Monthly Archives: February 2018

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly on his poor grades in school, his biggest fear when he’s away from Earth, and how SpaceX fits into the future of interplanetary travel

Retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly said that spending time looking at planet Earth from the International Space Station changed his perspective on humanity.

Retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly said that spending time looking at planet Earth from the International Space Station changed his perspective on humanity.
Sarah Jacobs/Business Insider

  • Retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly had four missions in space, including a 340-day trip aboard the International Space Station in 2015-2016.
  • On our “Success” podcast, he describes himself as a distracted kid who figured out his life later than his identical twin brother Mark, who also became an astronaut.
  • He shared some of his best moments in space, like seeing the entirety of planet Earth, as well as the worst, being helpless when his sister-in-law Gabrielle Giffords was shot in 2011.

When Scott Kelly talks about flying into space, he sounds like a guy talking about his favorite hobby, with the same tone someone would use for golf or fishing.

As a NASA astronaut, Kelly made four trips to space, including spending 340 days onboard the International Space Station. Meanwhile, his identical twin brother – and fellow astronaut – Mark was on Earth. Since then, scientists have been watching how differently the two have aged. In March, they said that 7% of Kelly’s genes may have permanently changed their expression in space.

Since retiring in 2016, Kelly wrote a memoir last year about his year in space called “Endurance,” and he’s become an advocate for improving science and math education in the United States.

In our conversation, Business Insider talked with Kelly about what he saw in space, what he missed back on Earth, and how he went from a kid who couldn’t focus into one of the most celebrated astronauts of our time.

Listen to the full episode here:

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The following transcript has been edited for clarity.

Richard Feloni: Scott, thank you for being here.

Scott Kelly: My pleasure.

Kelly snapped a selfie from the Earth-viewing

Kelly snapped a selfie from the Earth-viewing “Cupola” on the International Space Station (ISS).
NASA Johnson/Flickr

Feloni: Just over two years ago you came back from a 340-day trip aboard the International Space Station. What was that even like? How do you begin to process that at this point?

Kelly: First thing is it’s a privilege, but, you know, a year is a long time to be anywhere. But it was a great experience, I mean the highlight of my professional career. And I think it’s important what we’re doing there, on the International Space Station.

Feloni: When you’re aboard there for so long, did you have struggles with trying to stay sane?

Kelly: You know, I was lucky that I had previously flown a flight that was 159 days, so I kind of knew what I was getting into. And being the first American to spend that time in space, I didn’t have a whole lot of people that had a similar experience to talk to about it, so I went into this with my own preconceived notion of what it would be like. I think I gave it enough thought and a had a good plan, that when I got to the end, I didn’t feel like I was just climbing the walls to get out of there.

The ISS.

The ISS.

Feloni: You didn’t feel like you had to escape.

Kelly: No, I think I handled it. My goal was that when I got back, I wanted for the flight director that I had in the beginning of the flight to talk to the flight director at the end of the mission. For the two of them, when they shared notes on their experience working with me in space, that they had the same exact comments on how I was as a crew member.

Twin brothers, fellow astronauts

Kelly, left, and his identical twin brother and fellow former astronaut Mark.

Kelly, left, and his identical twin brother and fellow former astronaut Mark.
Getty Images/Bill Ingalls/NASA

Feloni: Your identical twin brother Mark is also an astronaut. What dynamic did you guys have, growing up in New Jersey?

Kelly: So between each other, we were either like the best of friends or the worst of enemies. And we would like beat each other’s brains out until we were about 15, and then I realized that was pointless.

We came from a middle-class family – both our parents were police officers. They gave us a very long leash, which I think is a good thing and a bad thing. But somehow we managed to survive and later, both had the privilege of flying in space four times.

Feloni: Did you guys have a sibling rivalry, or is it more you want to do the same things together?

Kelly, left, and Mark at age 3 in 1967.

Kelly, left, and Mark at age 3 in 1967.
NASA Johnson/Flickr

Kelly: Yeah, I think it was more having the same genetics and being exposed to the same things growing up. We happened to have the same interests later. And it wasn’t that we were in competition with each other, it was more – I think we’re competitive people, but not really with each other.

Feloni: And so Mark, he figured out where he wanted to take his career before you did, right?

Kelly: I was this kid that could not pay attention. Was not a good student. Always wondering how in the ninth grade my brother went from being like me to getting straight A’s – I never knew how that happened.

But apparently, what he tells me, is that our dad sat us down in like the eighth grade, and said, “Hey, guys. You know, you’re not good students, not college material. We’re going to start thinking about a vocational education for you.” And my brother thought, “Whoa! I want to go to college and do something more.”

I, on the other hand, had no recollection whatsoever of this conversation. Probably only because there was like a squirrel running outside the window and I was like, “Squirrel!” Otherwise, I probably would have been a straight-A student, too.

How a book inspired him to do something with his life

Feloni: When you were 18 you had like a pivotal moment thought, right, you read Tom Wolfe’s book. Can you explain that?

Kelly: Yeah, I read “The Right Stuff.” Happened to find it by accident in college, in the bookstore, and picked it up. It was the spark I needed to motivate me to do more with my life than I was currently doing.

