could help him. I explained to him how epo works, and I was in business.

SPIEGEL: What qualified you for the role of dealer to the world’s best athletes?

Heredia: My father is a chemistry professor. I love chemistry, and I was an athlete. My role was an obsession. For example, I learned everything about testosterone: that there is a type of testosterone with a high half-life and another that works very quickly. I learned that you can rub it in, take it orally, inject it. It became a kick: I was allowed to work with the best of the best, and I made them even better.

SPIEGEL: And how did you become the best in your world?

Heredia: With precision. You want an example? Everyone talks about epo. Epo is fashionable. But without adding iron, epo only works half as well. That’s the kind of thing you have to know. There are oxygen carriers that make epo work incredibly fast – they are actually better than epo alone. I call my drug “Epo Boost.” I inject it and it releases many tiny oxygen molecules throughout the body. In that way you increase the effect of epo by a factor of ten.

SPIEGEL: Do you have any other secrets?

Heredia: Oh yes, of course. There are tablets for the kidneys that block the metabolites of steroids, so when athletes give a urine sample, they don’t excrete the metabolites and thus test negative. Or there is an enzyme that slowly consumes proteins - epo has protein structures, and the enzyme thus ensures that the B sample of the doping test has a completely different value than the A sample. Then there are chemicals that you take a couple of hours before the race that prevent acidification in the muscles. Together with epo they are an absolute miracle. I’ve created 20 different drugs that are still undetectable for the doping testers.

SPIEGEL: What trainers have you worked together with?

Heredia: Particularly with Trevor Graham.

SPIEGEL: Graham has a lifetime ban because he purportedly helped Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, Justin Gatlin and many others to cheat. Who else?

Heredia: With Winthrop Graham, his cousin. With John Smith, Maurice Greene’s coach. With Raymond Stewart, the Jamaican. With Dennis Mitchell ...

SPIEGEL: ... who won gold in the 4 x 100 meters in 1992 and today is a coach. How did the collaboration work?

Heredia: It’s a small world. It gets around who can provide you with something how quickly and at what price, who is discreet. The coaches approached me and asked if I could help them, and I said: yes. Then they gave me money, $15,000 or thereabouts, we got a first shipment and then we did business. At some point it led to one-on-one cooperation with the athletes.

SPIEGEL: Was there a regimen of sorts?
Heredia: Yes. I always combined several things. For example, I had one substance called actovison that increased blood circulation – not detectable. That was good from a health standpoint and even better from a competitive standpoint. Then we had the growth factors IGF-1 and IGF-2. And epo. Epo increases the number of red blood cells and thus the transportation of oxygen, which is the key for every athlete: the athlete wants to recover quickly, keep the load at a constantly high level and achieve a constant performance.

SPIEGEL: Once again: a constant performance at the world-class level is unthinkable without doping?

Heredia: Correct. 400 meters in 44 seconds? Unthinkable. 71 meters with a discus? No way. You might be able to run 100 meters in 9.8 seconds once with a tailwind. But ten times a year under 10 seconds, in the rain or heat? Only with doping.

SPIEGEL: Testosterone, growth hormone, epo – that was your combination?

Heredia: Yes, with individual variations. And then amazing things are possible. In 2002 Jerome Young was ranked number 38 in the 400 meters. Then we began to work together, and in 2003 he won almost every big race.

SPIEGEL: How were you paid?

Heredia: I had an annual wage. For big wins I got a $40,000 bonus.

SPIEGEL: Your athletes have won 26 Olympic medals. How much money did you earn?

Heredia: I can’t answer that due to the investigations. But let’s put it this way: 16 to 18 successful athletes each year at between $15,000 and $20,000 per athlete. I had a good run. I had a good life.

SPIEGEL: Did you live in the shadows of the sports world, where no one was allowed to see you?

