Typical Human

National Geographic have released a second video as part of their year long focus on the world’s population of 7 Billion. This time it’s about who is “typical” in our world today.

They also compiled a fantastic image of the face of the world’s typical man, from 7000 human figures, each representing one million people:

 

Chi, Chi, Chi! Le, Le, Le!

So maybe if you’ve been living in a hole this week you won’t have heard about the rescue of 33 Chilean (well, 32 and a Bolivian) miners who had spent 69 days down in the darkness of the San Jose Mine.

On Wednesday, over the course of 22 hours each and every one of them returned to the surface.

The world’s media was there to see it and the whole thing could be watched lived.

I think I saw all except the first 4 and numbers 18-23. Other than that, I was glued to the screen of my laptop. Right to the end at 2am.

I was completely transfixed. I couldn’t stop watching. It was incredible.

These men were essentially returning from the dead. Every time one of them stepped out from the capsule it was a miracle.

I’d love it to be one of those things the next generation asks about, “Do you remember the miners? Did you watch them? Where were you when it happened?” It feels like a big enough of a deal for that to me but the reality is, happy endings don’t stay in people’s minds for long.

But I think this was more than just a happy ending! The whole world was watching this and willing it to succeed: for once it felt like humanity was united instead of tearing itself apart. Sure it was our fault they were stuck down there in the first place, but we went back for our own.

Maybe you think I’m being overly melodramatic . . . Maybe I am. But I loved every second of that footage because it was more than some guys coming up out of a big hole; it was humanity at its best.

Chi, Chi, Chi! Le, Le, Le! Los Mineros de Chile!

Brewdog’s The End of History

Dead animal beer bottles at £500 each ‘perverse’

North East brewers Brew Dog announced their latest slightly strange beer today – The End of History –  it’s 55% alcohol and the bottles are presented in a dead stoat or squirrel!

According to the BBC there’s a little controversy surrounding it (see link above) but Brew Dog have only this to say:

This 55% beer should be drank in small servings whilst exuding an endearing pseudo vigilance and reverence for Mr Stoat. This is to be enjoyed with a weather eye on the horizon for inflatable alcohol industry Nazis, judgemental washed up neo-prohibitionists or any grandiloquent, ostentatious foxes.

At £500 a bottle (there are only 11 of them anyway) I doubt I’ll ever be trying this, though I do quite like some of their beer and am looking forward to them opening their pub in Aberdeen later this year!

The New Love Affair

David Cameron has been in Washington these past few days for his first meeting with President Barack Obama. He was in the White House for three hours and spent an entire hour alone in discussion with the President. In their joint press conference today, the “warmth” of their “truly special” relationship was emphasized and perhaps best seen in Cameron’s willingness to to succumb to American pressure to condemn the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

I appreciate the pain and grief suffered by the relatives of those who died in the attack. I can understand, to a degree, the anger that is felt over his early release. However, this was an act under Scottish law, a law of compassion which I believe to be valuable and important in our legal system. There was a prisoner transfer agreement brokered between the UK and Libya but the Scottish government have denied that this release was a part of that, or that BP’s role in Libya was in any way involved in their decision.

I suspect that the current outrage of US Senators is partly a consequence of the oil spill from a BP drilling well in the Gulf of Mexico. They’re looking for a way to punish the company even more severely. They’re also very annoyed that al-Megrahi is still alive, 11 months after returning to Libya, supposedly terminally ill. David Cameron today told the press that BP should not be blamed for al-Megrahi’s release.

However, he also said – and this is what really angered me – that the release was “completely wrong”. And, he and Obama were in “violent agreement” that freeing the bomber was an error. It seems to me that Cameron has forgotten he is Prime Minister of Scotland as well. Al-Megrahi was released in compliance with our law and I think Cameron has a duty to defend that. He may not agree with it personally, he may wish to call for an enquiry to ensure the law was followed accurately (though he has said he doesn’t think this is necessary because it will only confirm his belief it is wrong) but to pander to American pressure, in order to further his own reputation amongst politicians there, smacks of arrogance and a disregard for the 6 million people of Scotland whom he is representing before the American people and world media.

I am in no doubt that if an American citizen was in a similar situation within an english prison, their extradition would be expected and lobbied for.

The Scots weren’t enamoured with the Conservative (LibDem) government already and this certainly isn’t going to aid their relationship in becoming anywhere near as “special” as that of Cameron and Obama’s governments.

