Thursday, 21 May 2015

Eurovision Line Up Complete

The dust has settled on the Eurovision Semi-Finals and we have the line up that is going to compete for the title of best song in the European Broadcasting area.
Call me bias but having heard all the songs battling it out for the crown, i believe that the United Kingdom has a good chance this year with our swing style 'I'm Still In Love With You' ditty.
The first reason is that the contest is stuffed full of ballads and ballads hardly ever win, its the quirky  ones that get the attention and our song is definitely something unusual and one of the only few up-tempo toe tappers.
Secondly, it hails back to a time when the United Kingdom was liked and half our problem in recent years is our unpopularity around Europe (the other half of the problem was naff songs) so a glance back to the age of flappers and the Kit Kat Club is a wise move.
The bookies favourite is Sweden and it is a decent song as is the Israeli entry and Greece has a decent power ballad that is reminiscent of something an X-Factor winner will put out and the Cyprus entry should do well as a dark horse but my money will be on United Kingdom finishing somewhere in the top five.
With Ireland unceremoniously booted out in tonight's Semi-Final we have lost that local rivalry but we do have the Australians taking part this year so it will be considered a victory if we can finish above them if only so we can add Eurovision to the victories we have over them in other areas.

Feeling For The Iraqi People

You really do feel for the people of Iraq who have had a succession of brutal oppressors running their country.
Saddam Hussein killed as many as half a million Iraqis during his reign of secret police, torture, mass murder, rape, deportations, forced disappearances, assassinations and chemical warfare until he was forcibly removed by the West.
In turn the 'coalition of the willing' killed up to a million Iraqi's as it shock and awed its way into the country and after it kicked down the walls, let in Al Queada who bought the car bombs and suicide vests to the marketplaces.
Now Islamic State has joined the party and is murdering its way across swathes of the country and having taken Ramadi with a mass killing of Iraqi security forces and civilians and steeling itself for a run on Baghdad.
George W Bush and Tony Blair may well have washed their hands of Iraq a long time ago but they are directly responsible for everything that has happened to the citizens of Iraq since they removed Saddam Hussein but they are keeping their heads down but you hope that they see what has happened in the country that they 'freed' in 2003 and it lays heavily on their conscience.
Somehow, you doubt it though.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Our Pale Blue Dot

Until i saw the COSMOS series with the very watchable Neil deGrass Tyson, i had never heard of Carl Sagan who wrote and starred in the original COSMOS series back in 1980.
I have though, previously seen the famous Pale Blue Dot image of the Earth taken by the Voyager 1 space probe from 3.7 billion miles away where our planet appears as a tiny dot in the vastness of space.   
Amazing picture and perfectly complimented by one of the most thought provoking passages written where Sagan contemplates that on that dot in the picture: 'everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.'
'Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark' he muses before explaining that this is the only home we have ever known and we have nowhere else to go and how we should: 'deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot'.
Powerful stuff but still we go on polluting the planet, stuffing poisons into the atmosphere, shoving toxic waste into the ground and generally vandalising the only place that we have to live on.
What the image also drives home as we look at that tiny pinprick of light in the vast blackness of space is how we are just a tiny, infinitesimal part of the universe.
It shows how we are not at the centre of things as we maintained for centuries, that we are not even at the centre of our own solar system which is just one of tens of billions of solar systems in our galaxy alone, a galaxy which is in turn amongst hundreds of billions of galaxies in the Universe.   
Whilst we could quite easily make excuses for our less knowledgeable predecessors that the Sun and the Planets went around us and that the Earth and everything around, above and below it was created for our delectation, to maintain that idea today that a God created something 13.8 billion light years across just for the inhabitants of an insignificant,  rocky planet situated out in the sticks on the arm of a far flung Galaxy is the height of arrogance or ignorance.  
The image should make us feel very humble and shows our place in the great scheme of things which is an inconsequential dot in the immense vastness of space and alarmingly, the only place we have to live so we should be taking better care of it because once we have wrecked this planet, we don't have anywhere else to go.

Wanna Job?

It's boomtime for one section of the Civil Service in Saudi Arabia as a recruitment drive is underway to increase the number of executioners as the amount of beheadings has risen to 85 this year and plenty more are expected under new King Salman’s rule.
The job description published online on Monday says no special training is required from applicants and the executioners will be required to behead criminals in public as well as carry out amputations on those convicted of lesser offence's.
The executioners would be considered as ‘religious functionaries’, since they would be serving religious courts and be on the lower end of the civil service pay scale, the ad said.
The recruitment drive comes a day after Saudi Arabia executed the 85th person this year. The number reached in less than five months is compared to an estimated 90 executions over the whole 2014, according to Amnesty International.
There has been a surge of executions since King Salman ascended the Saudi throne in January as he has appointed additional judges to deal with a backlog of appeal cases by death-row inmates.
Criminals are usually executed in Saudi Arabia by public beheading, although occasionally death by stoning or firing squad is ordered. The crimes punishable by death range from violent crimes like murder and rape to blasphemy, adultery, drug crimes, witchcraft and sorcery.
In 2014, Saudi Arabia was ranked third on Amnesty International’s list of countries that carry out the most executions, surpassing Iraq and the United States. China and Iran were ranked 1st and 2nd.

Why Israel Is At Eurovision

For those unacquainted with the history of the Middle East, the idea of a country which borders Jordan and Egypt partaking in the Eurovision competition may appear an odd one.
The often cited reason is that Israel are an European people who happen to be in Asia but the real reason is because Israel is within the European Broadcasting Area as are Tunisia, Lebanon, Libya, Morrocco, Jordon and everyone within the EBU are invited to come along.
The truth is therefore that it is nothing to do with politics or geography, but the EBU leaking out from the borders of geographical Europe into parts of Asia, Israel and some parts of the Middle East and North Africa can join the party although most decline the invite, Israel accept and send along a participant.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Should We Worry About Deflation?