Feloni: So this was a book about military test pilots who ended up becoming the first American astronauts. Did you see yourself in them?

Tom Wolfe's 1979 book

Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book “The Right Stuff” is a journalistic account about the group of test pilots that became America’s first astronauts.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Kelly: Well, you know, I read this book, and I could relate to a lot of the characteristics these guys had, with regards to their personalities, their risk-taking, their leadership abilities, ability to work as a team. That made me think.

I related to a lot of those characteristics with one exception, and that is I wasn’t a good student, especially in science and math. And I thought, “Wow, you know, if I could fix just that thing, then I could maybe be like these guys.”

At the time I was thinking you’ve got to be really smart to be an engineer or scientist. What I realized is really what it takes is just hard work, and it’s not any particular gift you might have.

As a student, it’s just really hard, especially at first, when you don’t have the habit-patterns to study and pay attention. But once I got over that, I was able to go from a kid at 18 years old that was always like a very average, underperforming student and then fast forward almost to the day 18 years later, I flew in space for the first time. It was a pretty remarkable comeback, I think.

Feloni: And so looking at your own, kind of evolution as a student – is that weighing in on your advocacy now, for science education?

Kelly: Oh, absolutely. So 3M did this study, the “State of Science Index,” that did a poll of 14 different countries and people’s opinions about science and the importance of science, and how much it affects their daily lives. It focuses on kids and getting kids the science education they need.

And one of the things they learned is that a lot of people think that to be a scientist or to work in a science field you have to be a genius. I’m the perfect example of this kid that was bad at science and math – I was actually bad at all of the subjects – and prove that, well, you don’t have to be a genius. What it takes is some hard work. But also it takes an awareness that you don’t have to be the smartest kid in the class to work in a science field, and I think to get kids interested, that’s important.

It’s also important to show them the importance of science and how it can change the world. We have a huge challenge ahead of us. In the next 30 years the population of the Earth is going to increase to nine billion people. The challenges that we face with that ever-increasing population with regards to climate change, food and water availability, sustainability – those problems are going to be solved by science, and they’re going to be solved by the kids today.

Feloni: So what would you tell the kids today who were like you, and they don’t like school?

Kelly: I hated school, and I learned to like it. And if you find the thing that inspires you to learn, you can do it. If I could do it, you can do it. And there’s so many important fields out there that are science-related right now that will help change the world, and they can be a part of it. Absolutely – if I could do what I did, they can do it.

Kelly, inspired by

Kelly, inspired by “The Right Stuff,” became a test pilot in the US Navy. Here he is in the cockpit of a NASA training plane in 2013.
NASA Johnson/Flickr

Feloni: When did you tell your brother that you wanted to be an astronaut, too?

Kelly: You know, we never actually talked about it. We were both test pilots in the Navy. And test pilots at that time, when the space shuttle was flying, most of them would apply to become astronauts, and we did, too. He actually interviewed before I did, so I thought he was going to get an interview and maybe have a chance to become an astronaut and I would never get called. I just didn’t think I was really prepared.

But I was willing to take the risk of rejection, send in an application – which I think a lot of people don’t like to do that for some reason, but I didn’t care.

Feloni: Did you guys motivate each other?

Kelly: No, not really. Like I said, I think we’re competitive in nature, but not with each other. We’re pretty supportive of each other.

Feloni: Actually, ahead of your last flight, he broke protocol and got on the bus, to meet you before you got on board.

Kelly: Yes, he was there actually every time I flew in space. But the last two times the Russian space program, very nice of them, let him get on the bus – despite us being quarantined – and ride out to the rocket, as I got in.

Feloni: So having this same career path has allowed you to be closer than ever?

Kelly: Yeah, I’ll tell you what: Flying in space is a privilege, and even more so when you can share that experience with this person that I’ve known my whole life.

Getting addicted to flying into space

Kelly during a spacewalk in 2015.

Kelly during a spacewalk in 2015.
NASA Johnson/Flickr

Feloni: How old were you when you first went into space, and what was that experience like?

Kelly: I flew my first time in December 1999, when I was 36 years old – which is actually pretty young for an astronaut to fly in space for the first time – and it was an incredible experience.

I tried to describe to my brother, who was also a test pilot – we had the same astronaut training, I just happened to fly in space about two years before he did – and I tried to explain to him for a couple year, “Hey, this is what this is like. This is what to expect.” When he got off the space shuttle, I was there waiting at the hatch, the first thing he said to me when he got off was, “I had no idea what that launch was going to be like.”

I mean, it is seven million pounds of thrust, and it hits you instantaneously. You recognize that the vehicle itself weighs five million pounds. You know you are just part of this controlled explosion, basically, and you’re on the top of it, and it is launching you. You’re busting a hole through the atmosphere at impossible speeds.

It really is an incredible experience. I wish I could do it again. I wish I could do it every day.

Feloni: Really?

Kelly's second trip into space was aboard NASA's Space Shuttle Endeavor in 2007. Kelly's last trip was on a Russian Soyuz rocket, which resembles a giant missile.