Heredia: No. I rarely traveled to the big events, but that was because of jealousy: the Americans didn’t want me to work with the Jamaicans and vice versa. But shadows? No. It was one big chain, from athletes to agents to sponsors, and I was part of it. But everyone knew how the game worked. Everyone wanted it to be this way, because everyone got rich off it.

SPIEGEL: Which agents do you mean?

Heredia: The big marketers – Robert Wagner, for example – who support the athletes and want to get them into top form because they place the athletes at the track meetings.

The Austrian marketer Wagner, founder of World Athletics Management, wrote last Thursday in an e-mail to SPIEGEL, that he “never doped athletes” or “supported and promoted” doping. And Angel Heredia, the chief witness, sat in an office in New York, an athletic man in a black shirt, still in excellent shape, and wrote down names on a sheet of paper. 41 track and field athletes, he said, were his clients, as well as boxers, soccer players and cross-country skiers. His Jamaicans: Raymond Stewart, Beverly McDonald, Brandon Simpson. From the Bahamas: Chandra Sturrup. A couple of his Americans: Jerome Young, Antonio Pettigrew, Tim Montgomery, Duane Ross, Michelle Collins, Marion Jones, C. J. Hunter, Ramon Clay, Dennis Mitchell, Joshua J. Johnson, Randall Evans, Justin Gatlin, Maurice Greene. Some of those named by Heredia have been caught doping. Others have admitted to doping, while still others deny it.

SPIEGEL: Maurice Greene? The 100 meter superstar Greene is one of the poster athletes of the Olympic movement; he swears he is clean.

Heredia: The investigations are ongoing, but if he maintains he is clean, I can only answer that that is a lie.

SPIEGEL: Can you be more specific?

Heredia: I helped him. I made a schedule for him. I equipped him.

SPIEGEL: Equipped?

Heredia: Yes, we worked together in 2003 and 2004.

SPIEGEL: Do you have receipts?

Heredia: Yes, I have a $10,000 bank transfer receipt, for example.

SPIEGEL: Greene says he spent that money on friends.

Heredia: I know that’s not true.

SPIEGEL: What did Greene, who denies having doped, get from you?

Heredia: IGF-1 and IGF-2, epo and ATP – that stands for adenosine triphosphate, which intensifies muscle contraction.

SPIEGEL: Undetectable for testers?

Heredia: Undetectable. We’ve used ointments that do not leave any traces and that enable a consistently high testosterone level in athletes.

SPIEGEL: Is there doping at every level of athletics?

Heredia: Yes, the only difference is the quality of the doping. Athletes with little money use simple steroids and hope they don’t get tested. The stars earn 50,000 dollars a month, not including starting bonuses and shoe sponsorship contracts. The very best invest 100,000 dollars – I’ll then build you a designer drug that can’t be detected.

SPIEGEL: Explain how this works.

Heredia: Designer drugs are composed of several different chemicals that trigger the desired reaction. At the end of the chain I change one or two molecules in such a way that the entire structure is undetectable for the doping testers.

SPIEGEL: The drug testers’ hunt of athletes ...

Heredia: ... is also a sport. A competition. Pure adrenaline. We have to be one or two years ahead of them. We have to know which drug is entering research where, which animals it is being used in, and where we can get it. And we have to be familiar with the testers’ methods.

SPIEGEL: Can the testers win this race?

Heredia: Theoretically yes. If all federations and sponsors and managers and athletes and trainers were all in agreement, if they were to invest all the money that the sport generates and if every athlete were to be tested twice a week – but only then. What’s happening now is laughable. It’s a token. They should save their money – or give it to me. I’ll give it to the orphans of Mexico! There will be doping for as long as there is commercial sports, performance-related shoe contracts and television contracts.

