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Author Archive: Eamonn Fitzgerald

Ex-pat Irishman keeping an eye on the world from the Bavarian side of the Alps.

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Fear of flying

Friday, 25 July, 2014 0 Comments

It was a brave thing for Craig Mod to write “Let’s fly: How to survive air travel” on Wednesday. Brave because it has been a horrific week for aviation as 464 people have died in airliner disasters over the past seven days.

Yesterday, an Algerian plane carrying 118 passengers and crew from Ouagadougou to Algiers crashed in northern Mali, claiming the lives of everyone aboard. On Wednesday, a TransAsia Airways flight crashed during an emergency landing in Taiwan and 48 passengers died, and that tragedy came a week after Malaysia Airlines’ flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing the 298 passengers and crew on board.

Air travel remains incredibly safe, however. According to planecrashinfo.com, between 25 and 35 major planes disasters happened each year throughout the 1960s and ’70s. But the last time that figure hit 20 was 1997, and it’s declined steadily ever since.

“You are on a plane but are not. You could be anywhere. You are untouchable. You are possibly the most insufferable traveler ever. You float and smile because you are the Dalai Lama.

This is how you survive air travel.”

So says Craig Mod.

bellingcat goes after the Buk

Thursday, 24 July, 2014 0 Comments

Despite the obfuscation of the Kremlin and the thuggery of its stooges in Donetsk, there is no doubt in the public mind that the tragedy of MH17 is closely linked to the use of a Russian-built Buk surface-to-air missile. One man, Eliot Higgins, the brains behind the bellingcat project, is assembling an invaluable dossier of open source material that will, one day, help bring the culprits to the justice they so richly deserve. Meanwhile, Higgins deserves our support for the exemplary work that he’s doing in creating a platform for “citizen investigative journalists.”

Westworld returns

Wednesday, 23 July, 2014 0 Comments

One of the most original films of 1973 was Michael Crichton’s science fiction thriller Westworld, which was set in a theme park made up of three zones: Medieval World, Roman World and West World. The park is populated by robots programmed to act out fight scenes and accommodate the sexual desires of the guests, but as the story progresses the androids go rogue. One guest is killed by a robot knight during a sword fight and the others are are hunted down by the relentless “Gunslinger”, played by Yul Brynner.

Deadline now reports that HBO has approved a pilot production that will keep the setting of the 1973 film, and will star Sir Anthony Hopkins and Evan Rachel Wood in “a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin.” Splendid!

The new New Yorker

Tuesday, 22 July, 2014 1 Comment

The New Yorker is offering everything it’s published online since 2007 for free all summer long. The impetus for the free-for-all is the the launching of the magazine’s new-look website, and the move coincides with a fresh assessment of the future of an institution that will be 90 next year:

The print version of The New Yorker is still a fine technology (try rolling up your iPad; and don’t drop it too often!), but more advanced technology has some distinct advantages. Publishing beyond the printed page allows us to present the gift of greater immediacy, the ability to respond to events when we have something to say; the site offers podcasts, video, interactive graphics, and slide shows of photographs and cartoons. The new design also allows us to reach back and highlight work from our archives more easily.

There’s a lot of reading to be done between now that the introduction of the magazine’s metered paywall when the fall foliage begins to appear.

China mobile

Monday, 21 July, 2014 0 Comments

Earlier today, Reuters reported that for the first time ever, more people in China access the web on a mobile device as opposed to a PC. According to the China Internet Network Information Center, of the 632 million internet users in China, 83 percent (527 million) used a mobile phone or tablet to do so. Money quote: “The fastest growing services were mobile payment, where users shot up 63.4 percent, online banking, with a 56.4 percent rise, and mobile travel booking, which was up 65.4 percent.”

Noteworthy stat: China is the world’s biggest smartphone market, and by 2018 is likely to account for nearly one-third of the expected 1.8 billion smartphones shipped then.

Russia has become dangerous again

Sunday, 20 July, 2014 0 Comments

So says David Frum: “It’s not as dangerous as it was, but it’s more than dangerous enough. Nearly 300 bereaved families in the Netherlands, Britain, Canada, and elsewhere have suffered what hundreds of Ukrainians have suffered since Russian sharpshooters opened fire on peacefully protesting crowds in Kyiv last winter.”

The danger is not abstract, either: “And we are all more vulnerable to that danger because we have let atrophy the institutions necessary to meet and contain that danger. It’s time — past time — to build those institutions back. That’s been the meaning of the Ukraine crisis from the start. The terrible heartbreak of MH17 might have been averted if we had absorbed that meaning early. But better to absorb it now than to leave it any longer.”

Time to act.

Keep Your Head Up

Saturday, 19 July, 2014 0 Comments

That’s what Ben Howard advises. Last night, he opened the Longitude Festival in Dublin and a good time was had by all, according to reports.

“Our flights to Kiev are suspended”

Friday, 18 July, 2014 0 Comments

Yesterday, Emirates flight EK171 Dubai-Kiev returned to Dubai “due to the safety concerns raised with the latest reports on Malaysian flight MH17.” The press release added: “Our flights to Kiev are suspended with immediate effect, till further notice.”

Other airlines announcing they plan to stay clear of Ukrainian airspace include Aeroflot, Air France, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, Turkish Airlines and KLM. But why were they flying over a combat zone in the first place? The answer is as mundane as it is sobering: Because diverting planes along new routes can add to flying time, which means more fuel consumption.

None of this, of course, excuses the actions of those who targeted the Malaysia Airlines 777.

Johnny Winter RIP

Thursday, 17 July, 2014 0 Comments

He did finger-picking blues and rock-star riffs. Along with his younger brother Edgar, Johnny formed a band when he was 15 and they made an unforgettable impression as both brothers were born with albinism and they grew their white hair long. On his website, he’s described as “the clear link between British blues-rock and American Southern rock.” RIP

The Arab Spring isn’t any one thing

Wednesday, 16 July, 2014 0 Comments

Both the optimists and the pessimists got the Arab Spring wrong says Michael J. Totten in World Affairs. Now that some of the sand has settled, so to speak, “Libya needs state-building. Egypt needs gradual reform. Morocco needs as much diplomatic support from the US as possible. Syria, at this point, needs a miracle. Tunisia doesn’t need much of anything.”

But Totten isn’t offering any easy answers: “There was no other way to get rid of Muammar el-Qaddafi, nor is there any other way to get rid of Bashar al-Assad. You want them out of their palaces? You’re going to have to shoot them out of their palaces. Whether that’s worth the cost is a question with no easy answer.”

Connecting Myanmar

Tuesday, 15 July, 2014 0 Comments

By the way, Sweden’s Ericsson is not the only runner in the race to connect Myanmar. Norway’s Telenor has pledged $1 billion to roll out a modern telecoms infrastructure. TelenorMyanmar plans a 3G service and says it can make a profit even with monthly revenue averaging only $1 a user.

Until recently connecting to the outside world was a crime in Myanmar, and people went to prison for owning an unauthorized fax machine. When it comes to press freedom, the country still has a long way to go. Last week, five journalists were sentenced to 10 years in jail, with hard labour, for writing that the military was making chemical weapons.