Kelly’s second trip into space was aboard NASA’s Space Shuttle Endeavor in 2007. Kelly’s last trip was on a Russian Soyuz rocket, which resembles a giant missile.
NASA Johnson/Flickr

Kelly: Oh yeah, amazing, launching on a rocket. It’s the funnest –

Feloni: That you’re favorite part of the whole thing?

Kelly: Yeah, launching, coming back, spacewalks – those are all very similar in their appeal.

Feloni: With Mark, like no matter what you could do to explain the experience , it wasn’t going to capture it.

Kelly: Yeah, if I couldn’t explain it to him, it’s kind of hard to put it into words to other people that don’t have a similar background and understanding of the space program.

Feloni: I know it’s difficult to explain, but what goes through your head when you see all of planet Earth from space?

Kelly: A few things. The planet is incredibly beautiful, breathtakingly beautiful. Having said that, parts of it are polluted, like with constant levels of pollution in certain parts of Asia.

You see how fragile the atmosphere looks. It’s very thin. It’s almost like a thin contact lens over somebody’s eye, and you realized all the pollutants we put into the atmosphere are contained in that very thin film over the surface. It’s a little bit scary actually to look at it.

Kelly likens the Earth's atmosphere to a contact lens over an eye.

Kelly likens the Earth’s atmosphere to a contact lens over an eye.
NASA Johnson/Flickr

And then you realize looking at the Earth, that despite its beauty and its tranquility, there’s a lot of hardship and conflict that goes on. You look at the planet without borders, especially during the day. At night you can see countries with lights, but during the daytime it looks like we are all part of one spaceship, Spaceship Earth.

And we’re all flying through space together, as a team, and it gives you this perspective – people have described it as this “orbital perspective” – on humanity, and you get this feeling that we just need to work better – much, much better – to solve our common problems.

Feloni: Did it change your perspective as an individual?

Kelly: Oh, absolutely. I think it makes you a more empathetic person. More in touch with humanity and who we are, and what we should do to not only to take care of the planet but also to solve our common problems, which clearly are many.

Part of that science survey is identifying, “Hey, these are things that we can do to improve our chances as we continue to go forward through time, to having a sustainable planet, and to deal with the challenges ahead.”

Coping with the difficulties of floating above the planet

Feloni: You’ve said that of all the things that could go wrong, the biggest fear for you was that something bad would happen to your family.

Kelly: Yeah. You can’t come home. I experienced that on the flight prior to my last one. And that was my sister-in-law, congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in Tucson, Arizona. Six people killed in this shooting, and I was halfway through a mission and couldn’t come back.

So when I was going into space for a year, my big concern is if something happens to my family members, dealing with them. And that concerns me the most, much more than my personal safety.

Feloni: So when that happened during that previous mission, did it feel like, “This is my worst fear coming true?”

Kelly: Yeah, Gabby getting shot was a significant event.

Feloni: What ran through your head?

Kelly: “I wish I could be home to support my family, but I can’t, and I recognize that.” I mean, that’s part of when you go into space for a long periods of time, you’re signing up for that.

My worst possible fear would be something happening to [my fiancée] Amiko or my kids. You cannot be physically there for them.

Feloni: Do you miss the physical presence of having your family there? Did it ever become something that you really just missed?

Kelly: You know, on the space station, we have an extraordinary ability to stay connected to people on Earth. We have email, we have a phone that works most of the time, video conferences.

You look out the window, Earth is pretty close, so there is a very good way to stay connected with folks. So even though you’re in space, you still don’t feel like you’re really, really far away.

You understand the physics, so in a practical sense you’re really far away, but in a visual sense you’re relatively close. Which, when we go to Mars someday it’s gonna be a much different experience.

Feloni: Why?

Kelly took advantage of the ISS's connection to the internet.

Kelly took advantage of the ISS’s connection to the internet.
NASA Johnson/Flickr

Kelly: Well, because in a few days you’re gonna lose the ability to have a phone conversation because of the time delays. You’re not going to be able to look out the window and see your home. I mean, I could get a long lens, and a pair of binoculars, and I could see my house from space, which you know, pretty soon, on the way to Mars, the planet’s basically gonna look like a star at some point. So I think people feel much more isolated on those kind of trips.

Feloni: So it’s kind of tricking yourself into thinking that ‘I’m closer than I actually am’?

Kelly: Yeah, absolutely. But then again, you’re flying at 17,500 miles per hours, it’s not like you can just open a hatch and jump out with a parachute and be home.

The politics of space

Kelly, left, with his ISS crewmates, Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko.

Kelly, left, with his ISS crewmates, Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko.
NASA Johnson/Flickr

Feloni: You’ve said like how remarkable it felt as someone who was trained during the Cold War to be cooperating with Russian cosmonauts on your mission. What do you think of the revival of tensions with Russia?

Kelly: Well, we were in a Cold War with the former Soviet Union, and tensions with Russia occur, from time to time. My personal experience working with Russians in the space program, and my other friends in Russia, even some of them that had nothing to do with the space program, they’ve always been very, very generous people. Great friends.

We’ve had a great partnership with them, with the International Space Station. And that’s one of the great things about the space station, it’s an international space station – different countries, cultures, languages. And that is one of the things that makes this such an extraordinary accomplishment, is the international part of it.