4. Teil: “Peak performances without doping are a fairytale.”

SPIEGEL: So the idea that sports are a fair competition within established rules actually died long ago?
Heredia: Yes, of course. Unless we were to go back to ancient times. Without television, without Adidas and Nike. It’s obvious: if you finish in 8th place at a big event, you get $5,000; if you finish first you get $100,000. Athletes think about this. Then they think that everyone else dopes anyway, and they are right. And you think athletes believe in morals and ideals? Peak performances without doping are a fairytale, my friend.

SPIEGEL: Do you advocate the authorization of doping?

Heredia: No, but I believe we should authorize the use of epo, IGF and testosterone, as well as adrenaline and epitestosterone – substances that the body produces itself. Simply for pragmatic reasons, because it is impossible to detect them, and also because of the fairness aspect.

SPIEGEL: Are you serious: fairness?

Heredia: Yes. Take for example the most popular drug: epo. Epo changes the hemoglobin value, and it is simply the case that people have different hemoglobin levels. Authorizing the use of epo would enable the fairness and equality that supposedly everyone wants. After all, there are genetic differences between athletes.

SPIEGEL: Differences between living things are called nature. You want to make all athletes the same through doping?

Heredia: Normal athletes have a level of 3 nanograms of testosterone per milliliter of blood; the sprinter Tim Montgomery has 3 nanograms, but Maurice Greene has 9 nanograms. So what can Tim do? It isn’t doping with endogenous substances that’s unfair, it is nature that’s unfair.

SPIEGEL: And what would you ban?

Heredia: Everything else that can be dangerous. Amphetamines? Ban them. Steroids? Ban them.

SPIEGEL: Are there still any clean disciplines?

Heredia: Track and field, swimming, cross-country skiing and cycling can no longer be saved. Golf? Not clean either. Soccer? Soccer players come to me and say they have to be able to run up and down the touchline without becoming tired, and they have to play every three days. Basketball players take fat burners – amphetamines, ephedrin. Baseball? Haha. Steroids in pre-season, amphetamines during the games. Even archers take downers so that their arm remains steady. Everyone dopes.

SPIEGEL: Did you produce the drugs yourself, or did you simply procure them?

Heredia: I didn’t have my own laboratory, I had… let’s say access to labs in Mexico City. I purchased and procured the raw materials ...

SPIEGEL: ... from where?

Heredia: Everywhere. Australia, South Africa, Austria, Bulgaria, China. I got growth hormone from the Swiss company Serono. It was never difficult to import it to Mexico, because the laws aren’t that strict. You can easily buy it in pharmacies in Mexico. Whenever a new drug was entering the test phase somewhere in the world, we knew about it and we ordered it. Then I combined substances. Sometimes I produced a gel.

SPIEGEL: Did you ever take the doping testers seriously?

Heredia: No, we laughed at them. Today, of course, it is the testers who are laughing.

SPIEGEL: How do you make a living today?

Heredia: I still have a little bit of money. I’m studying again. I want to become a pharmacist. That’s my dream, but I don’t know if I’ll find a job, if I will be charged, if I will be deported, or where I’ll go. I don’t have a life anymore. I walk around and make sure no one is following me. But compared to Jerome Young I’m doing okay.

SPIEGEL: What is the 2003 world champion doing today?

Heredia: He’s 31 years old, and he sits in a truck and delivers bread. People say he broke the laws of the sport, but that’s not true: it was exactly these rules that Jerome followed.

_____

end.

The LEGO® Story

Monday, August 13, 2012

Stanislav Petrov: The Man Who Saved the World by Doing Nothing

Source


Ever heard of Stanislav Jewgrafowitsch Petrov?

Probably not – but you may very well owe him your life.

Petrov, a former member of the Soviet military, didn’t actually do anything – but that’s precisely the point.

In 1983, Petrov held a very important station: As lieutenant colonel, he was in charge of monitoring the Soviet Union’s satellites over the United States, and watching for any sign of unauthorized military action.

