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Mumbai

When I went to bed at 3 am, I figured that I would wake up this morning to the aftermath, to stories of what happened, to reports coming from a city that had experienced tragedy.  Sort of like New York in the weeks after 9-11.  It’s difficult to wake up and see a situation that’s still ongoing, with fires and hostages and explosions, with people still not sure what’s going on.  It’s too familiar, it’s too much like Trinidad in 1990.

It’s a little bit like re-living the most traumatic experience of your life.  Not quite re-living it, but kinda.  I don’t know.

Incredibly tragic, incredibly disturbing.

Update: Neha Viswanathan at Global Voices writes

Anger at the media for their coverage of the terror attacks in Mumbai is apparent on the blogosphere. For one, the mainstream media appears to have taken the approach of “shock and shake”, as opposed to verifying rumors before reporting them. But the nation appears glued to their television sets, as it is probably the most “live” source of information at this point in time.

Eighteen years ago, I was deeply struck by the difference between CNN’s coverage of the coup and that of the BBC.  CNN appeared to be reporting every rumour that circulated in TT, while the BBC’s reporting was far more measured.  Usually I see the expansion of media – cable news and new media – as a good thing.  But at times like this, there’s something to be said for measured old media.

Update II: Vinukumar Ranganathan posted a remarkable collection of pictures last night from Mumbai.  I saw some of them on CNN last night, but it’s only this morning that I took a look at them.

I ramble on here…

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The first serious crisis since the end of the Cold War…

What was the first “serious international crisis” after the end of the Cold War? Well, there was Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait back in, which prompted the first Gulf War. Coming 9 months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I’d say it counts as a post-Cold War crisis. The Yugoslav Wars, which brought genocide back to Europe, were serious crises. The Rwandan Genocide and subsequent wars in the Congo were “serious crises”, which resulted in 5 million deaths. The attack on the US on 9/11, the Afghan war, the Iraq war…all of these are serious crises. The North Korean nuclear test was a serious crisis. The civil war in southern Sudan, the Darfur conflict, the Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and a host of other natural disasters in the last 18 years all look like good candidates for the descriptor “serious international crisis”.

John McCain, it would seem, disagrees.

And this guy is running on his foreign policy credentials? It’s bad enough that he doesn’t know the difference between Sunni and Shia. It’s bad enough that he can’t remember that Czechoslovakia doesn’t exist any more. But forgetting about the first Gulf War, the Rwandan Genocide, the Congo wars, the Yugoslav wars, 9/11, the Iraq war… John McCain serious scares me.

Update: Something I missed earlier – “Abskya”? Sure, I don’t expect him to pronounce the “kh” right in Abkhazia (I rather doubt I pronounce it right myself), but “Abskya”? The only way you make a mistake like that is if you’ve never heard the word pronounced, only read it. So despite having a lobbyist for Georgia running his campaign, it looks like McCain has never actually discussed the geopolitical issues, just read about them. So very reassuring…

(I also forgot to credit BarbinMD at dKos for the link & much of the list of missed crises.)

The future of aviation

How quickly times change.

Most people have been aware of the idea of climate change for about a decade, but rising awareness of
carbon dioxide as a pollutant was coupled with rapidly increasing consumption of fossil fuels.  Globalisation and shopping online created a world in which people and products moved more and more.  Efforts to curb fossil fuel consumption faced the rise of the SUV.  But declining fuel efficiency in the US and increased fuel consumption in China and India, coupled with stagnant oil production pushed oil prices up.  I remember when oil prices fell to around $9.00 a barrel in the 1980s.  The first Gulf War pushed prices up to around $20, but it was only a few years ago that OPEC was arguing about production cuts to keep prices in the high $20-a-barrel range.

How quickly times change.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and oil prices were in the $130-a-barrel range.  While gas prices in the US had been creeping upward for years, it didn’t seem to hit home with the public until this year.  It seems like people had been looking at the price increases as temporary spikes.  While gas prices had doubled in the Bush years, no one really seemed to have noticed.  But when rising oil and gas prices came coupled with a major economic downturn, people finally woke up.  All of a sudden everyone is talking about the end of The Age of Cheap Oil.  Hybrids are no longer an affectation, and plug-in electric cars are something more than “pie-in-the-sky”.  The need to make a change from a world economy based on fossil fuels to one based on renewables has now become a mainstream idea.

Realistic models exist to move beyond fossil fuels in many areas, but air travel remains a major uncertainty.  We may be seeing the last days of the cheap air travel that most people take for granted.  Writing in The New Republic, Bradford Plumer looks at some of the changes that the end of cheap air travel (and air freight) would bring about.  It’s an interesting read – I fly much, and the idea of flying across the country/continent for a weekend really isn’t something I can relate to.  But while I get home far too rarely, there is no alternative to flying when it comes to a trip home.  And there’s the rub – fast trains already take people across Europe almost as quickly as planes can.  While that option doesn’t exist in most of the rest of the world, you’re talking about proven technology.  But for trans-oceanic transport, the only real option is flight.  Airships are a possibility, but Plumer mentions that it would take 40 hours to cross the Atlantic in an airship, and helium availability poses a real limitation.  Never bet against human ingenuity, but the solutions aren’t there yet.

The comments are also quite interesting.  The first few are sensible, but then they degenerate into denialist nonsense.  Predictable, but sad.

H/T Tim Fernholz (TAPPED)

Would we have allowed Nazi Germany to host the Olympics?

A sign, apparently, from a real protest against the Beijing Olympics.

It’s one thing to forget history and Jesse Owens‘ victories in the Berlin Olympics in 1936. But haven’t they seen Contact?

H/T Ed Brayton.

US will stand with Colombia?

You would think that, as a general principle, if country A sends troops across the border into country B, that the world community should stand in sympathy with country B’s right to protect it’s territorial integrity, right? The US is apparently pledging to support Colombia’s right to invade its neighbours. I suppose that’s in keeping with US policy with respect to Israeli attacks into Lebanon and Syria, Turkish attacks into Iraq, American attacks into Cambodia during the Vietnam war…

OK, so come to think of it, the US standing beside Colombia’s government is par for the course. They’d love any excuse to attack Venezuela. One potential benefit of Venezuelan troops on the Colombian border is that it may stem the flow of drugs across the border, which might be a net benefit for Trinidad…(though I fear it’s too late for that).

Voices Without Votes

As a person with an undue fascination with an election in which I have no say, I find this really interesting: Voices Without Votes, a project of Global Voices and Reuters, which documents what non-Americans are saying about the 2008 American presidential elections.

It’s difficult as a political junkie to be on the outside looking in on two political systems.  I had no voice in the TT elections last year (sure, I’m registered to vote, but that doesn’t help much) and I have no voice in the American elections going on around me.  At least I can pretend that I can have some impact by talking to people.  Anyway, I really like the idea of a site that seeks to aggregate the voices of the world.

Sitting here with your nose up against the glass…

H/T: Janine Mendes-Franco

Obama wins Indonesia

Obama won 75% of the votes cast in the (US) Democratic party primary in Indonesia. Americans living outside of the US got to cast primary votes today.

Given the fact that Obama spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, it isn’t too surprising that we would do well there. But I suspect that his calls to repair links with the rest of the world will resonate with Americans living outside of the country – after all, they are likely to have seen first hand the damage that Bush’s policies have done to the reputation of the United States.