If Every Day Were Christmas is the product of a group of podsafe musicians. It's a charity record, and the 99 cent download fee goes to UNICEF. In this mp3 Pippa Rogers who performed on the track explains the idea behind the project in the company of Phil Coyne of Bitjobs for the Masses. If you are in any doubt why you should support UNICEF this Christmas remember what happened on Boxing Day last year. UNICEF themselves produce a simply superb range of podcasts, interviews and reports easily as well produced as anything on BBC or NPR - here's a little taster of the kind of voices they feature.
Gibson for Governor
My War: Colby Buzzell
It was veterans day this weekend, an appropriate time to spare a thought for those serving in Iraq, some of them, as has nearly always been the case in conflict, barely more than children. The war has been extraordinary in producing numerous blogs. Colby Buzzell's was perhaps the best known. His post entitled Men in Black highlights the difference between the kind of Green Zone reporting we get from Iraq and the first person accounts of soldiers. It's Buzzell's contention, and there is surely some truth to this, that the public needs to have this sort of information to make informed choices about the conflict. In that respect I think blogging helps the military - ensuring that their work isn't forgotten as news networks lose interest in long running conflicts. But that doesn't seem to be the way the top brass see it, yet. This podcast is an extended version of an interview first aired on the pods and blogs segment I do on Five Live.
Arnie time again...
I've been doing some reporting of Governor Schwarzenegger's Very Special Election over here in California. In "researching" the story I came across this gem. And if you want to hear me make a complete tit of myself and the eventual radio use it was put to you can listen here - (but you'll have to ff to about 15 mins from the end)
UK Flood Risks II
With such a terrible year for natural disasters to admonish us there's no excuse for complacency in our small temperate isle. A UK insurer has warned of the need to improve flood defense, "One key concern is around 200,000 new homes are planned for flood risk areas, particularly in south east England." For Pocket Planet readers this is of course old news.
Eyewitness Account of the Delhi Attacks
Meanwhile in the comments section of this post on Indiadaily comes this eyewitness account:
My wife and I witnessed the bombing in Paharganj. The explosion happened on a very busy intersection on Main Bazaar St. The streets were soaked in blood and several body parts could be seen. The police and emergency rescue teams seemed to be on site immediately. It was a bad scene. We were only 50 meters away and had just walked through the same intersection 30 seconds prior.
That's from two American holiday-makers John and Clara from Baltimore. John and Clara must have been looking forward to seeing the celebration of Diwali, the Hindu festival of light. I've only ever experienced Diwali in England as it is celebrated by the Anglo-Indian community; there it runs close to November 5Th, aka Guy Fawkes night, a celebration of a foiled act of "terrorism". It reminds us that fanaticism nearly always ends in failure and the ridicule of future generations.
We Don't Own the News
On the pods and blogs segment on BBC Radio Five we interviewed Richard Sambrook, blogger (internally within the BBC only at the moment) and international news supremo, his official title being Director of the BBC's World Service and Global News division. His remarks at the We Media conference that "we don't own the news" have attracted significant attention. particularly from advocates of citizen journalism. His view as expressed in one interview is that journalists will increasingly become news "facilitators" i.e. filtering and evaluating content primarily provided by the public. I'm sure what he has to say on this will be of interest to bloggers and podcasters alike. An archive of the interview can be found here.
Earthquake proofing the future
Clearly inspired by his blogs namesake, the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who said " Of all men's miseries the bitterest is this: to know so much and to have control over nothing." He's been trying to draw attention to the work of Brian E Tucker who has been working jointly with American and Indian researchers to help improve the earthquake resistance of buildings in India, particularly the schools.
Tucker also joined the programme and spoke eloquently about the relative inexpense of building with earthquake resistance in mind, a 5% increase in cost, and of the great tragedy of children often being legally compelled to attend schools that are not up to code.
One thing that Tucker said intrigued me; his claim that earthquake preparedness, particularly for schools was a vote winner.
A quick flick through the property pages in LA will show that properties in good areas easily sell for over a million dollars; that strikes me as odd given the likelihood a major quake will hit Los Angeles sometime in the next 50 years. But humans are irrational about future risks. In economics there is the concept of discounting..to illustrate it ask yourself a question: which would you rather have, $50 now or $50 in 5 years time? If you say $50 now, you've discounted the value of the future $50. In other words it's the economic term for the old addage a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Most of us discount the future heavily, as the value of property in Los Angeles clearly shows. We build towns like Naples on the side of not so dormant volcanoes, or we approve major redevelopment plans on or near flood plains as in London. Governments similarly discount the future, firstly because the public do, and secondly because they are in office for limited periods of time - a decade would be exceptional. Politicians have little incentive to worry more about the future than the electorate, nor to worry about what might happen when they are no longer in power. Threats from low probability disasters, such as major earthquakes will, therefore, tend to be underestimated. Simply, there aren't that many votes in protecting the public from something that may happen at some point of the next 100 years, but has no great probability of occuring within a term of office. So future threats are discounted.
But none of this is true outside a true democracy where terms of office can be indefinite and leaders remain in power in spite of popular feeling. So, Perves Musharraf who isn't subject to elections in the usual sense might in fact have more reason to enact the kind of change in building programmes Tucker wants and to take a longer term view.
Lessons from Louisiana PartII
Given that 1.25 million people live and work in the Thames flood plain, the casualties could be immense. The Tube, trains and roads becoming jammed with evacuees is almost un- imaginable. The financial costs of a big London flood would be staggering, with an estimated value of property within the 48 sq mile flood risk area assessed at £125 billion. Add on another £50 billion or so for the knock-on effects of disrupted business and the total bill would far exceed the damage of Katrina, which is why we need to heed the lessons of the disaster unfolding around the Gulf of Mexico.
Let me add it's not that I think disaster is around the corner..but there are two countervailing forces..the need to build on the floodplain so that folk like me who can't afford a £400,000 semi in Islington have somewhere to live ..and the increasing threat from our rising seas. It's a problem we have to take seriously, and if there is one lesson from this disaster it is that you can't be over-prepared.
A Worthy Cause
Sometimes it's easier to make a donation to a cause when you know how the money's being used and why. In which case this site, Lake Providence Help, may be a cause you can get behind. I wonder how many other small communities find themselves in the same position as the waves of refugees move out from New Orleans.