Current affairs, Past events & Future trends

The 21st century is seeing the impact of globalisation in many forms. International citizens of mixed parentage, universities promoting distance learning, affordable air flight and the digital and genetic revolutions.

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Who do you believe in?


Political correctness has no end. Apparently a small crucifix - popularised by scores of celebrities - is now unacceptable to wear around one's neck when working for the world's favourite airline. BA sent a worker home for refusing to conceal this harmless piece of neckwear. Presumably they thought it would harm relations between certain ethnic minorities without an actual thought for the actual thoughts of those that could be supposedly easily harmed.

The comeback (though politicians have said there can be no 'commercial comeback' from this one) is that this was part of a general ban on jewellry in general. Apart from wedding rings or ear studs, but that is obviously quite another matter. The religious discrimination law is now being used in a novel form, for it is not often a member of the Christian faith stands up and fights for rights. This could become more commonplace depending upon the outcome of the case.

One wonders if we would have got this far if it involved a person of darker complexion sporting some religious symbol. For the record, turbans etc. are allowed as they cannot be practically hidden away. Fancy that, trying to get someone to cover their headwear instead of simply asking the employee to remove it. But that would be too commonsense a solution for the major firms in this sensitive area of PC and multi-culturalism. Its's all relative, ain't it?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Web, world wide

Web 2.0 technology seems to be in the paper more often than even China of late. This interactive technology, which means whole communities can be formed on the internet, is revolutionising the online game. One can do nearly everything through this new movement. There is last.fm for listening to music which is shared by listeners and reviewed/organised by netizens. Then there is Faceparty for keeping in touch with the University/college mates. Another is the non-stop party of MMPORGs for addicted gamers. Not to talk of the unmistakeable Youtube, which along with a few other video sites, is 0n the way to make a whole lot of people much less self-conscious. Some sites even allow - including Al Gore's site - to 'rip' authorised material and rearrange to their liking, before re-release. They call it 'mashing up' and Wikipedia is up to similar tricks also.

The whole point is for users to have greater control over the experience as never before. In the past this net game was the preserve of a few geeks, and to some extent it still is. The difference now is that websites are so much more integral to people's lives than a decade before, and will continue to be so. Those who want to position themselves for the future must get comfortable with the idea of conducting a lot of their business online and be ready to interact with others whilst at it. The ease with which things can be set up nowadays should be encouragement to even the most hardened Luddite.

This points to the issue of a blurring of the edges between reality and virtual worlds, tangible products and the seemingly transient. Knowing how to reply to an email will only get one so far. It is the man organising his email folder shortcut with his personal email provider's page that will be in the money.

More war anyone?


It seems that the Bush administration has got its wish to a certain extent now that North Korea has proved its idiocy. The best of both worlds: on the one hand the strange dictator has shown part of his rather weak hand on two occasions, so that no citizens were endangered. However, enough has been demonstrated to unite even China with Japan and, God forbid, the USA. I mean, what is the world coming to. One Japanese diplomat joked on the eve of the Shinzo Abe (Japanese prime minister) deadlock-breaking visit to China that the nuclear show 'could not have been better timed'. Explosive humour, methinks.

This issue will be initially targeted by diplomacy, if of the rather stern stuff. The Euro 3 having failed in Iran's case, the onus is on the big powers of Asia and America to make some headway into this impasse before things get a little more serious. The non-permanent members of the Security Council have said that if this case is not deserving of chapter 7 sanctions, then they don't quite know what is. In this case if one is not able to take a moment and reassess nuclear policy, one does not quite know what it will take. The world now has the major nations with capability, other nations pushing for it and the rest concerned about which side to align with.

One must never understimate what a big (in his view at least) boy will do with his toys. It is funny how simply reading some print marks on a piece of paper can bring such humourous quotes and ridiculous scenarios. For the sake of the world, let us hope it simply stays that way.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Who's fighting?


Whenever a nation goes to war - even if only on the pretension of 'peacekeeping'/ maintaining order against 'insurgency' - the supposition is that troops and equipment is representative of that particular State. Naturally the trend of globalisation has eroded such sensibilities, not least in certain developing nations where each side in a civil war is armed by opposing world powers.

However, it does nonetheless come as a shock to see the troops in Afghanistan are soon to rely on Russian made helicopters, a country not known for its close alliance with Anglo-American governments. It must be said that these are formerly of Russian possession, now in the hands of a British firm. The humour comes as follows in the protestations from the Ministry of Defence. The aircraft in question had been 'Westernised' and that cash from Gordon Brown's Treasury was 'aboslutely not' a problem. As if the common man would be able to prove that 'nothing that has been asked for has been refused'.

