Curious Serpent #1

by Anton Channing on 2008-06-11 23:16:07
tags: environment, plastic, police state, terror, terrorism, thought crime

In between writing regular articles I've decided to write small thoughts on things I've seen in various news media that have given me pause for thought. I have decided to give these musings the title 'Curious Serpent' because I like serpents, and my main personal blog is called serpent. And if I wasn't curious about the news I wouldn't bother commenting on it.

Thought Crime in the UK

Today the UK parliament introduced its new measures to hold 'terror suspects' without charge for 42 days, despite no evidence an extension of the current 28 day legislation was required. Basically what this means is that anyone in the country can be imprisoned without trial for up to a month and half. Not only without trial, but even without charge.

But what really made me think was the case of Rizwaan Sabir, as reported on the Guardian website. It seems Rizwaan was imprisoned when in the course of his academic research for his masters degree disertation (on the difference between various military organisations), he downloaded an edited version of the al-Qaida training manual from a US government website. A friend he passed the document to print out for him was also arrested.

Obstruction and harrassment in the course of academic research on sensitive areas in this way reeks not only of 'thought crime' but also of a kind of de-facto censorship discouraging academic scrutiny of certain sensitive areas of government policy does not sound like the kind of action a free and democratic goverment should be engaging in. I sometimes wonder if the west has grown so tired of trying to export democracy to China, that it has started to import totalitarian ideology from them instead…

Plastic Bags and Phages

Meanwhile a namesake of mine over at The Register has written about the rather interesting case of Daniel Burd. In summary most of us are aware of the problem caused by the massive waste in plastic bags, which apparently take 1000 years to break down. Well it seems Daniel has found a way of breaking them down in three months. He reasoned that if the bags were being broken down by microbes, its should be possible to isolate those microbes. He proceded to do just that. Daniel is a 16 year old Canadian boy with no access to fancy equipment, other than presumably a half decent microscope.

The article also compares him to another Canadian scientist, Felix d'Herelle, who discovered the medicine of Phages. Phages are apparently viruses that are good at killing harmful bacteria with similar success rates to antibiotics in the countries in which they are popularly used (mostly old Eastern block countries), but without most of the harmful side effects.

Another thing they lack is much profitability, which may explain their lack of uptake in the West. Goverment over regulation may be to blame here for that lack of profitability. The corporate pharmacutical lobby may be to blame for the over regulation.

Spiderman verses Global Warming

Well so far in this first Curious Serpent, I have tackled Terrorism and the environment. I think it is clear where my own priorities lie. It is also clear where the sympathies of Alain Robert, the French 'spiderman' lie. Particularly since his latest climb in New York was his first with the aim of promoting a political cause. Half way up the building he hung a banner which read 'Global warming kills more people than 9/11 every week'.