This was the Cold War era, and suspicions were high – on September 1st, the Soviet Union had mistakenly shot down a Korean aircraft it had believed to be a military plane, killing 269 civilians, including an American Congressman. The Soviet Union believed that the United States might launch a missile attack at any moment, and that they would be forced to respond with their own arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Several weeks after the airplane disaster, on September 23rd, another officer called in sick, so Petrov was stuck working a double shift at a secret bunker, monitoring satellite activity, when “suddenly the screen in front of me turned bright red,” Petrov told BBC News. “An alarm went off. It was piercing, loud enough to raise a dead man from his grave.”

According to the system, the United States had launched five missiles, which were rapidly heading into Soviet territory. The U.S.S.R. was under attack.

All Petrov had to do was push the flashing red button on the desk in front of him, and the Soviets would retaliate with their own battery of missiles, launching a full-scale nuclear war.

“For 15 seconds, we were in a state of shock,” he told The Washington Post. “We needed to understand, what’s next?”

Though the bunker atmosphere was chaotic, Petrov, who had trained as a scientist, took the time to analyze the data carefully before making his decision. He realized that, if the U.S. did attack, they would be unlikely to launch a mere five missiles at once. And when he studied the system’s ground-based radar, he could see no evidence of oncoming missiles.

He still couldn’t say for sure what was going on, but “I had a funny feeling in my gut,” he told The Post. “I didn’t want to make a mistake. I made a decision, and that was it.”

Luckily for all of us, he decided not to push that button. Later, his instincts were proven right – the malfunctioning system had given him a false alarm, and the U.S. had not deployed any missiles. Thanks to Petrov’s cool head, nuclear war had been narrowly averted, and millions of lives were saved.

Unfortunately, Petrov didn’t exactly receive a heroic reward from the Soviet military: Embarrassed by their own mistakes, and angry at Petrov for breaking military protocol, they forced him into early retirement with a pension of $200 a month. Petrov’s brave act was kept secret from the outside world until the 1998 publication of a book by one of Petrov’s fellow officers, who witnessed his courage on that terrifying night.

Since the book’s publication, Petrov has been honored by the United Nations and presented with a World Citizen Award, and there has been talk of giving him the Nobel Prize. Still, the humble Russian scientist plays down his role in averting a nuclear crisis: “I was simply the right person in the right time, that was all,” he said in the upcoming documentary, The Red Button and the Man Who Saved the World.

We’ve got to disagree with him. Sure, he may have done nothing – but in this case, it might just be the hardest thing to do.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Starman

Source & Follow Up

Cosmonaut Crashed Into Earth 'Crying In Rage'
So there's a cosmonaut up in space, circling the globe, convinced he will never make it back to Earth; he's on the phone with Alexei Kosygin — then a high official of the Soviet Union — who is crying because he, too, thinks the cosmonaut will die.


Vladimir Komarov's remains in an open casket

The space vehicle is shoddily constructed, running dangerously low on fuel; its parachutes — though no one knows this — won't work and the cosmonaut, Vladimir Komarov, is about to, literally, crash full speed into Earth, his body turning molten on impact. As he heads to his doom, U.S. listening posts in Turkey hear him crying in rage, "cursing the people who had put him inside a botched spaceship."

This extraordinarily intimate account of the 1967 death of a Russian cosmonaut appears in a new book, Starman, by Jamie Doran and Piers Bizony, to be published next month. The authors base their narrative principally on revelations from a KGB officer, Venyamin Ivanovich Russayev, and previous reporting by Yaroslav Golovanov in Pravda. This version — if it's true — is beyond shocking. 


Gagarin (left) and Komarov out hunting

Starman tells the story of a friendship between two cosmonauts, Vladimir Kamarov and Soviet hero Yuri Gagarin, the first human to reach outer space. The two men were close; they socialized, hunted and drank together.

In 1967, both men were assigned to the same Earth-orbiting mission, and both knew the space capsule was not safe to fly. Komarov told friends he knew he would probably die. But he wouldn't back out because he didn't want Gagarin to die. Gagarin would have been his replacement.

