Rather Ordinary Miracle

Last night we went down to Grampy’s because his bitch was whelping. We had been planning for the kids to see the miracle of birth.

Trying to lay the intellectual framework, several days ago Mummy had explained to Abby and Aidan that Lucy had puppies in her belly and that they would be coming out through a special opening. This was necessary, because the kids know they were cut out of Mummy. Abby want to know how they got into her belly. Mrs H skirted that one, I believe.

Mrs H was expecting all sorts of uncomfortable questions to accompany the birth. When we got to Grampy’s house, Lucy had already had four pups. She’s a lurcher, so there were plenty more to come. This happened at teatime, so while I was gone to the chip shop, Lucy had two more. No one asked any questions and for Aidan this was only a distraction from CBeebies (the BBC channel for pre-school and early primary kids). So much for the miracle of life.

When the next was born, Abby got down by Grampy to help it out (Grampy did the actual helping), but Aidan couldn’t even be bothered to leave the telly. We had to come home shortly after that, but no one had any questions in the car, or since as far as I know.

Business as Usual in Burma

Even though she’s been the elected leader of Burma since 1990, Aung San Suu Kyi has been outside of her house for a total of one hour since May 2003. Now the junta led by Than Shwe has extended her house arrest for another year.

It’s not often I agree with Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter, but they were among 59 world political leaders and former leaders who signed a letter to Than Shwe calling for Suu Kyi’s release. The US State Department also called for her release.

Not that this matters one bit to the Senior General and de facto head of state in Burma. He has welcomed China’s view that it considers the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi a Burmese internal affair. But then you have to consider the source. It’ s not exactly surprising that an oppressive socialist state with a sorry human right record would support a similar regime.

Than Shwe’s health has not been good. Now 74, he has been been receiving medical treatment regularly in Singapore.  I suppose I’m not suppose to wish him a quick dispatch to hell, but then I don’t always wish for the things I should. I’m not up on Burmese internal power struggles enough to know who is waiting in the wings to keep Suu Kyi under house arrest when Shwe finds out there’s no such thing as reincarnation. I’m sure someone will come to the forefront to also continue oppressing the Christian ethnic groups and maintain the dominance of Bamar people.

No Change in Cardiff After All

Sadly, reports of the demise of the Labour Party in Wales were premature. The rainbow coalition of Plaid Cymru, the Tories, and the Lib-Dems was within a whisker of reality. The national executive committee of the Welsh Lib-Dems deadlocked over the deal, so they vetoed it by not approving it.

So Rhodri Morgan was once again nominated unopposed as First Minister of Wales. Ruling with a minority, he has promised to lead a new “listening” style of government, but since when has Labour ever listened?

It’s just back to politics as usual in Cardiff.

Justice for the Ilois

The Court of Appeal has finally said what everyone has already known for ages. The British Government broke the law when it expelled the Ilois from their homelands in the Chagos archipelago, just so the US could have an airbase at Deigo Garcia.

The High Court said this last year, but the Government was given leave to appeal. This bought the Government and their masters in Washington an extra year. I am not usually particularly critical of US/UK relations, but this is the exception. The US wanted Diego Garcia to safeguard US interests so the British Government, showing the worst face of imperialism, cleansed an entire archipelago of islands of an entire ethnic group. They were forced to leave the only place they had known for generations – their homes, their lands, the graves of their ancestors and loved ones. US documents say the British Government agreed to “sweep” and “sanitize” the islands.

The story of the sanitizing is unbelievable horrible. Read more of this post

Rolling Through a Loophole

I hope I don’t catch any more flak for talking about the handicapped, but this story was just too good to pass up.

A wheelchair-bound German stunned police when they pulled him over for using the road and found he was 10 times over the legal alcohol limit for drivers.

“He was right in the middle of the road,” said a spokesman for police in the northeastern city of Schwerin on Tuesday. “The officers couldn’t quite believe it when they saw the results of the breath test. That’s a life-threatening figure.”

The 31-year-old told police he had been out drinking with a friend and was about 2 km from home when a squad car stopped him as he passed through the village of Ventschow.

Police said that because the man was technically travelling as a pedestrian, he could not be charged with a driving offence.

“It’s not like we can impound his wheelchair,” the spokesman said. “But he is facing some sort of punishment. It’s just not clear yet what exactly that will be.”

This says a lot about the Germans. They are going to make sure he is punished, even if they haven’ t come up with a charge yet. They won’ t let a little thing like the fact that there is no offence to match his behaviour stand in the way.

Surprise! Welsh Party Running Wales

Labour are the largest single party in the Welsh Assembly – that odd creature that has less power than the Scottish Parliament and more power than a local council. They do not have a majority, with only 26 of the 60 seats.

They had been expecting to hold onto the reins of power, which they had held since the Assembly was first elected in 1999. However, last night Plaid Cymru agreed in principle to a coalition with the Tories and Lib-Dems with a total of 33 members. Plaid leader Ieuan Wyn Jones will most likely become the new First Minister of Wales.

Before the era of David Cameron, it wouldn’t have been thinkable that the Tories could have joined with a hard left party like Plaid.  With Cameron re-invented the Conservatives to the left of Labour, I suppose this isn’t too surprising.

Digging Out Information

In a positive story about the handicapped, albeit a machine, the Mars Spirit rover is dredging up evidence of life-supporting minerals on the Red Planet.

Spirit was built with six wheels, but one of them no longer spins and just drags along. The dragging does something that Spirit was never designed to do. It cuts a deep track into the soil. Spirit can then be turned around to examine the churned up soil.

In this case, the rover’s thermal emission spectrometer has found a high silica content. This would require water to form. And of course water is the stuff of life.

For me, the big question is not whether life once existed on Mars, but rather what it says about how Mars could contribute toward the sustainability of imported life and terraforming. Either way, it is a big development.

The rovers were expected to last about 90 days. They have been working for almost 1,200. And the discoveries just keep happening. I can’t help but think of how rapidly major discoveries would be made with actual eyes and hands (and a well supplied lab) on the planet. They could do in a few weeks far beyond what the rovers have done over the course of years.