So I understand that at times we can be in conflict, hopefully that won’t always be the case, but we should also look to the International Space Station as an example of things that we can do together in a positive way.

Feloni: And what do you think of the current private space race, and how that interacts with government space programs?

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off a launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off a launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
SpaceX/Flickr (public domain)

Kelly: You know, I think that people have a different perception of what private spaceflight, privatization, means. I think it means something different to everyone.

People often look at a company like SpaceX, a private entity that is doing some incredible things in space, and I think sometimes they don’t recognize that for some of what SpaceX does, NASA’s in partnership with them, supports them.

Feloni: So they’re allies?

Kelly: Yeah, we’re cooperating with SpaceX.

This is not the first time that private industry has been involved in the space program. Even if you look to the Space Shuttle, Rockwell built it, not NASA. NASA was involved in design, managing, and construction. So private space exploration, private space flight is not something new, but the way we’re doing it, managing it, is different.

We’re giving SpaceX some requirements and then letting them figure out how to do it, so it’s a little different than the traditional way we have done things. But it’s great, because maybe they can do things cheaper, and allow NASA to save money and resources to go and fly to Mars some day.

Why he thinks if he can do it, anyone can

Kelly during a spacewalk on the ISS in 2015.

Kelly during a spacewalk on the ISS in 2015.
NASA Johnson/Flickr

Feloni: And what would you tell a young person who’s considering going into space?

Kelly: What I tell them is if you want to be a NASA astronaut, make sure you know what the minimum qualifications are (and that is generally a bachelor’s degree in science or engineering or math) but then choose a field you like. Because if you like it you’re going to do better at it, and NASA likes people that have done good in their current careers because that’s a very good indication of how they will do in a new one.

Kelly's research into plant growth during his ISS mission provided data crucial for future trips to Mars.

Kelly’s research into plant growth during his ISS mission provided data crucial for future trips to Mars.
NASA Johnson/Flickr

But then also be a well-rounded person able to do other things. On the space station, you’re not just the commander or the scientist, you’re the plumber, you’re the electrician, you’re the IT person, you’re the doctor, you’re the dentist.

Feloni: So you have to do everything all at once?

Kelly: You’re the garbage man, you’re the janitor! I mean you do everything, so they want people that have all these different skills and abilities to do other things, and work well together as a team. Because that’s what makes a good crew member. Even that’s what makes a good teammate on Earth – people that are willing to help out when required.

Feloni: Are you hopeful for our future in space?

Kelly: I hope I can fly in space again, with all of you. Yeah, I’m very hopeful. I think it’s a privilege to do it, and I think it changes people for the better, having that experience. It’s exciting, it’s fun, and some day there will be more people flying in space. Hopefully it will be like getting on an airplane. It will happen some day, it’s just a matter of when.

Feloni: Great. Well, thank you Scott.

Kelly: Oh, my pleasure.

The man who helped Stephen Hawking achieve his lifelong dream of experiencing zero gravity remembers what it was like to watch the acclaimed physicist break free of his wheelchair

Stephen Hawking was able to experience zero gravity despite his ALS in 2007 with the help of the entrepreneur Peter Diamandis, right.

Stephen Hawking was able to experience zero gravity despite his ALS in 2007 with the help of the entrepreneur Peter Diamandis, right.

  • The revered physicist Stephen Hawking died Wednesday. Eleven years before his death, he fulfilled a lifelong dream of experiencing zero gravity.
  • A serial entrepreneur named Peter Diamandis brought Hawking aboard one of his company’s Zero G planes in 2007.
  • Diamandis pushed back against the Federal Aviation Administration, which didn’t want Hawking to fly because of his Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Stephen Hawking, the highly influential theoretical physicist, died Wednesday at 76.

Eleven years ago, despite the Federal Aviation Administration’s disapproval, he was able to fulfill a lifelong dream of experiencing weightlessness in zero gravity with the help of a serial entrepreneur named Peter Diamandis.

In an interview for a recent episode of Business Insider’s podcast “Success! How I Did It,” Diamandis said watching Hawking smile as he floated in zero gravity was one of the best moments in his life.

“And it was just a momentous event for me to give this man, who so desired this … such an amazing experience,” Diamandis said. “And I’m so happy to have had a chance to deliver that to him.”

You can subscribe to the podcast and listen to the episode below:

Diamandis met Hawking, a personal hero of his, through his company the XPrize, which offers investment incentives to entrepreneurs and engineers who find solutions to challenges like commercializing space flight.

“And he said, ‘Can you get me into space?'” Diamandis told Business Insider.

“And I said, ‘I can’t do that right now, but I can give you a chance to fly on zero G,'” he said.

One of Diamandis’ companies was Zero G, which provided consumers with a chance to take a flight within Earth’s atmosphere that allowed them to experience several minutes of simulated weightlessness.

“I thought the idea of the world’s expert in gravity getting a chance to experience zero gravity would be amazing,” Diamandis said. For Hawking, this was a fair compromise.

“I have been wheelchair-bound for almost four decades and the chance to float free in zero G will be wonderful,” Hawking told the press ahead of his flight. Hawking also wanted to have his experience serve as inspiration for other people with Lou Gehrig’s disease, the neural disease also known as ALS that results in severe muscle degeneration.

