Thursday, October 25, 2007

Burma is quiet, but the world is acting/ panty power campaign

Recent update on the free Burma campaign of Avaaz, which means "voice" a transnational cause oriented and human rights NGO.

From their website:

"What Avaaz members have done so far:

789,479 petition signatures, hand-delivered to UK Prime Minister and UN Security Council member Gordon Brown. (Video here.)

$315,000 raised for the Burmese democracy movement.

33,403 emails to EU leaders urging targeted sanctions.

1,952 messages sent to Singapore's Foreign Minister George Yeo.

100+ protests in cities worldwide against the Burmese regime.

1 global ad campaign, including a full-page ad in the Financial Times pushing China to act.

If they haven't yet, ask friends to
sign the petition

There are other campaigns as well, but the one that got my attention is the Panty Power Campaign launched by women and activists exasperated by the slow progress of diplomacy on Burma. These activists believe that the Burmese generals are superstitious and culturally abhor female undergarments, whether clean or unclean. Contact with undergarments are supposed to sap males of power. "Bombing" the Burmese embassies in UK, Thailand, Australia and Singapore with panties is more an insult to the generals and symbolizes their disgust at their thuggery.

I still think that countries of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) need to do more. Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo needs to step up and secure the release of those jailed, especially Aung San Suu Kyi. ASEAN should be the harbinger of human rights in Asia.

These times call for heroic leadership.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fully solar-powered, affordable homes nearing reality

It is possible to have a fully powered solar home that is close to the costings of a "standard" built home.

Teams from twenty universities proved it and showed the world how at the recent Solar Decathlon.

Held every two years, 20 selected teams of college and university students compete in designing, building, and operating, fully functional, energy-efficient, yet aesthetically pleasing homes. The competition is held at the the National Mall in Washington, D.C. and comprises 10 contests including:

Architecture — 200 points

Engineering — 150 points

Market Viability — 150 points

Communications — 100 points

Comfort Zone — 100 points

Appliances — 100 points

Hot Water — 100 points

Lighting — 100 points

Energy Balance — 100 points

Getting Around — 100 points

This year's top three winners are:

Technische Universität Darmstadt

University of Maryland

Santa Clara University

PBS featured the Solar Decathlon last night.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Glorietta Blast, SoCal wildfires, man-made or nature's fury?

The past week hasn't been good safety-wise. In Pakistan, a suicide bomber attempting to kill former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto failed but ended up killing about 136 people and injuring over 300. The suicide bombing brings Pakistan to the brink of chaos politically. Current President Gen. Pervez Musharraf is under strong pressure from Ms. Bhutto who returned recently to discuss power sharing arrangements with Gen. Musharraf and to participate in the forthcoming January parliamentary elections.

In Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines, a strong explosion at the trendy and glitzy Glorietta II mall killed 11, injured at least 112, with three missing. There was confusion as to the cause of the explosion. Initial reports and off-the-cuff statements by police, military officers, and opportunistic politicians suggested that it was either a terroristic act or a military conspiracy.

Recent statements from investigators are downplaying the bomb scenario and are focusing on the deadly brew of methane and diesel gases from diesel tanks, septic tanks, and wastewater treatment facilities. If this is the case, what does this say of Ayala's environmental, safety, and engineering protocols? Ayala should clear this asap.

In California, close to 750,000 homes in seven counties have been ordered evacuated because of wildfires fueled by the infamous Sta. Winds and bone-dry conditions. California's fire department reports 14 active fires and three contained. About 373,000 acres, or 583 square are currently burning all over the state. In San Diego County alone 346,000 homes have been ordered evacuated. Over a 1,300 homes and structures have burned down. There are two reported fatalities, and dozens of injuries. The wildfires are not going to die down anytime soon. One friend emailed from San Diego saying that she could see the fires from her son's bedroom. There are reports of fires jumping the ten-lane Insterstate 15 highway.

Our prayers go out to all those killed, injured, who've lost their homes and businesses and to their suffering families.

I can't help but think though if better planning, a focus on security, attention to environmental impact issues, and a genuine concern for the community or stakeholders might have prevented or minimized the destruction and injury.