The story begins around 1967, when Leonid Brezhnev, leader of the Soviet Union, decided to stage a spectacular midspace rendezvous between two Soviet spaceships.

The plan was to launch a capsule, the Soyuz 1, with Komarov inside. The next day, a second vehicle would take off, with two additional cosmonauts; the two vehicles would meet, dock, Komarov would crawl from one vehicle to the other, exchanging places with a colleague, and come home in the second ship. It would be, Brezhnev hoped, a Soviet triumph on the 50th anniversary of the Communist revolution. Brezhnev made it very clear he wanted this to happen.

The problem was Gagarin. Already a Soviet hero, the first man ever in space, he and some senior technicians had inspected the Soyuz 1 and had found 203 structural problems — serious problems that would make this machine dangerous to navigate in space. The mission, Gagarin suggested, should be postponed.

He'll die instead of me. We've got to take care of him.
                                    - Komarov talking about Gagarin

The question was: Who would tell Brezhnev? Gagarin wrote a 10-page memo and gave it to his best friend in the KGB, Venyamin Russayev, but nobody dared send it up the chain of command. Everyone who saw that memo, including Russayev, was demoted, fired or sent to diplomatic Siberia. With less than a month to go before the launch, Komarov realized postponement was not an option. He met with Russayev, the now-demoted KGB agent, and said, "I'm not going to make it back from this flight."

Russayev asked, Why not refuse? According to the authors, Komarov answered: "If I don't make this flight, they'll send the backup pilot instead." That was Yuri Gagarin. Vladimir Komarov couldn't do that to his friend. "That's Yura," the book quotes him saying, "and he'll die instead of me. We've got to take care of him." Komarov then burst into tears.

On launch day, April 23, 1967, a Russian journalist, Yaroslav Golovanov, reported that Gagarin showed up at the launch site and demanded to be put into a spacesuit, though no one was expecting him to fly. Golovanov called this behavior "a sudden caprice," though afterward some observers thought Gagarin was trying to muscle onto the flight to save his friend. The Soyuz left Earth with Komarov on board.

Once the Soyuz began to orbit the Earth, the failures began. Antennas didn't open properly. Power was compromised. Navigation proved difficult. The next day's launch had to be canceled. And worse, Komarov's chances for a safe return to Earth were dwindling fast.

All the while, U.S. intelligence was listening in. The National Security Agency had a facility at an Air Force base near Istanbul. Previous reports said that U.S. listeners knew something was wrong but couldn't make out the words. In this account, an NSA analyst, identified in the book as Perry Fellwock, described overhearing Komarov tell ground control officials he knew he was about to die. Fellwock described how Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin called on a video phone to tell him he was a hero. Komarov's wife was also on the call to talk about what to say to their children. Kosygin was crying.

When the capsule began its descent and the parachutes failed to open, the book describes how American intelligence "picked up [Komarov's] cries of rage as he plunged to his death."

Listen to Komarov as the Soyuz capsule began to fail

On the Internet (89 cents at Amazon.com) I found what may have been Komarov's last words:

Some translators hear him say, "Heat is rising in the capsule." He also uses the word "killed" — presumably to describe what the engineers had done to him.

Americans Died, Too

Both sides in the 1960s race to space knew these missions were dangerous. We sometimes forget how dangerous. In January of that same year, 1967, Americans Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee died in a fire inside an Apollo capsule.

NARA

The Nixon White House prepared this letter in the event that American astronauts did not survive the Apollo 11 mission.

Two years later, when Americans landed on the moon, the Nixon White House had a just-in-case statement, prepared by speechwriter William Safire, announcing the death of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, had they been marooned or killed. Death was not unexpected.


Valentina Komarov, the widow of Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov, kisses a photograph of her dead husband during his official funeral, held in Moscow's Red Square on April 26, 1967.