Both Diamandis and Hawking were excited and announced their plan to the press.

“And I got two calls,” Diamandis said. “One from our aircraft partner at the time, saying: ‘You’re crazy! You’re going to put the world’s [most] famous physicist into zero G? You’re going to kill the guy!’ And then I got a call from another organization – I won’t mention who they are, but their initials are FAA – and they said, ‘You can’t.'”

Diamandis told Business Insider he was flustered but maintained enough control to not back down. He got the FAA to agree that if a series of doctors could assess Hawking – then a 65-year-old man who had ALS and used a wheelchair – as fit for the zero-G flight, the agency would allow it to move forward.

After a couple of months spent meeting with various doctors, the consensus was that there was an acceptable chance that Hawking would be fine. Hawking wanted to proceed, and so Diamandis was willing to take the risk.

On April 26, 2007, Diamandis’ Zero G team successfully took Hawking on a zero-gravity flight without any negative incident. Its success also led to Zero G taking a group of children who used wheelchairs on a flight to experience the same freeing sense of weightlessness.

During Hawking’s trip, Diamandis said: “I was just a kid in a candy store. Here is one of my heroes. And this was a dream come true. Not only flying zero G, but my having a chance to give him this experience. And also, in the background, is, ‘I hope I don’t screw up.'”

The trip lasted about two hours for a total of four minutes of weightlessness.

Hawking had limited ability for facial movement, but he smiled as wide as possible throughout those four minutes.

“It was amazing,” Hawking told the press afterward, adding that he considered it a first step. “Space, here I come.”

Remembering Stephen Hawking:

More than a dozen companies have cut ties with the NRA — and pro-gun-rights activists are furious

Many companies have ended partnerships that brought discounts for members of the National Rifle Association.

Many companies have ended partnerships that brought discounts for members of the National Rifle Association.
REUTERS/Brian Snyder

  • More than a dozen companies have cut ties with the NRA following boycott threats from gun-control activists.
  • Now, people who support the NRA are threatening to boycott the companies that cut ties with the gun-rights organization.
  • Brands including Hertz, United, Delta, and Enterprise Rent-a-Car are being flooded with boycott threats from the right.

Companies that have cut ties with the National Rifle Association after anti-NRA boycott threats are facing backlash from the right.

Delta, United Airlines, Hertz, and MetLife are among more than a dozen companies that have cut ties with the NRA in the past week after the school massacre this month in Parkland, Florida. The decisions followed a social-media boycott campaign targeting companies that offer special deals to NRA members who, as part of their membership, receive discounts on things like car rentals and prescription drugs.

Gun-control activists have celebrated the companies that have cut ties – but not everyone is happy.

“[S]ome corporations have decided to punish NRA membership in a shameful display of political and civic cowardice,” the NRA said in a statement this weekend. “In time, these brands will be replaced by others who recognize that patriotism and determined commitment to Constitutional freedoms are characteristics of a marketplace they very much want to serve.”

Many supporters of the NRA vowed to boycott companies that cut ties with the organization, flooding the brands’ social-media pages with complaints.

“Since you decided to join politics and drop the NRA, I will no longer do business with you,” one person wrote on Delta’s Facebook page Monday. “I just booked a vacation and I made sure not to use your airline. You might want to stick with flying planes and stay out of politics.”

“Since you decided to join politics and drop the NRA, I will no longer do business with you. I’ll take my business elsewhere,” another person wrote on Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s Facebook page.

Brands that have cut ties with the NRA are receiving mixed feedback on social media.

Brands that have cut ties with the NRA are receiving mixed feedback on social media.

Scrolling through companies’ Facebook pages and Twitter mentions, it is clear that many on the right are just as ready to organize a boycott campaign as those on the left. The usual complaints about late planes and poor customer service have been replaced by discussion of the NRA – with people both celebrating and slamming the companies’ decisions.

The latest wave of boycotts is the most recent in a long list of political consumer activism.

Trump’s presidency has been marked by polarizing boycotts, from conservatives smashing Keurigs after the company pulled ads from Sean Hannity’s show to liberals ditching Macy’s for selling Ivanka Trump’s fashion brand.

An ISIS recruiter who tried to radicalise strangers over Facebook is in prison after someone sent screenshots to police

Mohammed Kamal Hussain.

Mohammed Kamal Hussain.
London Metropolitan Police

  • Mohammed Kamal Hussain has been convicted of terrorism offences.
  • He had been sending messages to people online telling them to join ISIS.
  • He got caught when one person reported him and sent screenshots.
  • Hussain was jailed for seven years at a court hearing on Monday.

A 28-year-old ISIS recruiter has been put in jail for seven years after his attempt to radicalise someone over Facebook backfired.

Mohammed Kamal Hussain, from east London, had been messaging strangers on social media in the hope that some of them would become terrorists.

But evidence in his court hearing shows that one such message ended up landing him in prison, after the recipient of the unprompted message reported him to UK authorities.

The person, who hasn’t been named, took screenshots of messages from Hussain and forwarded them to the Home Office, which runs Britain’s counter-terror operations.

