Disaster

No News is Good News

— Filed under: Breaking News, People & Culture, Opinion
 Brookgreen Gardens in P...

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My wife gave birth to our first child a few weeks ago, and I'm writing this after a midnight run to the hospital laboratory with a stool sample, to check if our baby's diarrhea is anything to worry about.

It's not.  Which is good, but I'm wondering if I'm destined to spend the next 18 years on pins and needles, waiting anxiously for diagnoses, rifling through parenting books, and scouring the web for info.  I'm going to need some way to keep from stressing about every little hiccup and cough.

And then it struck me: the news media does this to us too.  It throws impending doom in our faces every day — as if we couldn't imagine it ourselves!  Catastrophe is literally around every corner.  Even innocuous events are spun to their full, ominous potential.  It is really and truly an anxiety-inducing parade of fear, and it's non-stop, 24 hours a day.

What kind of terrible events are on tap at the moment?  Here's a small sampling:… Continues …

"No Disassemble!"

— Filed under: Politics & Government
Flank photo of Johnny 5 robot from the Short C...

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As an aviation enthusiast I have been aware of the development of the increasing autonomy of military technology for a number of years. In the apparent pursuit of making life easier for pilots by decreasing their workload has morphed into a sinister beast however and we are at the point where a number of seemingly disparate technological military advances could converge and make sci-fi like future conflicts a reality.

What follows is a run-down of the areas I find a concern.

UAV/UAS

UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle)/Unmanned Aircraft Systems technology is a relatively new direction, where the pilots fly the aircraft as though are on board (following all rules of the air) themselves but are actually in front of a screen flying the aircraft remotely. Initially UAV’s were envisaged as a means of assisting the air power forces by providing “spy” roles such as finding targets and relaying the info to the correct arm of the air power wing and then providing imagery of the aftermath of any strike operations. The most developed UAV is the RQ-1 Predator, initially designed for reconnaissance purposes. In the winter 2000-2001 (post 9/11) tests were conducted with the view of arming Predators with Hellfire missiles (a lightweight but highly effective and accurate missile as used on AH64 Apachehelicopters), these tests culminated in the successful test attack on a stationary tank with 3 missiles. The head of the CIA at the time after seeing how successfully the Predators reconnaissance of Afghanistan was vocal in his support of the arming programme and had the updates accelerated so as to target Osama Bin Laden.  The armed version was re-designated MQ-1 and software and technological upgrades are frequently applied. They have launched hundreds of attacks during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom with some moderate success; however a large number have been destroyed for varying reasons. The Bae System Taranisis the latest development in UAV, it even looks nasty!… Continues …

Oil Spill: A Question of Priorities

— Filed under: Breaking News, Politics & Government, Business & Finance
A very angry Obama

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Another day, another screaming headline in the ongoing saga of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster.  We're being bombarded by new stories every day, and it sometimes feels like we're focusing on the wrong things.

CNN's Fareed Zakaria took the unusual step of blasting the press for their obsession with Obama's emotional response to the spill, an obsession which forced the president to utter the now-famous "ass to kick" phrase.  As Zakaria points out:

"What exactly is the point of all this? What purpose would be served by having the president scream or cry or whatever it is he's supposed to do to show emotion? Would it plug the hole?"

BP: American Double Standards?

— Filed under: Politics & Government, Opinion
SHARM EL SHEIKH/EGYPT, 19MAY08 - Tony Hayward,...

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BP's Tony Hayward

It hasn't been a good time for BP CEO Tony Hayward, who has spent the last few weeks grovelling abjectly on television while being described in The New York Daily News as 'the most hated – and clueless – man in America'. BP has been the subject of protests in many cities, with protesters waving placards proclaiming 'BP=bad polluter' and 'fubp'.

President Obama, stung into action by criticism of his approach has weighed into the situation with unusually bullish language. Being quoted as trying to find out "whose ass to kick", he has given the green light to criminal proceedings to be brought against the BP board for the mass murder of the eleven rig workers, and has called for BP to be banned from giving dividends to its shareholders.

The President of the world's largest polluter and energy consumer, which consumes 25% of global energy with 5% of the world's population, has called the spillage "an affront to the American people".… Continues …

Oh My God, We're All Gonna Die!

— Filed under: Science & Technology
Betelgeuse art ESO

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Or not, depending on who you talk to. The latest buzz is that Betelgeuse, a red supergiant and the ninth brightest star in the sky, is about to go supernova in the next few weeks or months. Apparently the panic originated from a forum posting, which claimed to have firsthand information from an astronomer in Mauna Kea. Although not predicting immediate annihilation for Earth, the author postulated that the bright explosion would cause 24-hour daylight and might destroy crops. That posting has been elaborated upon here, and debunked here.

It seems as though every few months we're subjected to warnings of some new disaster that threatens to destroy us. We're told that swine flu could kill hundreds of millions around the globe. We're warned that global warming will melt the polar ice caps and raise the sea levels much sooner than anticipated, wreaking havoc worldwide. We're shown via Hollywood that the world will end in 2012. The world didn't end as predicted in 2000, but it certainly went a little crazy as programmers raced to fix "the millennium bug". And apparently we're under constant threat from unknown and untracked asteroids which could demolish the Earth at any moment.… Continues …

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