Monthly Archives: July 2007

Darfur peace report

The International Crisis Group has published a report on a strategy for peace in Sudan. While essentially calling on the nation’s government to implement the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the group makes several worthwhile recommendations.

What caught my interest the most is that the first one is for the government to cease harassment of journalists. I know this is navel-gazing, but they list the removal of media restrictions ahead of releasing political prisoners. It’s all lumped in to one paragraph but the way it is structured perturbs me.

I support a free media and recognise the role it plays in exposing human rights abuses and corruption. However, I would rank freeing those jailed for their political beliefs ahead of us journos. Am I right or wrong? Are they matters of equal importance, reflecting aspects of the same crackdown?

Regardless, the report is worth a read and can be found here.

Breaking wind

Some good news on the climate front and an opportunity for a childish giggle (it’s my birthday, allow me these little foibles).

Latest figures show 15,200 megawatts of wind turbines were installed worldwide last year. This increased global wind power capacity 26% to more than 74,200 megawatts, enough to offset 43 million tons of carbon dioxide (or that produced by 8m cars).

Granted there is a long, long way to go before CO2 output is properly capped. The 43m tonnes is only 5% of global emissions. It is progress though — and it’s heartening to see that China is likely to be the world’s top wind power producer in a few years. Also, a researcher involved in the study claims wind could reduce CO2 emission growth by 2015.

Spain last week authorised the development of wind farms along its coastline, while Denmark is aiming to provide 50% of its electricty from wind turbines.

As the supermarket ad says, every little bit helps.

Interesting articles

They stimulated my brain cells anyway. Here are several interesting blogicles I’ve stumbled across on my recent travels:

Mental_floss: How to join the Amish. A wry, at-a-glance piece on just what’s required.
Celsias: Outdoor heaters warming the world literally. The amount of carbon dioxide from patio heaters in Scotland is the equivalent to that produced by more than 1,200 homes.

Anthropology.net: If upright walking is so energetically favourable, why do apes still “knuckle-walk”? Current research suggests humans learned to walk upright to conserve energy. Kambiz Kamrani answers the question creationists keep asking.

Compiler: It’s sink or swim time for Thunderbird. Mozilla’s chief executive is ready to cut the email app loose so it can be run by a different entity.

AlertNet: 200,000 displaced, scores killed by floods in Sudan. As if they didn’t have enough to worry about… written by Red Cross/Crescent personnel in the country.

Danger Room: Drunk astronauts launched into space. A NASA panel found that drunken astronauts were allowed to fly despite warnings about their alcohol consumption. *sigh*

Engadget: European Commission files antitrust charges against Intel. For using “illegal tactics” against AMD.

Climate Feedback: Google turns to the dark side. Apparently some people claim it would save a lot of energy if high-traffic website such as Google changed their background colour from white to black. However, this is disputed…  curious though.

Pakistan's posturing

There was yet more sabre rattling in south Asia this morning when Pakistan testfired a nuclear-capable cruise missile.

The Babur Hatf VII missile hugs the ground to avoid radar and has a range of 700km (enough to reach the Indian capital New Delhi). It isn’t the first time it’s been tested, so this probably marks further refinement of the system.

Pakistan and India have competed on weapons technology for years, most significantly with the testing of nuclear weapons by both sides. After an attack on the Indian parliament in 2001, blamed on Pakistan, led to a military build-up along the border, a nuclear exchange seemed probable.

India vowed not to use nukes first but said it could take a “bomb or two or more … but when we respond there will be no Pakistan” (go here for more of the tough guy rhetoric). Thankfully cooler heads prevailed and there was a climbdown. Now the neighbours notify one another in advance of any missile tests.

Pakistan has an established policy of military development, as much to deter any would-be invader as to showboat. That the Babur Hatf can carry nuclear warheads is significant, but it can carry conventional explosives as well and its design means it can be used to carry out devastating, unstoppable strikes.

Nuclear technology, in the US at least, has progressed to the point that uber-accurate strikes can obliterate an enemy’s heavy military while causing only a few casualties.

Pakistan’s latest test must be seen in the context of domestic politics, its long rivalry with India and, to an extent, raising its regional and international profile. India will feel under little pressure to respond with a test of its own but its smaller neighbour has shown it won’t go away and is not complacent with its hardware.

There may also be anti-Taliban publicity in all of this, although given Pakistan’s test history I don’t think this is a major factor. Certainly some US politicians have been crowing about tackling militants in Pakistan — notably Rudy Giuliani, who seems to think America is fighting a war in Pakistan.

However, I think it’s worth seeing the missile test as pro-government publicity in a time of dubious internal security. The Red Mosque incident has left many shaken, and President Musharaff’s run-ins with the chief justice caused mass protests and violence in the streets.

Now, though, he can point to tangible success on his nation’s behalf. He can say to his electorate: “This is what we can achieve while I’m in office”. Perhaps not in those words, but the sentiment will be there.

This latest posturing is highly unlikely to destablise the region — but it serves as a warning that conflicts do not go away overnight, and the technology that can be unleashed if relations worsen dramatically.

Simpsons Movie

I saw The Simpsons Movie earlier on but wasn’t blown away.

It was good and I enjoyed it but it just lacked the “wow” factor. It was just a long episode. In fairness, with the series having been on the go for 18 years there was no way it was going to meet the hype.

And, let’s be honest here, when you find the high point of a film is a cameo by your favourite band — in this case Green Day — something’s gone awry. (Incidentally I liked how they used the band’s real names in the credits: Frank Edwin Wright III instead of Tré Cool and Michael Pritchard instead of Mike Dirnt.)

In hindsight I’m not really sure what else the producers could have done. There are certain expectations when one watches The Simpsons, expectations regarding style, humour topics, etc. and this film met those. Unfortunately it didn’t really build on them which disappointed me.

Also, there was very little scope for the auxillary characters. Ms Krabappel and Groundskeeper Willie have no speaking roles as far as I remember, while Comic Book Guy is relegated to two scenes — one of which was a cheesy “life well spent collecting comic books” line.

Come to think of it, the film was one of those that clipped along at a fair old pace without hooking me in. Perhaps the producers were too conscious of the audience being accustomed to a 23-minute show and so ploughed ahead as fast as possible to keep their attention.

Final verdict: a good watch, but not one a film you’d need to see more than once.