But Vladimir Komarov's death seems to have been almost scripted. Yuri Gagarin said as much in an interview he gave toPravda weeks after the crash. He sharply criticized the officials who had let his friend fly.

Komarov was honored with a state funeral. Only a chipped heel bone survived the crash. Three weeks later, Yuri Gagarin went to see his KGB friend. He wanted to talk about what happened. As the book describes it:

Gagarin met Russayev at his family apartment but refused to speak in any of the rooms because he was worried about bugs. The lifts and lobby areas were not safe, either, so the two men trudged up and down the apartment block's echoing stairwells.
The Gagarin of 1967 was very different from the carefree young man of 1961. Komarov's death had placed an enormous burden of guilt on his shoulders. At one point Gagarin said, "I must go to see the main man [Brezhnev] personally." He was profoundly depressed that he hadn't been able to persuade Brezhnev to cancel Komarov's launch.
Shortly before Gagarin left, the intensity of his anger became obvious. "I'll get through to him [Brezhnev] somehow, and if I ever find out he knew about the situation and still let everything happen, then I know exactly what I'm going to do." Russayev goes on, "I don't know exactly what Yuri had in mind. Maybe a good punch in the face." Russayev warned Gagarin to be cautious as far as Brezhnev was concerned. "I told him, 'Talk to me first before you do anything. I warn you, be very careful.' "

The authors then mention a rumor, never proven (and to my mind, most unlikely), that one day Gagarin did have a moment with Brezhnev and he threw a drink in Brezhnev's face.

I hope so.

Yuri Gagarin died in a plane accident in 1968, a year before the Americans reached the moon.
_________________________________

A Cosmonaut's Fiery Death Retold
by 

Last month, I read a book that recounted the horrendous death in 1967 of Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov. The story amazed me. I described it this way:

"So there's a cosmonaut up in space, circling the globe, convinced he will never make it back to Earth; he's on the phone with Alexei Kosygin — then a high official of the Soviet Union — who is crying because he, too, thinks the cosmonaut will die. The space vehicle is shoddily constructed, running dangerously low on fuel; its parachutes — though no one knows this — won't work and the cosmonaut, Vladimir Komarov, is about to, literally, crash full speed into Earth, his body turning molten on impact. As he heads to his doom, U.S. listening posts in Turkey hear him crying in rage, 'cursing the people who had put him inside a botched spaceship.'"


Portrait of Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov
That's roughly the story I read in Starman: The Truth Behind the Legend of Yuri Gagarin, by Jamie Doran and Piers Bizony, a new edition of which was released last month in the United States. In my post, I said, "This version (of Komarov's death) — if it's true — is beyond shocking."

Well, after my post, a bunch of space historians wrote in to say that, in their view, many of the details in this book were either questionable or simply not true. So I invited some of them to send me their objections, which I shared with the authors, and I can now report that everybody agrees the story told in this book needs some revising. Parts of it hold true. Other parts remain in dispute. Some details, the authors freely concede, may be wrong. "Our book," Piers Bizony wrote recently in Space News, "no doubt contains mistakes, and we genuinely welcome corrections of factual errors."

So I'm going to repeat and then amend their riveting story. I'll do it in short chapters, this time with footnotes. It's still a doozie, but not quite the doozie they tell in their uncorrected, republished book. 


Gagarin (left) and Komarov out hunting
Chapter 1: The Friendship

What the book said: We begin with a friendship: Yuri Gagarin, the first human to go into space, apparently had a warm relationship with another cosmonaut, Vladimir Komarov. In 1967, Komarov was scheduled to orbit the Earth in the first manned flight of a Soyuz space ship. Gagarin was listed as the backup pilot. If Komarov couldn't go, Gagarin would.
What we've learned: Critics say the Kremlin was not about to risk Gagarin's life in space. He was, at that point, a national treasure, too important to risk in space flight. So he was "backup" in name only.