Read both the BBC and NYTimes articles.

Sinkhole

(Photo HT Paulo Raquec National Geographic)

I’m not sure how I missed this (BBC News letting me down again) but two weeks ago this HUGE hole appeared in the centre of Guatemala City during tropical storm Agatha. Apparently something similar happened in 2007. It’s 60ft wide, at least 300ft deep and may have swallowed a house. Wow!

More great pics at National Geographic.

A speech of Gordon’s

It’s a little late now but below is a great speech made by Gordon Brown during the campaign. I don’t know I’ve ever seen this side of him, perhaps a little in the last tv debate. It’s a lot of “vote for me” stuff after 5mins but the first bit is really quite inspirational – no man is an island, we can all make a difference.

Hung

I’ve just about recovered from the events of Thursday night. We managed to stick it out until 3.30am,watching as the BBC reported the count results from each constituency. It was much like being at a sports match: every time Labour or Lib Dem won or held a seat there would be a wee cheer/sigh of relief; if the Conservatives won a seat there’d be a wee moan of disappointment; and whenever we saw that the BNP had achieved any number of votes at all there were shouts of outrage. Can you guess which way we were politically leaning?

I don’t think the result is a surprise to anyone. I, personally, think it’s probably about the best we could have hoped for: Labour were highly unlikely to hold on to power so Conservatives not being able to hold on to it outright isn’t too bad. Obviously the real power now lies with Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems but, as much as I love them, this too concerns me.

If Lib Dems form an alliance with Conservatives we can pretty much say goodbye to any hope of electoral reform in the next ten years, at least. Cameron won’t give it to them and even if he does allow them to set up this “committee of inquiry” he’ll probably call and win another general election before it comes to any conclusions. I think the fact that the Lib Dems had 23% of the public vote but only get 57 out of 650 seats is outrageous. It’s not democracy. However, despite their talk about electoral reform, I can’t see Nick wanting to share power with Labour either – he’d be on the losing side which is not going to serve him well in the next election, even if they ousted Gordon Brown.

I think it’s incredibly arrogant of David Cameron to say that “it is reasonable to expect that the bulk of [his] manifesto should be implemented”. Only 36.1% of the country voted for you David – the majority of us don’t like your manifesto. I do love that the Greens finally got a seat! And am relieved that the BNP didn’t!

The next few days and the result are going to be very interesting. My ideal world would involve Cameron and the Conservatives forming a minority government, Clegg and the Labour Leader (unlikely to be Brown) pushing electoral reform through government whilst the Conservatives are messing everything else up, another election being called in a few years and the representation finally being fair. I have no idea if this would work in any way shape or form – despite reading everything I can, I’m still confused about the numerous ways this could go down.

It’s a comfort to know that “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1) Whoever is in government, eventually, I’ll be answering to a higher power and trusting that God put them there with a plan – even if they are Tories.

Collateral Murder

This could be controversial . . .

It’s no secret that I’m a pacifist. I don’t have all the answers to it yet but it is something I put a significant amount of time and thought towards and hope to one day be able to comprehensively explain. I’m just not willing to believe that war is ever our only option or that love and grace cannot conquer in every circumstance.

This does not mean that I am indifferent towards our troops – they need our prayers and the appropriate support in the tremendously difficult job they do. I appreciate that the majority of them are involved in combat out of a desire to do good and see justice prevail. It also doesn’t mean I agree with immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq or Afghanistan – we went in and destabilised everything, it’s our job to ensure these countries can function independently again.

On April 3rd, WikiLeaks, an organisation which works to “expose significant injustices around the world” by publishing (often classified) documents etc, released a US military video of an attack in 2007 by an Apache Helicopter in a Baghdad suburb in which two Reuters journalists were killed. It clearly depicts the shooting of one of the journalists whilst wounded and of those trying to rescue him which resulted in the injury of two young children.

I’m not going to post it here but you can watch it on the WikiLeaks website.

I only became aware of it because of a Twitter post by the World Socialist Web Site (not that I follow them, it was a top tweet on the homepage) about their article concerning the video.

They have interviewed the soldier who can be seen in the video rescuing the two children from the wreckage of a van. He and another man involved in the incident have written an open letter of apology to the Iraqi people. His account of his post traumatic stress and the way it was dealt with within the army is particularly interesting.

