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View from the Edge

Peter Riva of Gila has offered his many years of columns for this online newspaper. His writings have been published in East Coast newspapers, and he decided to share them with the Beat and you, our readers.

Currently there are five companies building and strategizing rocket systems to go and mine the asteroid belt. Anything bigger than a tennis court that they dislodge – that could fall out of orbit and impact the Earth – would take out a large city. Anything the size of a NASCAR oval could spell the end of life on Earth as we know it. And to mine the minerals and resources on these asteroids they need to move them close to Earth.

Now, why should you care? It's good free-enterprise commerce, no? Well, perhaps, but as we all know, until regulations are put into place, new experimental procedures – good commerce or not – cause disasters. The Titanic comes to mind. As does the Hindenburg. As do hundreds of people trapped in sub-standard buildings that pancaked down when an earthquake hit.

Date: March 29, 2018

New World Requires New Controls

We invented the Internet. It is about time we controlled the beast we created. We have to face facts: the world today cannot continue without the Internet, without the sharing of ideas (communication), control of industrial processes (commercial utility), and, perhaps above all, the cross platform reach into every aspect of our lives and commerce – from television, telephone, manufacturing machines, shipping, construction, transportation, politics, appliances, exploration, science, and office productivity.

Date: March 21, 2018

Physics and a Bigger Car

When Henry Ford was asked about the Model T, one of the first things he spoke of was how far it drove on a tank of gas: up to 500 miles at 31 miles per gallon! It was small, light, go-anywhere, carried 1,000 pounds and, most of all, was affordable. How far we've come. In the search for a faster, bigger, more bulletproof car, for all the car manufacturers it's now a case of "Beat the Joneses" or "Mine's Bigger Than Yours." Some of these so-called personal vehicles have exceeded the axle limit for trucks in the 50's. I remember the size and weight of some of the cars then, when gas was 35 cents a gallon: Big fins, big engines (everyone wanted a V8 under the long hood), exemplified by the Cadillac of 1959 with the pop up taillights to reveal the gas cap.

Date: March 9, 2018

The Silk Trade Route

There is something incredibly romantic about the Silk Trade Route – you know, the one that Marco Polo “discovered” and that brought silk and pasta to Italy from China. In this day and age, it is hard to peer back through the fog of time and realize the incredible marvels that suddenly appeared in the hands of the early explorers. Yes, now we know the Egyptians had trading outposts on the western shores of India, the Greeks had trading posts on the west coast of Africa in Benin (and taught them how to smelt bronze). And Anna Roosevelt, great-granddaughter of Teddy, is probing the mouth of the Amazon and finding Phoenician, Roman, Greek and Egyptian remains.

Date: Feb. 23, 2018

Space Travel Excitement

There can be no doubt that commercial interests are beginning to take over space exploration. Huge multi-national consortiums, many US-based private corporations and inventors, and, never least, some publically held companies are all expanding their technology and interest in the benefits of space exploration. What? You thought all the results from space travel were hardly worth it? We’ve covered all that before, from the printed circuit board, the flat screen, the microchip – all these came out of space exploration development programs. Your world, whether you realized it or not, is a direct result of space exploration. Nowadays, you can add medicines, stem-cell research and a host of other vastly financially beneficial discoveries to that list. In fact, according to scientific study groups, 95% of all current inventions, coding, medical breakthroughs, and pure science discoveries come from, benefitted from, or are based on space exploration and experiments.

Date: Feb. 16, 2018

The Legacy of Duck & Cover

I had hoped never to see kids terrorized again, especially terrorized by the authority. I grew up in Manhattan in the '50s 'til I was 12 (in '62) and remember well the drills practicing Duck & Cover. At first kids were bemused by a break in routine and classroom discipline. But after the first drill, concern radiated around the room – not least with teachers – and left an impression either of bravado (often false) or fright for what could happen or the need to think of others first (which for a kid of 6 was a change in innocence and freedom). Duck & Cover was not a benign exercise, it was not a simple thing to execute for teacher or children. All you had to do was see images in LIFE or LOOK magazines to know that the aftermath of any nuclear explosion was terrifying.