They forwarded it to London’s Metropolitan Police, who investigated and found that he had sent thousands more messages using services like WhatsApp and Telegram as well as Facebook. They also found ISIS propaganda on his devices.

Hussain was arrested last June, and has since been found guilty of encouraging terrorism and supporting an illegal organisation.

He was sentenced to seven years in prison at Kingston Crown Court on Monday.

Here’s a video in which the unnamed person describes their actions:

Commander Dean Haydon, the head of the London Metropolitan Police’s counter terrorism unit, said: “This investigation started with one conscientious individual trusting his instincts and reporting something suspicious.

“He could have ignored the message Hussain sent him but instead he took a screenshot of the message and contacted the UK authorities immediately.”

The Home Office runs an online reporting form as part of its ACT (action counters terrorism) campaign through which people can report suspected terrorists anonymously.

‘They beat our a–es’: Russian mercenaries talk about humiliating defeat by US in reportedly leaked audio

An Iraqi T-72 main battle tank.

An Iraqi T-72 main battle tank.
TSGT Joe Coleman

  • Leaked audio recordings said to be of Russian mercenaries in Syria capture expressions of lament and humiliation over a battle in early February involving US forces and Russian nationals.
  • The audio tapes were published by, a fact-checking website produced by news organizations that receive funding from the US government.
  • The audio – which appears to corroborate reports from Reuters and Bloomberg that say hundreds of Russians died or were wounded in a mismatched battle – also seems to contradict statements from Russia’s Foreign Ministry.

Leaked audio recordings said to be of Russian mercenaries in Syria capture expressions of lament and humiliation over a battle in early February involving US forces and Russian nationals.

Published by – a fact-checking website produced by Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, news organizations that receive funding from the US government – the audio recordings paint a picture of Russian mercenaries essentially sent to die in an ill-conceived advance on a US-held position in Syria. Polygraph says the audio recordings are from a source close to the Kremlin.

The Pentagon has described the attack as “unprovoked” and started by forces loyal to the Syrian government that crossed over the Euphrates River, which functions as a border between US-backed troops and Russian-backed ones.

The Pentagon says that about 500 men began to fire on the position and that the US responded with air power and artillery strikes. The audio from Polygraph seems to confirm that while giving some insight into the feelings of the defeated forces.

Also apparent in the audio is displeasure with how Russia has responded to the situation. Initially, Russia denied that its citizens took part in the clash. Later, a representative said five may have died. Last week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the fight left “several dozen wounded” and that some had died.

The audio recordings, in which voices can be heard saying 200 people died “right away,” appear to back up reports from Reuters, Bloomberg, and the Pentagon that roughly 100 – if not more – Russians died in the fight. Reuters has cited sources as saying the advance’s purpose was to test the US’s response.

Russia is thought to use military contractors in Syria rather than its military – experts speculate it’s to maintain deniability for acts of war and conceal the true cost of fighting from the Russian people. The Washington Post reported last week that US intelligence reports with intercepted communications showed that a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin told a senior Syrian official he “secured permission” from the Kremlin before the advance on the US forces.

The accounts in the audio also align with reports of how the battle went down, depicting an unprepared column of troops meeting an overwhelming air response before helicopter gunships strafed the remaining ones.

Here are the translated transcripts from Polygraph:

First clip:

“The reports that are on TV about … well, you know, about Syria and the 25 people that are wounded there from the Syrian f— army and – well … to make it short, we’ve had our asses f— kicked. So one squadron f— lost 200 people … right away, another one lost 10 people … and I don’t know about the third squadron, but it got torn up pretty badly, too … So three squadrons took a beating … The Yankees attacked … first they blasted the f— out of us by artillery, and then they took four helicopters up and pushed us in a f— merry-go-round with heavy caliber machine guns … They were all shelling the holy f— out of it, and our guys didn’t have anything besides the assault rifles … nothing at all, not even mentioning shoulder-fired SAMs or anything like that … So they tore us to pieces for sure, put us through hell, and the Yankees knew for sure that the Russians were coming, that it was us, f— Russians … Our guys were going to commandeer an oil refinery, and the Yankees were holding it … We got our f— asses beat rough, my men called me … They’re there drinking now … many have gone missing … it’s a total f— up, it sucks, another takedown … Everybody, you know, treats us like pieces of s— … They beat our asses like we were little pieces of s— … but our f— government will go in reverse now, and nobody will respond or anything, and nobody will punish anyone for this … So these are our casualties.”

Second clip:

“Out of all vehicles, only one tank survived and one BRDM [armored reconnaissance vehicle] after the attack, all other BRDMs and tanks were destroyed in the first minutes of the fight, right away.”

Third clip:

“Just had a call with a guy – so they basically formed a convoy, but did not get to their f— positions by some 300 meters. One unit moved forward, the convoy remained in place, about 300 meters from the others. The others raised the American f— flag, and their artillery started f— ours really hard. Then their f— choppers flew in and started f— everybody. Ours just running around. Just got a call from a pal, so there are about 215 f— killed. They simply rolled ours out f— hard. Made their point. What the f— ours were hoping for in there?! That they will f— run away themselves? Hoped to f— scare them away? Lots of people f— so bad [they] can’t be f— ID’d. There was no foot soldiers [on the American side]; they simply f— our convoy with artillery.”

