even interesting stories from the last two weeks that together tell us where we’ve got to, and where we’re going:

Spacecrafts Powered by Thunder: Good news and bad news from the space research front. Scientists have invented a new engine that is four times as efficient as existing spacecraft engines, and which uses sound waves to move the pistons that power the engine, allowing longer trips when solar energy won’t do the job. But like existing space engines it’s a nuclear technology based on radioactive plutonium, a toxic substance that outlasts the spacecraft itself by centuries. Remember those Sci-Fi movies where the crippled alien spacecraft turns out to be a deadly booby-trap? That’s what NASA produces, and a dozen Soviet and American spacecraft have already discharged large amounts of radioactive plutonium and uranium into Earth’s atmosphere. Longer trips, bigger engines, greater risk. The legacy of the human race is that wherever we go, we leave a poison trail.

Citizens Assembly to bring Proportional Representation and/or Instant Runoff Voting to Canada?: The minority government in Canada is turning out even better than I’d hoped. There’s a lot of jockeying going on by the opposition parties for continued support of the Liberal government. One of the demands is for a Citizens Assembly, a group of people selected at random from voters’ lists, to create a referendum question on reform of the electoral process, results of which would be binding on the government. Leading proposals for reform are European-style proportional representation and instant runoff voting. Twenty-first century, here we come.

Bush Envoy Baker Plays Both Ends Against the Middle in Carlyle Group Scandal: James Baker, Bush’s special envoy to Iraq, has taken conflict of interest to a new height. While his job as envoy is to convince other countries to forgive Iraq’s crushing foreign debts so that country can make a clean start (assuming it can solve its non-financial problems), the company of which he is a senior partner, Carlyle Group, is selling their members’ influence and pull with the Iraq government to these same foreign governments as a collection agency. In other words, please forgive my debts, but if you can’t, grease the palm of my buddies here and I’ll get you your money before I declare bankruptcy. Disgraceful. The guy has a great future with Halliburton.

US ‘Productivity’ Mostly a Function of Longer Hours, More Two-Income Families: A recent productivity study by the OECD indicates that the superior productivity that made the US dollar so strong for so long until the Bush debt undermined it, was the result not of working smarter but working harder. Americans now are up there with the Japanese working fierce hours, often in more than one job, and usually with both parents working, to make the same income that a European makes in a 35-hour week with 7 weeks’ paid vacation. (thanks to JR Mooneyham for the links)

WWF Confirms Resource Use at 120% of Sustainable and Increasing Fast: A recent study by the WWF determines that we are currently using resources at a rate 20% greater than Earth’s ability to replenish them. This is consistent with the results of previous studies, which I have documented in the chart that has appeared often on these pages.

Jon Schell: ‘Unconquerable’ World Degraded by Bush/Corporatist Propaganda, Greed: The optimist Jonathan Schell, whose inspiring book Unconquerable World I reviewed on these pages, is becoming a little less so. Here’s a sample passage from the recent essay that shows what’s getting him down:

Once, observers imagined that we were entering an information age, but they were wrong. It is a misinformation age. The stupendous machinery of modern media has reached into every cranny of American life. Its outlets have been posted in every household, like a mechanical standing army. The steady, mild propaganda of advertising has long saturated the home for hours every day, the mental equivalent of low-level radiation. Now the public is being dosed with more virulent stuff. The standing army has been given increasingly insistent political marching orders. Stalin and Mao, confined mainly to radios and megaphones, could only dream of such penetration of daily life by their propaganda apparatuses.

Brooke’s Story: Sister of US Soldier Killed in Iraq Speaks Out: A new website tells the moving story of how the family of a US soldier who died in Iraq are coping, and what they think of the lies and the liars that needlessly cost Ryan Campbell his life.

(The picture at top has nothing to do with the seven stories, but wouldn’t it be a great subject for a photo caption contest?)

This entry was posted in How the World Really Works. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to REMAINDERS

  1. Richard says: just announced that BC will be holding a referendum in May 2004 on whether to move to the single transferable vote

  2. Wifey says:

    What a fabulous photo!! It’ll keep me smiling all day! Thanks…

  3. Derek says:

    I think you better check your facts on radioactivity dumped into the earth’s atmosphere. So far as I know NASA and the Soviets have dumped zero plutonium and very little if any uranium into the earth’s atmosphere.Earth satellites use solar power for operation, not nuclear piles. Only deep space satellites need nuclear power, and its power for generating electricity (radio/sensors) not engines. All modern space craft use conventional chemical rockets for propulsion and steering (except one which tried out a novel ion drive). Some discussions have been made about using a nuclear rocket for traveling to Mars, but even that would use helium as the exhaust gas (heated by the radioactive source), and since helium is super-nuclear, it doesn’t get radioactive. (This is also why its being used in newer pebble bed reactors.)I agree that the history of nuclear energy is a mess, and that it is not a general energy solution for the world, but it has its uses (as do other toxic and volatile chemicals and atomic elements).

  4. Dave Pollard says:

    Richard: Thanks. I did a followup on this today (26th).Kathleen: I wish I’d taken this photo. I actually found it on a religious humour site; they didn’t credit the original photographer or I would have noted it.Derek: I’ll defer to your knowledge on the subject, but what I’ve read suggests that 64 Soviet and US missions up to 1996 used uranium or plutonium fuel and 9 of them met with accidents. The Titan IV rocket used to carry the Cassini Saturn probe carried 72 pounds of plutonium, enough to cause horrendous consequences if safeguards had failed during launch or Erath fly-by. I can’t find the site that described the discharge of plutonium-laden payload prior to re-entry on US flights. This may be paranoia, but the authors of these concerns are PhDs, NASA retirees and university professors, not the type you usually find associated with hysterical conspiracy theories.

Comments are closed.