The close encounters in this blog post are different and more prosaic . Not between humans and aliens, but between spacecraft and “celestial bodies”. In the past fifty years hundreds of close encounters have taken place, with spacecraft flying by, orbiting or even landing on planets, moons, comets and asteroids in in our solar system. If you are interested in the whole list (314! and counting), surf to NASA’s National Space Science Data Center and select “Planetary Science”.
In this year there will be two memorable and exciting close encounters.
Next week ( 6 March), the Dawn spacecraft will enter orbit around the asteroid Ceres. Here is an artist impression of Dawn and its travel to Ceres, starting already in 2007
The asteroid belt is located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Ceres is, with its diameter of 950 km, the largest of the asteroids. When it was discovered in 1801, it was considered a planet for some time. As you see, on its way to Ceres, Dawn has first explored Vesta, the second-largest asteroid (diameter 525 km). Here is a composite image of Vesta taken by Dawn. Note the three craters, nicknamed the “snowman” and the “bump” at the south pole, a mountain twice as high as Mount Everest…:-)
Dawn left Vesta in September 2012 and is now closing in on Ceres. Here is a picture taken by Dawn ten days ago, on 19 February. Note the two bright spots. The scientists have no clear idea yet what they are, and of course they are getting excited…:-)
Ceres is the final destination of Dawn. The coming months it will explore the surface of Ceres from various distances and finally settle down in a stable orbit (July 2015). You can follow Dawn on the Dawn Blog
On 19 January 2006 the New Horizons spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral. Destination: Pluto, at that time still the ninth planet of our solar system. But not for long, because later that year Pluto was degraded to the status of dwarf planet, together with Ceres. The left picture shows the trajectory of New Horizons, with its actual position on 28 February, the right picture gives an artist impression of the spacecraft closing in on Pluto and its moon Charon.
After passing Jupiter in 2007, the spacecraft has gone into hibernation for considerable times, to save energy. Every now and then waking up to let Earth know that it was still alive…:-). Last year in December, it became fully awake again.
As you see, Pluto is an outsider, with its very elliptical orbit. We know consider it a member of the Kuiper Belt. The spacecraft will fly by on 14 July this year and come as close as ~ 10.000 km! How will Pluto look like? Here is an artist impression of Pluto’s surface, its moon Charon and the Sun. Yes, that is our Sun, not much more than a bright star. Communication with New Horizons takes more than 4 hours, one way.
If the spacecraft keeps functioning, we will know a lot more about Pluto after the fly by. Exciting!
New Horizons will not go into orbit, just fly by. With the little fuel left, it will try to visit a few more members of the Kuiper Belt, and then leave our solar system, like the two Voyagers before. But that is a topic for another post.
One more memorable event in 2015. I have reported a few times already about Rosetta, now in orbit around the comet 67P. This comet will reach its perihelion (closest to the Sun) in August this year. Already part of the comet is evaporating (forming the famous “comet tail”). Rosetta is still exploring the comet from various distances. The left picture, taken from far, shows the evaporation. The right picture is a close-up from the surface, taken from a distance of 8.9 km only!
The location of the Philae lander is still not accurately known. The scientists are hoping that soon this lander will get enough sunlight (it is probably in the shade of a rock wall) and will wake up again. Let’s keep our fingers crossed..:-)
On 10-2-2015 the Federal Court of Malaysia upheld the ruling by the Court of Appeal that Anwar Ibrahim was guilty of sodomising his aide Saiful Bukhari in 2008, and sentenced him to five years’ jail. Article 377B of the Malaysian Penal Code was applied.
The last few days I have received concerned questions from family and friends, if it was still safe for gay people to live in Malaysia. My answer is: don’t worry, this was a political process, a successful attempt by the powers that be, to eliminate the charismatic opposition leader.
Why then was I so shocked and depressed the last few days? Pity with Anwar? Not really, he has behaved as a typical alpha male, like Bill Clinton, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Chua Soi Lek, just to name a few. But I am worried about the future of Malaysia, my 2nd home.
In this blog I will give some background information, as I have noticed that there is a lot of misunderstanding.
Let me start with the “infamous” article 377 of the Malaysian Penal Code. And not only of the Malaysian one! It occurred in 42 (!) of the former British colonies. An archaic law, repealed by now in some of the more civilised ones.
Here are the relevant parts of article 377:
377A: Any person who has sexual connection with another person by the introduction of the penis into the anus or mouth of the other person is said to commit carnal intercourse against the order of nature.
377B: Whoever voluntarily commits carnal intercourse against the order of nature shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to twenty years, and shall also be liable to whipping.
377C: Whoever voluntarily commits carnal intercourse against the order of nature on another person without the consent, or against the will, of the other person, or by putting the other person in fear of death or hurt to the person or any other person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years and not more than twenty years, and shall also be liable to whipping.
I like to draw your attention to two points
The definition in 377A mentions “another person”, NOT “another man” . So it covers anal/oral sex in heterosexual relationships as well.
ONLY the man who puts his penis in the mouth or anus of “another person” commits carnal intercourse against the order of nature and will be punished. The other person goes free.