For the first time since March 1960, Britain has moved into negative inflation, or as they call it deflation.
The Chancellor, George Osborne, has said that this was not damaging and the pound in people's pockets was now going further and is good news for families and shows the benefits of an economic plan that is working'.    
Of course he would say that and it is not what Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz is saying as he said 'deflation is a symptom of a weak economy' and is 'like a thermometer and when you get deflation it is a symptom that the patient is not doing well'.
I am more inclined to believe the man with the Economy Nobel Prize than the man who is running the economy and will therefore spin it as a good thing but i am sure that we will soon find out as the financial problems of 2008 continue in 2015.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Army Saved Harry How?

Prince Harry has said that he dreads to think where he would be now if he had not joined the army, saying that it kept him out of trouble.
I assume that the fifth in line to the throne is talking about eating with his mouth full and from there it was a downward spiral to eating with ones elbows on the table or peeing without putting the seat up.
I also assume that the answer to where he would be if the millionaire Prince hadn't joined the army is living rent free in one of his family's various Palaces while receiving money from the taxpayer through the civil list and going on jollies to far flung places.
Exactly what you have been doing then.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Eurovision Week 2015

With an audience of over 200 million, the Eurovision song contest is quite right to call itself the 'Worlds Largest Party' and this year the spangly invite has gone out to Australia to join in.
Not exactly a hotbed of musical talent, Australia may seem a strange choice but it turnes out that Eurovision is massively popular in Australia and has been broadcast annually to the country probably farthest away from Europe for the past 30 years.
The Eurovision purists don't like it, the cheers when Israel get knocked out in the semi-final are loud enough, and rather than pollute ours with their Aussie twang they should start their own song contest with New Zealand and the Soloman Islands if they like it so much but i have heard the Australian entry and believe me, it isn't going to be troubling the leaders side of the board.
To make sure Australia doesn't send it's representative all the way to Vienna only to be turfed out at the first opportunity, it has been given an automatic bye to Saturdays final along with Austria, UK, Italy, Germany, Spain and France.
Although their will not be any bearded men wearing full make up and evening dress competing this year, Finland has sent a band of downs syndrome men playing a god awful heavy metal tune who will either win it or get thrown out on their ear in the first semi-final on Tuesday but i have high hopes for the UK's entry this year.
Instead of the usual dross wrapped up in a well known singer, we have put our hope in Mick Jagger impersonator and a very shiny faced lady who nobody turned for in The Voice singing a 1920's style electro swing number.
May as well hand us the trophy now because that has winner written all over it!

Death Penalty For Boston Bomber

Convicted killer Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been sentenced to die by lethal injection for his role in the 2013 Boston attack by the jury in Massachusetts and as one prosecuting lawyer put it: 'Justice has prevailed'. 
Has it? How does another death, in this case legalised murder by the state, make anything better because the tragic thing is that cutting short Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's life doesn´t bring back anybody killed that day or heal any of the injured, what it does do is fulfil the lust for revenge.
The logic of those baying for the death of the 21 year old is that he took a life so we must take his life, a case of two wrongs making a right but murder is murder whoever does it, whether it is a religious fanatic armed with pressure cooker bombs or someone inflicting a syringe of toxic poisons paid by the Government. 
The deterrent effect of Capital Punishment is obviously not a factor because there are still murders in the shrinking list of countries that continue to choose to kill their prisoners.
Why is ending their life early better than the alternative which is the killers sitting in his cell, slowly rotting and regretting everyday of his miserable life as they serves their punishment for their deeds.
Why let them rest in peace instead of living fearful and racked with remorse and hating everyday of their miserable incarcerated existence as their naturally allotted time on this planet slowly ebbs away as they quickly fade into oblivion.
I am sure some will argue that i would feel different if it was a member of my family we buried that day but then i am sure they would feel different if it was their son or daughter whose life was about to be taken.

Friday, 15 May 2015

India Silencing Greenpeace

Greenpeace has long been a thorn in the side of the rich and powerful who pollute the planet and it's latest target is India who according to the International Energy Agency, is set to double its coal consumption by 2035 and become the world's largest coal importer by around 2020.
Almost half of the 1,200 new coal-fired power stations proposed around the world are in India according to the World Resources Institute and Greenpeace have been making things uncomfortable for India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who is attempting to silence his environmental critics by cancelling the registration of nearly 9,000 foreign-funded non-governmental organisations (NGOs), saying they didn't comply with the country's tax codes.
Modi was elected on a manifesto promise to foster a manufacturing boom in India and the coal powered station are central to his industrial plans, despite the consequences for the already straining environment.
As the registration has been cancelled, Greenpeace are under a financial freeze in India and the charity is warning that it will have to close down in a matter of weeks unless the Indian government lifts the financial restraints.
A leaked report from India's Intelligence Bureau, explains why India's government has taken such action against Greenpeace, stating that campaigns headed by Greenpeace and other environmental NGOs had drained 3% off the nation's annual growth rate.
The charity's campaigns have stopped coal mining in some of India's forest areas and targeted India's largest firms, Coal India and the Adani Group.
Greenpeace says the government restrictions are an 'attempt to silence criticism' and even the American ambassador to India in its new role as global policeman of the environment has said its harassment of NGOs had a 'chilling effect' on the nation's democracy.
Big business will always try to find a way to suppress news that isn't in its interests but thankfully we have charities like Greenpeace who will shout it from the rooftops to draw attention to it.