Recently there was an item in a local London paper that pointed to a shady (reportedly) organisation acting as a government agency for armaments trade for the past few decades. On the edge of Bloomsbury, central London, was an ordinary looking building. Could it be that the jeans you wear say 'made in China', and that vehicles driven by fighting soldiers bears the name 'made in Europe'?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

US Army or World Army?


The United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Warsaw Pact (former) EU defence, are a collection of supra-national organisations established to maintain order in whichever part of the world they see fit. This is not to mention the numerous private security personnel consulting companies set up by former soldiers to fill in the vacuum in places such as Iraq to protect contractors trying to build infrastructure.

If you did not know it, know it fom today. For there is hardly an area in the world where there are not US troops stationed. However, that is not the most eye-opening news. In nearly as many places, there exists troops from countless countries. Indians in west Africa, French in the Middle East, Chinese in Eurasia. The fact of the matter is there is not one single country able to provide enough manpower to target the numerous conflict spots in the world today.

The great challenge today is to see if the limited African Union forces can make any impact against the terror of the Janjaweed in the Sudan and the marauding of the tribesmen. Nigeria already contributed to the Liberia situation - even if that involved whisking Charles Taylor away to exile - and one hopes more co-operation will make things easier, and not simply for the assistance of capitalist development.

And there you were thinking the US is the world's policeman and that continental Europe were the peaceniks engaged only in debates in Brussels.

Monday, October 09, 2006

How many are there?



There was an interesting gadget in the last decade which often uttered the words above annoyingly when a child was learning the basics of numeracy. One wonders whether such an electronic device is still around; perrhaps the levels of frustration caused by the repetition succeeded in driving pupils to break so many of them, that the company could not produce enough replacements. Actually, "how likely is that scenario?", I hear you ask.

One better spare a thought for the armed forces then at this time in the ever dangerous fields of conflict. Readers of the Daily Telegraph article must have been forced into fits of laughter at the lack humour. Not only did Tony Blair state the obvious in pointing out that things were dangerous, he then proceeded to promise grammatically that "whatever package they need, we will do". Not the wisest of actions when some parts of the infantry are lacking some basic equipment. The best moment was when the report said a general had wondered where on earth the strictly funded Ministry of Defence was going to find some Chinook helicopters.

This is where the trans-atlantic relationship could come in handy. In fact, a couple of generations from now it is very possible the majority of was could be conducted by robots. Already the US dominates the research and spending on automating actions in fighter jets, amongst other things. The human being just provides opertaional control and is ready to intervene in danger.

Whether this will have any effect on the trend of certain anti-American factions from resorting to the old-fashioned suicide bombings remains to be seen. Though even here the Middle East is seeing unfortunate use of technology in detonation. Sometimes free trade of ideas is not so good.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A vehicle for surveillance. Technology, eh?


The changes that technology is driving in the automotive industry (no pun intended) are rather fascinating in their scope and speed. The very inception of the first Ford model was a breakthrough in technology, and today's dashboard is like a collection of gadgets. The announcement of the inclusion of a 'black box' in motor cars to record its movements for insurance purposes is simply the latest in a long line of advancements. I mean, we all take the seatbelt for granted, but only a quarter of a century ago it was not fitted as standard in vehicles. One must not forget the airbag, speedometer, lights, music players, wipers, climate control and the like. In many cars it would be possible to live in them for a day or two.

The virtual 'spy' according to MSN news http://cars.uk.msn.com/News/car_news_article.aspx?cp-documentid=1041601 will be able to see how fast you are driving, as well as where and when. The pay-as-you go scheme will operate so as to penalise those who drive at peak times; for young people peak meaning the twilight hours when they are most likely to crash. Older citizens will pay a premium for rush hour traffic, in the more traditional sense of the word. Thus you can determine the bill you pay over and above a set minimum.

This goes to show the ever increasing invasion of privacy. Right or wrong, this trend is set to continue with agencies knowing more information about you. Even visiting this site, and my publishing this article, is controlled by the internet giants, since every computer has a unique IP address. In addition, it demonstrates the West is continuing to move away from rigid commitments. Remote working, mobile phone numbers easily changed and credit added, multiple car share schemes all are examples.

Mankind in some respects is freer than ever. One can fly around the world doing projects, without necessarily having any real contracts with anyone or fixed address. Indeed, you are free to stop reading now, but of course that would mean you miss the vital nuggets of information I disperse.

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