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states with nuclear weapons should have better call verification systems. This mega-blooper is just in time to qualify for WTF of the year.

I had a long argument once with a friend concerning the US involvement in Iraq. The specific point of contention was the international policing done by the US, and I argued against it reasoning, among others, that such tasks are better left to the UN. My favoring of the UN was countered by the argument that the UN had been ineffective in Darfur and it was up to the more powerful nations to take on this role. I must confess, ashamedly so, that I was not well aware of the specific details of the crisis in Darfur, let alone the role of the UN (or lack of it) in that region, until watching the Frontline documentary, On Our Watch, yesterday

If the United Nations could die of shame it would have been dead years ago.      

The above line (attributed to Tom Stoppard ) cited within the first few minutes of the documentary  sums up the consequences of UN inaction in Darfur. In my opinion, this inability highlights the apathy of its constituent member states, some more than others, and consequently our own individual apathy to what happens in a part of the world that appears to be of little consequence to our own lives, economically or otherwise. 4 years and 21 UN resolutions later, lack of concrete UN action has led to 200,000+ dead, not to mention other atrocities perpetrated on the affected people. 

There was one more thing I was not aware about – The Genocide Olympics, as the 2008 Beijing Olympic games have come to be referred by activists highlighting the genocide in Darfur. This was done to  draw attention to China’s support for the Sudan government that has been held responsible for the civilian killings in Darfur. It helps to know that even where nations fail as a collective, individuals can still make a difference. 

There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.

Ponderful! Wikipedia link to the Pale Blue Dot.

Two other talks at TED that I felt were worth watching – Debunking third world myths and New insights on poverty and life around the world. The speaker, Hans Rosling, is a professor of global health at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Using his data visualization software called Gapminder, Dr. Rosling presents statistics and insights in a manner far more interesting than I have encountered before. In these videos, he uses visual statistics to demonstrate the narrowing gap between the so called developing and industralized countries over the years, in terms of family size and per capita income among other indicators. These examples emphasize the importance of this new way of visualizing data, and the insights that one can gain from such a visualization.

Having watched the first video, I wondered if the second one could be any more interesting. You’ve got to wait until the end of the second video before you decide.

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