February, 9, 2018

First, what's a Tomahawk? A Tomahawk is a subsonic cruise missile. Long range capability plus all-weather deployment make it a Navy favorite. You've seen them being fired from destroyers, submarines, and other vessels towards Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Hard to detect, with ground-following capability, they can sneak past defenses and pack a huge explosive punch.

February 2, 2018 – Unless you are a news junkie, you probably don’t know (but need to) what’s happening around the world. The US military knows and is making plans, as always:

  • Afghanistan: Civil War, Terrorism. Reduction of NATO forces in 2014 resulted in resurgence of the Taliban (what we used to call the Mujahedeen). 14,000 more troops now arriving plus increased US airstrikes.
  • The Artic: Rising sea temperatures are melting ice, so new sea routes being opened, causing conflict (negotiation) between Canada, Russia, the US and northern European Nations.
  • Armenia & Azerbaijan: Simply, they are fighting each other over border control.
  • Balkans: 20 years after the Bosnian War, remain “culturally and administratively divided.”
  • Baltic States, Eastern Poland: Russia want them back. NATO is ramping up protection with long-range surface-to-air missile banks and short range ballistic missiles. Fly-by aircraft incursions are frequent.
  • Bangladesh: Terrorism and political instability caused by Rohingya refugees.
  • Burundi: Social and political unrest with violence continues.
  • China: New arms deliveries now make China a direct strategic competitor to Russia and the USA. South Sea incursions (islands) continue. Strength in Middle East and Africa grows.
  • Columbia (along with Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile): Cocaine trafficking violence and gang activity increase (and exported).
  • Democratic Republic of Congo: The UN has 22,000 peacekeepers there, 20% of the population moves frequently to avoid violence.
  • Ukraine: Conflict continues. Russia wants to stop Ukraine becoming a NATO partner.
  • Egypt: Islamic Insurgency in the Sinai continue as well as to the west of the Nile.
  • Europe: The migrant crisis continues – 100,000 from Libya and Syria in 2017 – and anti-migrant violence and political unrest continues.
  • Greece and Turkey: renewed arguments over sovereignty of islands.
  • India: Border skirmishes with Kashmir and China, plus insurgency of Maoists in the north.
  • Iran: Expanding Shiite influence, arms, conflict exported throughout the Middle East.
  • Iraq: Islamic State is still being pursued plus Kurds dispute (with fighting) over oil fields in the north.
  • Israel: Tension with Hezbollah growing and soon to explode.
  • Lebanon: Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shiite) factions still battling.
  • Japan & South Korea: Tensions over N. Korea continue, both sides also blaming China.
  • Libya: Islamic militants and some Islamic State factions still battling it out.
  • Macedonia: ethnic-Macedonian Orthodox and minority Muslims increasing violence.
  • Mali: Al-Qaeda activity in the Islamic Maghreb actively facing off against French troops.
  • Mexico: Mexican cartels cause bloody conflict between gangs on US border.
  • Myanmar: Transition from military to democracy ongoing but suffering setbacks (Rohingya Muslim pogroms).
  • Nigeria: Boko Haram (jihadist militia) being pushed back with 5,000+ US-backed forces.
  • North Korea: More sanctions from the US to follow as a terrorist state declaration is again made.
  • Philippines: Anti-Islamic militant battles rage on (especially in Marawi)
  • Qatar: Air, land, and sea routes cut off as they supported terrorism.
  • Saudi Arabia: New ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, trying to clean house, dozens of ministers and senior royals arrested. Instability threatened.
  • Somalia: Al-Shabaab with 9,000 fighters continues to thwart peace.
  • South Sudan: 50,000 civilians have been killed since Dec. 2015. War continues.
  • Syria: A stand-off is in place, US-backed freedom fighters vs. Soviet backed Bashir Al-Assad’s forces.
  • Thailand: Military regime holding power – tensions (civil unrest) remain high.
  • Turkey: A standoff with the West and NATO brewing, Turkey now turning to Russia for defense systems.
  • Venezuela: Unrest, inflation, and widespread food shortages cause unrest and violence.
  • Yemen: Significant civilian deaths. Iran-backed vs. Saudi Arabia-backed forces in bloody conflict and causing famine, widespread disease.
  • Zimbabwe: Military control in full force in 2018. Many ex-Ministers disappeared.