A United passenger was arrested after opening the emergency exit and sliding down the chute while the plane was boarding

The flight was delayed for a total of five hours.

The flight was delayed for a total of five hours.
Kamil Krzaczynski / Reuters

  • A passenger on United Airlines flight 1640 from Newark to Tampa Bay deployed and used the emergency exit slide while the flight was boarding at Newark Liberty International Airport, NBC New York first reported.
  • The man claimed that he had boarded the wrong flight before he was arrested, but United confirmed the man had boarded the correct flight.
  • The plane was evacuated after the incident and passengers were moved to another plane.

A passenger on United Airlines flight 1640 to Tampa Bay deployed and used the emergency exit slide while the flight was boarding at Newark Liberty International Airport on Sunday evening, NBC New York first reported.

According to the Port Authority, the man, Troy Fattun, told flight attendants he was on the wrong flight after boarding it, though United confirmed that Fattun was ticketed for the flight. The flight attendants then asked him to show them his boarding pass, but Fattun said he didn’t have it and attempted to enter one of the plane’s bathrooms. After he was told they were unavailable at that time, he opened an emergency exit and deployed and used the emergency slide.

Troy Fattun was arrested and charged with criminal mischief, criminal trespass, and interference with transportation

Troy Fattun was arrested and charged with criminal mischief, criminal trespass, and interference with transportation
The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey

He was arrested by the Port Authority on the tarmac and charged with criminal mischief, criminal trespass, and interference with transportation. He is currently being held at Essex County Jail. No one was injured during the incident.

According to a Twitter user, the flight was delayed for three hours before the man used the emergency slide. The flight was delayed for a little over five hours total, according to After the incident, the plane was evacuated and passengers were moved to another plane.

united emergency slide

Twitter / j_illibean

In January, a passenger on a delayed Ryanair flight also climbed onto a wing before the plane deboarded the plane in Malaga, Spain. The passenger was reportedly frustrated by having to wait to get off the plane. He was also arrested after the incident.

Gap has a new ad that shows a woman breastfeeding — and people are going crazy for it

Customers are praising the ad online.

Customers are praising the ad online.

  • Gap has launched a new ad campaign that features a woman breastfeeding.
  • Commenters on social media have come out in support of the company, and some are saying it’s inspiring them to shop in its stores.
  • In the past, some ads featuring breastfeeding have created a backlash online.

Gap just made a smart marketing move to win back customers.

The retailer launched a new collection of comfortable basics, “Love by GapBody,” this month. And with it came a new ad campaign that showed a series of women relaxing at home, playing with a dog, and in another image, breastfeeding a baby.

There are two photographs: one of a woman pressing the child close to her, and another of her breastfeeding the child. The latter has been posted on the company’s Instagram page but is noticeably absent from its website and Twitter and Facebook profiles.

Gap did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on this.

The photos are being praised on Instagram.

“Just a mom feeding her baby #NormalizeBreastfeeding I am so happy to shop at a store that supports breastfeeding!!!” one Instagram user commented on the post.

Some breastfeeding ads have not been so well received in the past. In April 2017, personal care company Dove, which is owned by Unilever, had to pull an ad that ran in the UK after it was criticized online. The ad showed a woman breastfeeding and asked the question: “75% say breastfeeding in public is fine. 25% say put them away.” Angry customers claimed this was implying that women should feel ashamed to breastfeed in public.

Gap, on the other hand, has struck a chord with its female customers.

“This is so amazing!!!! As a breastfeeding mother, I applaud you guys. Thank you so much for doing this!!! This is so powerful. THANK YOU!!!!” another wrote.

Gap Inc.’s namesake brand has struggled in recent years. Sales have stalled, it announced it would be closing stores over the next three years, and its CEO stepped down this month.

Gap has also been accused of failing to appeal to its shoppers. In January, it launched a new collection of clothing and accessories, called “Archive Reissue – Logo Remix,” with some items costing as much as $198. Business Insider reported that Gap could be at risk of falling into the same trap as J.Crew, which raised its prices and ended up alienating customers.

This new advertising campaign, therefore, comes at an important time for the company.

“I have never shopped at Gap, but I will be purchasing something tonight! This is amazing!” one Instagram commenter wrote.

The company has supported motherhood in the past. In 2017, it launched a short film featuring Liv Tyler and Candice Swanepoel that celebrated motherhood and raised awareness for Every Mother Counts, a nonprofit that helps mothers around the world get access to maternity care.

A diet ranked one of the best for overall health by experts may have an additional health benefit for older adults — here’s how to try it


  • US News & World Report ranked the DASH diet, which stands for “dietary approaches to stop hypertension” as one of its top picks for diets to try in 2018.
  • In an observational, study presented at an academic meeting, researchers found that the diet was linked to a lower rate of depression in older adults compared to those who didn’t adhere to the diet.
  • The DASH diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

A diet ranked by experts as one of the best for your overall health may have an additional benefit for older adults.