Chapter 2: Mortal Danger

What the book said: There was a big problem with this space mission: The Soyuz was not ready to fly. Yuri Gagarin, working with a group of engineers, found 203 structural problems — serious defects that would make the Soyuz dangerous to navigate in space. They recommended postponement. But their memo was ignored.
What we've learned: Critics aren't sure this "memo" exists. It's not mentioned in memoirs or official accounts. Spaceman's authors say in Russia, many things aren't mentioned in print. They have sources.

Chapter 3: Can't Let Gagarin Die
What the book said: The Soyuz was so unsafe, Cosmonaut Komarov expected to die. "I'm not going to make it back from this flight," he told a KGB agent, Venyamin Russayev. Russayev is one of the most important sources in Doran and Bizony's book. "If you're so convinced you're going to die," he asked Komarov, "then why don't you refuse the mission?"
Komarov answered, "If I don't make this flight they'll send the backup pilot instead. That's Yura (Gagarin), and he'll die instead of me. We've got to take care of him." And then he burst into tears, or as Russayev puts it in a BBC interview broadcast in 1997: "He cracked. Maybe he just let out all the tension, and he began to cry."
What we've learned: Critics wonder about Venyamin Russayev. He was, they say, one of several KGB agents assigned to "mind" Yuri Gagarin. There is no way to check his very personal accounts of conversations he says he had. Doran and Bizony stand by him. "Russayev told us a story that was entirely credible," says Piers Bizony. "We regarded him as a decent and reliable source." One reason they trust him, Bizony wrote me, is that "we were directed towards him by someone impeccably close to Gagarin, whom I cannot name." Others think he's a blowhard who exaggerated to become part of space history.

Chapter 4: Can't Let Komarov Die

What the book said: Gagarin was just as anxious to save Komarov. On launch day, April 23, 1967, he showed up at the launch site and demanded to be put into a spacesuit, though no one was expecting him to fly. A Soviet journalist who was there, Yaroslav Golovanov, called this behavior "a sudden caprice." Was Gagarin trying to muscle onto the flight to save his friend?
What we've learned: Critics say this never happened. Gagarin would never demand a sophisticated "space suit" for a mission that didn't require him to walk in space, says historian Asif Siddiqi. The authors agree that the behavior was odd, but they have an eyewitness. In the BBC broadcast, Pravda journalist Golovanov says that Gagarin "demanded to be put into the protective spacesuit" and raised a fuss, "demanding this and this and this..." Was Gagarin trying to postpone the mission or sub for his friend? Golovanov doesn't say. But KGB agent Russayev does. Russayev insists "that Gagarin was trying to elbow his way onto the flight in order to save Komarov from almost certain death."

Chapter 5: Kosygin In Tears?


Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin in 1967
What the book said: At a listening station near Istanbul, American intelligence was monitoring the Soyuz, and according to National Security Agency analyst Perry Fellwock, "They knew they had problems for about two hours before Komarov died and were fighting to correct them. We taped (the dialogue and) Kosygin called Komarov personally. They had a video-phone conversation, and Kosygin was crying. He told him he was a hero. ... They guy's wife got on, too, and they talked for a while. He told her how to handle their affairs and what to do with the kids. It was pretty awful."
What we've learned: My historians find no evidence that Kosygin talked to Komarov in the Soyuz; there's no mention of it in the official ship-to-ground transcripts. Starman's authors seem to be backing away from this crying-on-the-phone scene and from its source, NSA agent Fellwock. "In retrospect, I wish we had downplayed Fellwock's quotations a little more," says Piers Bizony.

Chapter 6: Komarov Dies Cursing 'This Devil Ship!' Or Did He?