I can’t pretend to be at all knowledgeable about military operations. Who am I to say if the group of men in the courtyard were a serious threat and if the helicopter was right to open fire or not? I’m not going to judge on that front.

But what I will say is that the thing which most shocked me about the video was the apparent ease with which one human being can kill another: “Oh, yeah, look at those dead bastards down there”, “Nice . . . Good Shoot’n”. It’s like some kind of video game.

I appreciate that many troops do not have this attitude but I this does show that this is what war does: it dehumanises people. When the “enemy” doesn’t have a face or or a name or a story or a family he/she is infinitely easier to kill. You might say that though this isn’t always right it is necessary to enable soldiers to do their jobs. And I just can’t agree.

Even if you can’t bring yourself to watch the video, I would really recommend reading the interview.

General Election

I would label this post one but fear I may never get round to posting a second, what with my shocking blogging schedule at the moment, so we’ll go as general as possible.

Isn’t it all rather exciting!

This will be the first time I’ve voted in a general election and it would seem an excellent election to be a part of!

I’ve been reading manifestos and having many discussions with friends. I’ve watched three debates so far and know my way around the BBC Election website very well now.

The TV debates have been particularly interesting. I think they are good for getting the public interested and involved, and conveying policy to people who wouldn’t go and read a manifesto. I understand people’s concerns because we aren’t just voting for a prime minister, we’re voting for a party. However, if this can get politics more into the public square and start to get people discussing I can’t say it’s a bad thing.

This whole voting malarky is a little difficult – there’s no one party I can fully get on board with. I like the Conservatives idea of smaller government and bigger society in principle but I don’t think it works when enforced from the top down. I don’t have any major issues with Labour but they’re suddenly promising things they’ve had years to do and things I can’t see them actually following through on or accomplishing. The LibDems are probably a little to liberal for me when it comes to moral issues but I like their no trident thing, their tax break on the first £10000 of income and their apparent openness to politicians working together (though that may be more out of necessity!). I’m also in favour of voting and house of Lord reforms.

So many things to think about!

On a lighter note, there are some fun things out there which can “help” you decide:

Political Compass – uses some questions to help you figure out if you’re more politically aligned with Ghandi or Stalin (guess where I am?!)

Vote Match – really is supposed to help you figure out your voting preference

MyDavidCameron – this might be a little more biased, though not as you’d think!

Much fun!

Measured in Tescos

Great article on the BBC today suggesting that, releasing it’s HUGE figures for last year, we should start to measure things in “The Tesco“.

I like it! It puts many things in perspective for those of us who find it difficult to get our heads round economics and the massive figures involved today.

It is a little scary that one in every 28 pounds in the private sector passes through Tesco and I appreciate that it has destroyed many small businesses but you do have to love the convenience a little and the travelators a lot!

(Article here; graphic from BBC)

Eyjafjallajokull

This un-pronounceable volcano has caused more than a little disruption throughout Europe in the past week.

Six of my friends have suffered from travel woes because of it. One travelled by boat, ferry and train for 20 hours to get to Edinburgh from Dublin, one embarked on a 32hour coach journey from Malaga this morning, one is finally in London having been stuck in Bahrain for four days and the others are still stranded and waiting on flights in the “now cleared” airspace.

I thought that for once we’d struck upon a “disaster” for which no one could be blamed but now of course comes the hunt for a culprit – was the aviation authority too quick to ground everyone? Did the government not step in quick enough? Did airlines fail to assist their customers sufficiently?

Seems to me there can’t be a winner. If they hadn’t closed the skies and something had happened there would have been uproar. Now that they did close the sky, and everyone is alive (though a little tired and skint), there is uproar.

I saw some figures on the BBC News site which said that there are usually 28 000 flights in European airspace – could this by any chance be the problem? It’s a very messed up system where internal flights of an hour or two are now the norm. We don’t want to pay higher prices for less reliable train services, so we destroy the environment and have a breakdown when planes don’t work. It wasn’t 3o years ago that this peace and quiet those living near airfields have spoken of was the norm! I think it’s really funny that we think we’re so clever in our new fangled technology but we have a crisis such as this when it fails us! I appreciate it’s “necessary” for long haul, and convenient for business, but surely there is a more economical and environmental way to do it! Maybe they should be discussing such things in our prime-ministerial debates! (Which I shall blog about soon enough)

Saying that, I’m very glad to have my friends home again and I have enjoyed seeing aeroplanes from my window once more – but I’m a bit of an air travel geek!