The DASH diet, an abbreviation for “dietary approaches to stop hypertension,” involves lowering your sodium intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams a day and eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains like whole wheat and brown rice. Its aim, as the name suggests is to prevent hypertension, otherwise known as abnormally high blood pressure. The condition is common in the US.

And in an observational study presented at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting on Sunday, researchers found that the diet was linked to a lower rate of depression in older adults compared to those who didn’t adhere to the diet.

The study tracked 964 participants with an average age of 81 years over about six years, giving them a yearly evaluation meant to determine which diet – DASH, Mediterranean, or Western – they most closely followed, as well as whether they had symptoms of depression. The more a participant followed the Western diet, which is characterized by lots of saturated fats and red meat, and a dearth of fruits and vegetables, the more likely they were to develop depression.

At the same time, those who followed the DASH diet had an 11% lower likelihood of developing depression.

“Depression is common in older adults and more frequent in people with memory problems, vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or people who have had a stroke,” Dr. Laurel Cherian, the study’s lead author and a professor at Rush University Medical Center, said in a statement. “Making a lifestyle change such as changing your diet is often preferred over taking medications, so we wanted to see if diet could be an effective way to reduce the risk of depression.”

While the study was able to show a link between depression and the DASH diet, more research is needed to show whether the diet can prevent depression in elderly people.

How to follow the DASH diet

As demonstrated by the depression study, the DASH diet isn’t just for those who are trying to lower or prevent high blood pressure.

“The DASH diet is really a safe plan for everyone,” Angela Haupt, assistant managing editor of health at US News & World Report, told Business Insider in 2016. “There’s nothing exciting about it, and that’s what makes it a good plan. It’s not some fad diet making outlandish claims that you can’t rely on.”

The distinguishing factor for the DASH diet is that it limits how much sodium you eat. Since many frozen and prepackaged foods contain large amounts of salt, DASH dieters stick to fresh produce and lean proteins like fish and poultry.

Here’s what a typical day on a 2,000-calorie DASH diet looks like:

  • No more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium, eventually working down to no more than 1,500 milligrams (for reference, a single slice of pizza contains about 640 milligrams of sodium)
  • 6-8 servings of grains
  • 4-5 servings each of veggies and fruits
  • 2-3 servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy (plain dairy products are much lower in sugar than flavored)
  • 6 or fewer servings (equal to about one ounce) of lean meat, poultry, and fish
  • 2-3 servings of fats and oils
  • No more than 1-2 alcoholic drinks (a serving is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 1/2 ounces of liquor)
  • Per week, DASH dieters must have less than 5 servings of sweets, and 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds, and legumes

In a typical day, for example, you could have an omelet with veggies and reduced-fat cheese for breakfast, minestrone soup for lunch, low-fat yogurt as a snack, and spaghetti squash with meat sauce for dinner.

With all the fiber-packed fruits and veggies in the DASH diet, you won’t go hungry.

For people with abnormally high blood pressure, the DASH diet may over time help drop that blood pressure by as many as eight to 14 points.

New leaked images claim to show the screen of a massive ‘iPhone X Plus’

Hollis Johnson

  • New leaked images claim to show parts from a 2018 iPhone.
  • The photos show a large notched display that would reportedly be for an “iPhone X Plus,” a massive 6.5-inch phone said to be coming later this year.
  • The parts may not be for an Apple phone however, since the original post claims they were manufactured by LG rather than Samsung.

New leaked photos claim to show the screen of an “iPhone X Plus,” a 6.5-inch iPhone said to be coming in 2018.

The photos first showed up on the MacX forums, although the post has since been taken down. MacRumors saved the images and said the original post claims the parts are from an LG facility in Vietnam, and are part of a “trial run of production equipment.”

Apple is said to be releasing three new iPhone models in 2018: an upgraded iPhone X with a 5.8-inch OLED screen, a larger model with a 6.5-inch OLED screen, and a third iPhone model with a less expensive LCD screen.

The leaked parts would seemingly be for the larger, 6.5-inch iPhone X Plus:

It’s clear from the photos that the screen is larger than the iPhone X but has the roughly the same size notch at the top of the screen. According to MacRumos, the part number printed on the flex cable attached to the screen is similar to Apple’s format. Still, there’s no way to verify whether these parts are legitimate and not made for an iPhone knockoff.

Plus, if the original post is to be believed, the parts were manufactured by LG in Vietnam. While Apple did reportedly invest $2.7 billion in LG Display to build the OLED displays, Samsung was Apple’s exclusive OLED supplier for the iPhone X.

Controversial Malaysian rapper freed after 4-day remand

 Namewee has been released from police remand.
Namewee’s Facebook page

Malaysian rapper Namewee, who was detained by police for creating a controversial video, has been released after four days.

Namewee, whose real name is Wee Meng Chee, announced via Facebook on Thursday (Feb 22) that he had gone to the police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur where he was later detained.

The 34-year-old was reportedly being investigated for his “Like a Dog” Chinese New Year music video, which featured a group of dancers dancing provocatively while wearing dog masks in Putrajaya.

Despite criticism, Wee denied filming the video near a mosque or any place of worship.

In a Facebook post last week, Wee wrote that he had turned himself in as he believed “there is justice in Malaysia”.