What the book said: Komarov was furious as he died. "This devil ship! Nothing I lay my hands on works properly," he's quoted as saying. And as he descended to Earth, the book says:
"Komarov knew he was in terrible trouble. The [U.S.] radio outposts in Turkey intercepted his cries of rage and frustration as he plunged to his death, cursing forever the people who had put him inside a botched spaceship — although his 'final screams,' mentioned later in Fellwock's account, may be an exaggeration."
What we've learned: American historian Asif Siddiqi has a transcript of Komarov's final moments in the Soyuz. He got it from the Russian State Archive. It goes like this:

Komarov: Activated, activated, don't worry, everything is in order.
Ground: Understood, we're also not worried. How do you feel, how's everything? Zarya, over.
Komarov: I feel excellent, everything's in order.
Ground: Understood, our comrades here recommend that you take a deep breath. We're waiting for the landing. This is Zarya, over.
Komarov: Thank you for transmitting all of that. [Separation] occurred. [garbled]
Ground: Rubin, this is Zarya. Understood, separation occurred. Let's work during the break [pause]. Rubin, this is Zarya, how do you hear me? Over. Rubin, this is Zarya, how do you hear me? Over. This is Zarya, how do you hear me? Over ...

Valentina Komarov, the widow of Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov, kisses a photograph of her dead husband during his official funeral, held in Moscow's Red Square on April 26, 1967.
Both accounts say that the real cause of death was the failure of the ship's parachutes to open. The Soyuz reentered the atmosphere safely, but the descent was a catastrophe. I asked Siddiqi if he thought his transcript had been doctored. He said, "I'm 100 percent confident the transcripts are genuine," though there may be other recordings from other tracking locations.When I showed it to Bizony, he said, "An official Soviet transcript of anything, from the death of a cosmonaut to the birth of a healthy baby boy, isn't worth the paper it's written on. ... Given that we at least broadly trust Russayev's recollection of events, we are entitled to believe that Komarov, for all his discipline as a cosmonaut, would have been entitled to some spitting madness and frustration."

Chapter 7: Gagarin Is Haunted

What the book said: Three weeks after the crash that killed Komarov, Yuri Gagarin met Russayev at his family apartment but refused to speak in any of the rooms because he was worried about bugs. The lifts and lobby areas were not safe, either, so the two men trudged up and down the apartment block's echoing stairwells. According to the book, at one point Gagarin said:
"I must go to see the main man [Leonid Brezhnev, leader of the Soviet Union] personally. ... I'll get through to him somehow, and if I ever find out he knew about the situation and still let everything happen, then I know exactly what I'm going to do." Russayev says, "I don't know exactly what Yuri had in mind. Maybe a good punch in the face." Russayev warned Gagarin to be cautious as far as Brezhnev was concerned. "I told him, 'Talk to me first before you do anything. I warn you, be very careful.'"
What we've learned: Critics agree that Gagarin suffered after Komarov died. But, once again, no one heard this conversation except Venyamin Russayev. If you believe Russayev, you can believe this happened. If not ... who knows?

What Really Happened in 1967?

We know Komarov died. We know the Soyuz crashed. We know a good friendship was interrupted. We know Yuri Gagarin was angry. But because this is a Soviet story, there is so much we don't know. "There are still deep secrets in Moscow archives that we are not allowed to see that could knock our socks off," writes James Oberg, one of America's most important space historians. He just reviewed Starman and he liked the book. "The authors bring up some new material from recently published memoirs from people who have yet to be accepted by space historians (including myself), and perhaps that reluctance is prudent — time will tell," he says.

Or perhaps time won't tell. Sometimes — and I imagine with Soviet history this happens more than sometimes — you can dig and dig, and in the end, you still don't know what really happened.


Jamie Doran and Piers Bizony's book is Starman: The Truth Behind the Legend of Yuri Gagarin (Walker Publishing 2011); Yaroslav Golovanov's interview with Yuri Gagarin was published in Komsomolskaya, Pravda, June 11, 1989. Venyamin Russayev's stories about Gagarin and Komarov appeared in 2006 in Literaturnaya Gazeta and were republished on several websites.

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