Posts Tagged ‘Glasnost’

Canadian Space Medic Celebrates International Cooperation in Space

October 27, 2019

As I discussed in an article last week, the I carried several stories about the Asgardia conference in its edition for Wednesday, 16th October 2019. Asgardia is an international organisation dedicated to the colonisation of space, and its establishment as a new, independent nation on the High Frontier. It’s somewhat like the artificial nation created by Laibach and their parent artistic collective, NSK earlier this century. Fans of the group were encouraged to join, receiving a special passport identifying them as citizens of the new state when they did.

The organisation was founded by Igor Raufovich Ashurbekli, the former director of one of the Russian state armament companies. However, Asgardia seems to aim at the peaceful, civilian conquest of space. At the conference Ashurbekli denounced Trump’s intention of establishing a military Space Command, pointing out that this violated the 1967 international treaty against the militarisation of space.

One of the other speakers at the conference was a Canadian medical doctor and astronaut, Dr. Robert Thirsk, who had conducted research in space and hailed space research’s role in bringing people of different, competing nations together in peace. This was reported in an article by Michael Day, ‘Space has to be for everyone’, in the same edition of the newspaper. This ran

As an astronaut who s pent six months on the International Space Station, Canadian medic Dr Robert Thirsk, achieved major medical breakthroughs in zero gravity and survived the thrill of take-off and re-entry. But his greatest satisfaction was working in harmony with colleagues from states that were once Cold War foes.

“I still think that the ISS is a research platform with no earthly peer,” he told Asgardia’s Paving the Road to Living in Space Conference.

“It’s brought together former Cold War enemies to pursue a common vision of extending human capability in space and of inspiring the public to take on some of these tough social problems that we still face today.”

The Asgardia micro-nation, which aims to swell to 150 million citizens within 10 years, is committed to including all nations in the development of space. It’s leaders note that only 20 nations now have space capability.

“At the moment you either have to be a billionaire, friendly with a major space agency or you join Asgardia,” said the space nation’s parliamentary speaker, the former Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik. “Space has to be for everyone.”

As a medical researcher, owrking with American, Russian, Japanese and German colleagues on the ISS, Dr Thirsk achieved breakthroughs in protein chemistry that could lead to new treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and robotic advances that have helped hundreds of cancer patients.

Britain’s first female astronaut, Dr Helen Sharman, made the same comment back in the 1990s after her historic mission with the Russians to their space station, Mir. The Russian station’s name translates as ‘world’ or ‘peace’ in English. Her mission was intended to be a landmark breakthrough in international space cooperation following Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost campaign and the attempts to end the Cold War.  In an interview following her mission, Dr Sharman drew attention to the positive benefits of space research in fostering peaceful cooperation between countries. Because of this, astronauts were the least racist people.

It’s interesting to see that Lembit Opik is now Asgardia’s parliamentary speaker. It’s fitting. Opik was not only a Lib Dem MP before losing his seat a few years ago, he’s also the grandson of an Estonian astronomer and himself has an intense interest in space. He was one of the many space experts concerned about the threat of world destruction from asteroid strikes. I met him well over a decade ago at an event on ‘Asteroid Armageddon’ at the Cheltenham Festival of science. He was part of a panel of astronomers and representatives of space corporations, who made it very plain that the threat to our world from rogue asteroids is very real. However, Opik’s justified concern was a source of amusement to the press, who naturally dubbed him ‘the minister for asteroids’. He’s clearly moved into space activism after he lost his seat. I don’t know if he’s still a member, but he’s probably better off with Asgardia than with the Lib Dems, who are now transforming themselves into the Europhile wing of the Tory party.

I also found a plea for the peaceful exploration of space as an alternative to war in a book I read on space technology years ago. This stated that space research provided an outlet for the desire for danger, competition and sacrifice without the mass carnage of conflict. This is true, and regardless of what you make of Asgardia, it has helped bring nations together, and its should be open to everyone, of all nations, in the world.

We don’t need Trump’s – or anyone else’s – dangerous and idiotic space command. We need more peaceful cooperation and the opening up of space and its immense resources and opportunities for all humanity.