Just an example: In the age group 30-39, an astonishing 59% of the women gave a man a blowjob. And mind you, although the woman is active, it is the man who is committing carnal intercourse against the order of nature. Sodomy? In the same age group, 22% of the women were sodomised! The percentages for homosexual oral and anal sex are 6% and 3 % “only”
Would the results for Malaysians be very different? If the law would be applied, the prisons would be flooded…:-) Actually the law is not applied often. According to the Human Rights Watch organisation, article 377 has been applied only 7 times since 1938! In recent memory, only two convictions, both concerning Anwar. By the way, note that in this article it is also mistakenly assumed that 377 is about LGBT!
Back to Anwar and Saiful. In 2008 Saiful started to work for Anwar as an aide. On 28 June 2008 he makes a police report alleging Anwar had sodomised him at a condominium in Bukit Damansara between 3.10pm and 4.30pm on 26 June 26 2008. Here is a timeline published by the New Straits Times.A short resume: Anwar denies, claims that semen found in Saiful’s anus has been put there to incriminate him. In 2012 the High Court acquits and discharges him of sodomising Saiful. The prosecution appeals and in 2014 the court of Appeal sentences Anwar to 5 years. The Federal Court has upheld this verdict.
Here are the two main actors for the prosecution, the Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail and the Public Prosecutor Mohammad Shafee. Shafee may well become the next AG. Both men are long time adversaries of Anwar.
Time to give my own opinion! Did Anwar and Saiful have sex?
Personally I am convinced they did. And I am sure it was consensual. I even would not be surprised if Saiful had started making avances. Does that mean Anwar and Saiful are gay? Anwar is a good husband and a grandfather. But he likes men too, so he is bisexual. About Saiful I am less sure. Apparently he is married now, but what does that mean.:-)? I understand that he has been fascinated by VIP’s. And from this wedding picture he has reached his goal…:-) Here the MB of Kedah is paying his respect. That is Mukhriz, by the way, the son of Mahathir. Another adversary of Anwar…:-). Coincidence?
Here is my reconstruction of the period before Saiful reported to the police on 28-6-2008. Bold by me
Some time after Saiful started to work for Anwar, they get intimate. From a IPU report: Mohd Saiful lodged a police report claiming that not only had Anwar sodomized him on the afternoon of Thursday 26 June 2008, but that he had been sexually assaulted some eight or nine times against his will by Anwar over the previous two months. Eight or nine times against his will! When it is remarked how a 61-year with a history of back pain can do that to a 23-year old, this part of the report is no longer mentioned. So the charge becomes 377B and not 377C
On 24-6-2008 Saiful visits Najib. About a scholarship, but the topic of his “relationship” with Anwar is also discussed. Can that be true? He may also have met police officers. Why?
On 26-6-2008 his last encounter with Anwar. He buys KY Jelly! From a Bernama report: Mohd Saiful, in his evidence, had spoken of his previous encounters he had had with Anwar, the unpleasant sensation of pain and the reason for bringing the KY Jelly lubricant.
The next two days Saiful doesn’t pass motion, and doesn’t rinse himself, “to keep the evidence intact”. Why wait two days?
Looks like Anwar has been framed, don’t you think so?
I am not the only one thinking like that. Here is an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, Caught in political sex trap, quoting Wikileaks info:
The cable that deals with Dr Anwar’s sodomy case, dated November 2008 and released exclusively to The Sun-Herald by WikiLeaks, states: ”The Australians said that Singapore’s intelligences services and [Singaporean elder statesman] Lee Kuan Yew have told ONA in their exchanges that opposition leader Anwar ‘did indeed commit the acts for which he is currently indicted’.”
The document states the Singaporeans told ONA they made this assessment on the basis of ”technical intelligence”, which is likely to relate to intercepted communications.
The ONA is also recorded as saying that Dr Anwar’s political enemies engineered the circumstances from which the sodomy charges arose.
”ONA assessed, and their Singapore counterparts concurred, ‘it was a set-up job and he probably knew that, but walked into it anyway’,” the cable states.
Of course the publicity after Saiful lodged his report was enormous. Confronting the press he was accompanied by his “Uncle Pet”. Here he is, two pictures, one with Saiful’s lawyer, the other one giving an interview to Malaysiakini.
Here is the interview. Uncle Pet discusses Saiful’s visit to the several hospitals and voices his indignation about an article by RPK in Malaysia Today , suggesting that Saiful might have been sodomised by uncle Pet himself.
Although that was a preposterous comment by RPK, it is also clear that uncle Pet was not good for Saiful’s credibility, so not surprisingly he has “disappeared” and is never mentioned in the court proceedings.
The main argument for the Federal court to uphold Anwar’s sentence was that they considered Saiful a credible witness. Credible in his account of what happened between Anwar and him on 26-6-2008. That may be true. But if my reconstruction above is correct, it should not necessarily have come to a court case. Consensual “unnatural” sex between two adults. Illegal, true, but hundred thousands of Malaysian couples do the same. Why only select and punish Anwar?
Shafee acknowledges that it has been a (legal) conspiracy. It was sodomy, he argues, and all legal means are allowed to punish the culprit. Well, he will have a huge job to punish all (straight and gay) sodomites, when he will become the AG.
Shame on him. It was a political conspiracy. Selective persecution. Aimed exclusively at Anwar. I feel sorry for Malaysia.