Category: World News

12 months ago

A year ago I was recovering in a neurosurgical ward with strict orders to stay calm and relaxed, avoiding unnecessary stress at all costs.

Doing so would keep my systolic blood pressure as low as possible and minimise any post op-complications.

So what happens?

Donald Trump gets elected as President of the USA on the very same day.

I can laugh at it now and enjoy the irony of it all.

Doug Stanhope made me laugh with his take on Nationalism.

Laughter always helps and heals.

The Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel

I saw some of these photos a few months ago in a Sunday newspaper supplement. These snapshots need very little introduction. They come from a book produced by Peter Menzel and since its publication the book has been talked a lot about in many magazines and newspapers.

The thing I also find humbling is to see the living spaces that some of these people occupy. It makes me realize for a moment how lucky I really am to be where I sit right now.

Some of the photos from “The Hungry Planet” by Peter Menzel are published in TIME magazine and are linked HERE

Two major Discoveries

Two major discoveries occurred this week.

I was stunned by the revelation that Stella Artois was in fact not what it seemed and it had fallen from its lofty position of 5.2% abv to a much lower alcohol content. The once “reassuringly expensive” premier lager had quietly drifted into being a weaker concoction that was no longer top of the line in my humble opinion. To me this was a real eye opener.(See my previous post)

The second Earth shattering discovery of a particle that supported Higgs Boson theory was announced at CERN on 4th July 2012. As with a lot of “breakthroughs” that happen at the high end of Science, the Press get hold of the new concept and either dumb it down, or get a so-called expert in the field in question to explain in “lay man’s” terms how it affects day to day life of the average person in the street. These “experts” are normally socially inept academics who may be able to talk a lot about, in this case, Particle Physics but do not say much.

People want to hear that Higgs Boson can make their plasma telly work better, or their iPhone will need less battery charging time. They do not want to be tied down by quantum mechanics. Well I think that the common man is in for a disappointment, but at least we have come a few steps from the point where the tabloid red tops were scaring the living daylights out of some of the kids I taught at the time that the CERN project started. This was due to the fact that the kids were reliably informed by the tabloids that the World would end when the linear particle accelerator was switched on.

It is so much more reassuring that the Daily Star reports this week that the discovery…

means one day we could travel faster than the speed of light – like in Star Trek. Beam me up Scotty!

If you are happy with that explanation then do not watch the video below. I am quietly thinking to my self if the same tabloid had announced that Stella Artois could no longer be considered to be “wifebeater” it would create more of a stir!

The Higgs Boson Explained from PHD Comics on Vimeo.

Next time you bitch about the internet being down on your Blackberry…………

When the lights go out, students take off to airport

When the sun has set in one of the world’s poorest nations and the floodlights come on at Gbessia International Airport, the parking lot begins to fill with children.

  • Rukmini Callimachi, Associated Press in Conakry, Guinea

It is exam season in Guinea, ranked 160th out of 177 countries on the United Nations’ development index, and students flock to the airport every night because it is among the only places where they can count on finding the lights on.

Groups begin heading to the airport at dusk, hoping to reserve a coveted spot under the oval light cast by one of a dozen lampposts in the parking lot. Some come from over an hour’s walk away.

“I used to study by candlelight at home but that hurt my eyes. So I prefer to come here. We’re used to it,” said 18-year-old Mohamed Sharif, who sat under the fluorescent beam reviewing notes on Mongolia for the geography portion of his university entrance exam.

Only about a fifth of Guinea’s 10 million people have access to electricity. Those who do experience frequent power cuts.

According to UN data, the average Guinean consumes 89 kilowatt-hours a year – equivalent to running an air conditioner for four minutes a day. The typical American burns up about 158 times that.

With few families able to afford generators, students long ago discovered the airport. Parents require girls to be chaperoned to the airport by an older brother or a trusted male friend and even young children are allowed to stay out late so long as they return in groups.

“My parents don’t worry about me because they know I’m here to seek my future,” said Ali Mara, 10, busy studying a diagram of an insect’s cephalothorax.

They sit by age group with seven-to-nine-year-olds on a curb in a traffic island and teenagers on the concrete pilings flanking the national and international terminals. Few cars disturb their studies.

The students at the airport consider themselves lucky.

Those living farther away study at petrol stations. Others sit outside the homes of affluent families, picking up the crumbs of light falling from their illuminated living rooms.

“We have an edge because we live near the airport,” said Ismael Diallo, 22, a university student.

The lack of electricity is “a geological scandal,” said Michael McGovern, a political anthropologist at Yale University, quoting a phrase first used by a colonial administrator to describe Guinea’s untapped natural wealth.

The country’s rivers, if properly harnessed, could electrify the region, Mr McGovern said. It has gold, diamonds, iron and half the world’s bauxite, the raw material of aluminium.

For 23 years the former French colony has been in the grip of Lansana Conté, a reclusive and temperamental army general who seized the presidency in a 1984 coup. Mass demonstrations this year called for his resignation because of his poor health and the deteriorating economy, but he instead declared martial law.