Iain Duncan Smith and the Russian Ripper: Killers with Friends in Government

June 9, 2014

Chikitilo pic

Police photograph of the paedophile cannibal Andrei Chikatilo at his arrest

One of the most horrifying stories that emerged from the Soviet Union in its last days was that of Andrei Chikatilo, a serial killed dubbed ‘the Russian Ripper’. Chikatilo had been traumatised by his brother’s murder during the Stalinist famines of the 1930s, when the lad was killed and eaten. A former school teacher and paedophile, Chikatilo then went on to rape, kill and eat 53 people in a twelve year long career before he was finally arrested in 1991. The detective, who doggedly pursued him for six years was Chief Inspector Issa Kostoev, head of the Soviet Union’s Department for Crimes of Special Importance. Kostoev was Ingush, a Muslim people from the Caucasus, who had been deported from the homeland in the former Soviet republic of Chechen-Ingushetia by Stalin from fears they would collaborate with the invading Germans. Conscientious and determined, Kostoev began his career in a police department notorious for drunkenness and apathy through low pay. Through honesty and skilled investigation, Kostoev worked his way to capture some of the vilest monsters preying on the poor, the unfortunate and innocent in former Soviet state.

Chikatilo’s case even reached the western press, and a book was published in 1993 by Richard Lourie, Hunting the Devil: The Search for the Russian Ripper. Chikatilo and his crimes emerged at during the 1990s, when Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika and the fall of Communist had opened up eastern Europe. Russia was no longer quite the closed society it had been under the Soviet system, and there was a flood of information as journalists, writers, politicians and ordinary people from both sides of the former Iron Curtain began to explore and describe the momentous events transforming the country. It was also a decade characterised by the fad for stories about serial killers that began with Hannibal Lecter in the Silence of the Lambs, and which continues today. Chikatilo was grimly fascinating because he was Lecter’s Soviet counterpart, though horrifically all too real. Chikatilo had also been a member of the Communist party, and it was his political connections that allowed him to escape justice for so long.

There’s a parallel here with Britain’s own Iain Duncan Smith. Smith has not personally murdered anyone, nor has he ever committed crimes against children. Nevertheless, Smith has presided over a system that is responsible for the deaths of hundred, if not thousands, through poverty, starvation and despair. The system of sanctions he has introduced into Jobseekers Allowance, as well as the fraudulent rigour of the disability assessments, has left thousands without sufficient money on which to live. Tens of thousands have been forced to turn to food banks. And many others have died through hunger and, in despair, have taken their own lives. The precise number of deaths is unknown. Mike over at Vox Political and the other bloggers and activists, like Jayne Linney, have been unable to obtain the precise figures. Attempts to obtain them under the FOI have been refused, and denounced as ‘vexatious’. The government’s deliberate withholding of information on other, malign aspects of its welfare policies and its professed reasons for doing so reveal why this information is similarly being kept back. Joyhnny Void reported that requests for the government to reveal what firms were involved in it’s ‘welfare to work’ schemes were refused on the grounds that such information would leave the policy open to criticism, and prevent its implementation. In other words, it doesn’t want the public to know, because if the public did, it would try to stop them. This is a government that has no conscience, and is completely out of control.

And Iain Duncan Smith, Mike Penning and McVey in the DWP clearly represent this. Organisations take on the personality of their founders and leaders. Under Stalin, the Soviet system was viciously oppressive, engaging in mass murder and deportation on a colossal scale. Millions were killed, deported or incarcerated in the gulags, because Stalin himself was a vicious, paranoid thug. Smith, Penning and McVey all share aspects of his personality. There is a vicious contempt for the poor, which manifests itself in the cruelty and bullying of the DWP staff from the top down, as Smith, Penning and McVey all loudly trumpet they will be hard on benefit cheats, while claiming that they are actually helping the disabled and unemployed into work. RTU himself has absolutely no personal morals. When a Dutch lady, who has lived in this country for decades, came to him with problems about claiming her husband’s rightful benefits, Smith privately tried to have her deported. Others, who have also tried to consult him as their local MP have also seen him attempt to deprive them still further of their rightful benefits. He is untrustworthy, with absolute no morals, only an apparent burning need to humiliate, degrade and persecute those less fortunate than himself. And this has led him and his colleagues – Penning and McVey – to kill hundreds and reduce tens of thousands of others to grinding poverty.

And all the while, he has been protected by a government determined that the true scale of his crimes, the number of people, who have been killed because of his policies, remain secret for the public. Well, it’s time we had a good investigator break this wall of silence wide open, and throw Smith, Penning and McVey out of power forever, before any more people die through their criminal administration.