New toys

On Kathryn‘s advice I’ve been playing with some new tools. I added Apture via a plugin, and I must say I do like it. It makes it easy to add extra media to text-driven blog posts. I’ll keep it on for a while and see how it goes.

Next to test is Thomson-Reuters’ OpenCalais. It seems to do pretty much the same thing but in a different way.

What do you think of the addition of popup style links in prior posts, be it Flickr, YouTube or Wikipedia?

I might also start playing around with, perhaps during my trip to Georgia.

Remembering September 11

Seven years have flown by. It only seems like last week. For some reason this photo has been one of the most provocative of that day for me. I guess it brings the scale of the day down to a micro level.

The entire Flickr set from Hiroshima is here. What is interesting now too is how that Flickr set was from a guy who had his camera and went taking photos that day. Seven years ago there were few ways of sharing that information, seven years on, and the entire media industry and indeed the internet and how we use it, have shifted.

Another photo should be viewed with caution. You may find it upsetting. I find it reassuring about the nature of humanity.

Here are some of the photos I took around the 4th anniversary:




Lisbon 2 in Autumn '09?

The Telegraph are saying this is the likely day for our second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. I must say, I like the name of the briefing paper: The Solution to the Irish Problem

An internal EU briefing paper, entitled The Solution to the Irish Problem, predicts that Dublin will accede to the re-run at a meeting of Europe’s leaders on October 15.

Ireland has been under French and German pressure to hold a second vote and Autumn 2009 has emerged as the favoured date among officials and diplomats ahead of the European Union summit on the future of the Lisbon Treaty next month.

Ireland has refused to deny that a second referendum could occur, following the ‘No’ vote in June.

The document has been written by an influential group of French officials, called Le Amis du Traite de Lisbonne or Friends of the Lisbon Treaty.

According to the briefing, a second Irish vote will follow a guarantee that Ireland will not lose its European Commissioner and “declarations” on neutrality, abortion and taxation – all issues that dominated the Irish campaign.

“The second Irish referendum could take place, on this new basis, during Autumn 2009, pushing back the coming into force of the Treaty of Lisbon until 2010,” says the document.

The text, by a senior European official called Jean-Guy Giraud, who is based in Paris, is widely regarded as reflecting the view in France, current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency.

Other EU officials have confirmed that next year’s Autumn referendum fixture is gaining ground in informal and formal talks between diplomats ahead of the summit next month.

“This date is the one being mentioned in discussions,” said a source.

Ireland’s referendum rejection on June 12 means that the Lisbon Treaty can not enter into force until all the EU’s 27 countries have ratified it.

Afghan poppies

The movement of a turbine into Afghanistan makes for fascinating reading. The Economist concludes:

Electricity is the basis of any long-term economic development, which in turn is essential to winning hearts and minds. Without power there can be no factories to draw young men away from the Taliban; and without refrigeration there is little hope of developing, storing and exporting crops other than opium poppies.

But Anthony posed a question yesterday which I thought was interesting.

Why not buy the opium from the Aghan farmers, and then destroy it? In other words, pay more than the going market rate for the opium and then do what you want with it. It would kill the opium supply to the rest of the world, pacify Afghan farmers by avoiding destroying their crops, and boost the Afghan economy?

Energy security

I had an interesting conversation a few weeks ago with an officer from a British navy ship that had docked in Cork. The subject of the conversation varied, but it tended towards military/strategic plans of Britain and the US.

What I pointedly asked was why the British had embarked on a massive navy building programme in the last 10 years, specifically the Queen Elizabeth class carriers and the Type 45 destroyer. Besides replacing older generation vessels, to me it seemed to indicate something beyond current trends in conflict (counter-terrorist Littoral ships).

Since navies have to be planned decades in advance, I often look at them to see what the possible future strategic planning of nations are.

The discussion took place just prior to the conflict in Georgia. He indicated with some frankness that the first priority was securing shipping lanes, and the chief symmetrical threat was considered to be Russia, not China. Though China was an up and coming power, its abilities in terms of blue water navy was decades away.

Discussions then ranged around a number of topics, including possible defences against super-cavitation torpedoes, possible defences by carrier groups against supersonic cruise missiles, submarine defence mechanisms (specifically against ultra quiet subs such as the German Type 212).

Then it turned to energy security. Obviously in naval terms there are very few specific regional choke points. The Panama Canal, the Suez Canal, the Straits of Hormuz and the Malacca Straits are among the most notable. Since, I argued, so much of Western energy supplies are via Hormuz, and it borders with Iran, it would seem to be a weakness in energy security.

The solution he suggested was an interesting one. Navy survey ships, he said, from both the US and Britain were concentrating their efforts almost entirely on West Africa. Angola, for example, passed Nigeria to become Africa’s leading oil producer this year, at over 2.5m barrels of oil a day. Their reserves alone are estimated at over 10 billion barrels. The US imports 7% of its oil from Angola, about three times as much as it imported from Kuwait just prior to the Gulf War in 1991.

Other West African nations are also beginning production and the EIA has a good report here. It also reports on gas availability. Equatorial Guinea and Mauritania are also new producers.

And what is the biggest advantage of this region for the West, and our energy security? All that lies between West Africa and Europe/US is the Atlantic Ocean – no choke points. And their navies to secure the shipping lanes.

Update: I meant to add that earlier this year the US reactivated its Fourth Fleet after being deactivated for 58 years. This should allow the Second Fleet operate on the eastern Atlantic, while the Fourth concentrates on the Carribean and western Atlantic.