Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The modern world strikes again

AOG, Madrid

I have just heard on Spanish radio the story of a woman in New Zealand who has died after her electricity company, Mercury Energy, turned off the power to her home because the light bill had not been paid.

The woman in question was connected to an electric oxygen pump to breathe, and although her family tried to stop the power being switched off, the engineer who had been called out only responded that he had to do his job.

It is reported that he even went inside the house to see the situation for himself. And that he switched the power off anyway. This strikes me as completely inhuman, though I don't have all the facts and, as they say, there are two sides to every story. Nonetheless, I can't help but wonder about what was going through that man's head when he carried out his orders.

Here is a link to the story as told in Australia. Not many European papers carry the story yet. It is only 13:12 right now. It may change.

According to her family, she owed Mercury Energy 168.40 New Zealand dollars (US$122).

Folole Muliaga, 44, a schoolteacher with four children aged 5 to 20, had been off work since February with an illness and fell behind in her payments to Mercury. Her husband had taken time off from work to care for her.

The company are said to be "devastated by the woman's death and was conducting its own investigation to determine what happened", according to Mercury Energy's general manager, James Moulder.

Well, what do they think happened?

And already, modernity has begun to exude impunity left, right and center:

Auckland University professor of law Bill Hodge said manslaughter charges could potentially could be filed, depending on what information Mercury Energy had and how it was expressed to them.

Well, how does Professor Hodge think Mercury Energy were informed? Smoke signals? And what information does he think the company will admit to having if this goes to court?

Unfortunately, by this weekend, this poor woman's death will be old news. Until the next time something like this happens.

Once again, a life has fallen by the wayside in humanity's attempt to reach complete modernity. What's a life when faced with corporate greed, inhuman call centers, robotic taped messages. In order to better the lives of our species, we have lost the human touch completely.

Once our species achieves modernity, will there be anyone of us left to see it?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Spy Vs Spy, or how the KGB are still among us

AOG, Madrid

Russia and the UK are at present involved in a diplomatic imbroglio concerning the fate of Andrei Lugovoy.

Britain has urged Russia to comply with its legal request for Andrei Lugovoy, a former Russian agent, to be extradited to the UK to be charged with the murder of former spy Alexander Litvinenko as soon as possible.

"Russia should comply with our legal request," Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said.

The spokesman stressed that Britain had important political and economic ties with Russia but said: "This doesn't in any way obviate the need for the international rule of law to be respected and we will not in any way shy away from trying to ensure that happens in a case such as this."

Nonetheless, Russia has declined to help. According to the Russian Prosecutor-General's office, Russia will not extradite Andrei Lugovoy to Britain on charges of murdering former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko last year.

"Under the constitution of the Russian Federation Russian citizens can not be handed over to foreign countries for prosecution and Lugovoy appears to be a Russian citizen" the source said.

Yuri Chaika, Russia's prosecutor general, said last December that any trial of a Russian ciizen must take place in Russia, and that arrests of Russians by British police officers would be "impossible" under the Russian constitution. Russia may also point to its demand for the extradition of the London-based exile Boris Berezovsky over the oligarch's calls to overthrow President Vladimir Putin.

Nonetheless, the UK insists.

Britain told Russia today that it expected full cooperation after British prosecutors announced they would charge Lugovoy with the murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

"This was a serious crime. We are seeking and expect full cooperation from the Russian authorities in bringing the perpetrator to face British justice. These points were made strongly to the Russian ambassador when he was called in to the Foreign Office today," Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said in a statement.

Unlikely as it may seem, the EU appears to be behind the UK on this one, an odd yet certainly welcomed event. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, present chair of the union's rotating presidency, criticised Putin over human rights - including the disruption of opposition demonstrations in an EU-Russia summit last week.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Just another thursday with rain...

AOG, Madrid

Went to Madrid University to see about a course. Huge campus. Rain. Not many street signs. Got drenched. Achieved little. Came home tired and wet.

A colleague at work poured his heart out concerning another co worker. Love was in the air, but it came to nothing. I feel for both. By the way, who died and made me cupid?

Wonderful article about Obama. Wonderful in that it talks about something, it would appear, no one is allowed to talk about...unless they are black.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Weekend in London

AOG, London

I flew into London last Saturday and I have spent a couple of days here now. I fly back in a few hours. I am at odds as to how best explain what I have felt in London this time around. It was my sister's birthday last Tuesday and we all met for gifts & dinner on Sunday. Although short, it was very enjoyable. As per usual, the Texas Embassy proved very welcoming.

I had a lovely time all around and the next day, Monday, the Gods of good weather shone on London like they tend to do once in a blue moon. It was a glorious day, as the locals like to say. Sunny, not warm, but, unfortunately, laden with tree pollen all over the place. Juan and I spent most of the day in Notting Hill and walking around Portobello Road.

We dropped in on a few shops and then had lunch around 3 pm in a... espèce de Bistrot off Portobello Road which didn't serve beer, and didn't have public toilets. Alas, the food was very good.

We then took the number 23 bus which kept passing by all during our lunch incessantly. 45 minutes later, we were in Soho. We got tickets to see Avenue Q (soon to be turned into a post!). Then we visited HMV, KFC and took a taxi home. It was getting late.

Now, in retrospect, I admit that being in London was mostly a good experience. Was I homesick? No, not really. Was it good to be back? Not necessarily, but I admit that it was good to be here. Does that make sense? I don't know. But that is how I felt all throughout this weekend.

I think, perhaps, I am beginning to see London as a weekend destination, and not as ex home. I did ask Juan (perhaps foolishly) if he would like to live in London. A questioning "No?", was the answer. I'm not sure why I asked. I, perhaps, unconsciously, toyed with the idea of going back, but I think this is because not a whole lot is going on in Spain that I like right now- though that is not to say all is bad, all is, well, moving along slowly and I am feeling a bit lost sometimes.

It has been over a year since I moved there, and perhaps now it is starting to sink in. Perhaps not. Not sure yet. I have been a bit down concerning my employment future there. And suddenly, I remembered that I used to work in the UK, and got a strange feeling of security from that.

Isn't it amazing how the mind will selectively play with our memories and desires, mixing both to produce a prerequisite (and always nicely nostalgic) feeling? I walked around London with a nice feeling all day Monday. And then today I have managed to remember a few (not all) of the reasons why I left London in the first place. And a joke I heard in Spain a while back came to mind.


A group of dead people are given a tour of Hell whilst they are in Purgatory. They see people having fun, loads of sinning going on, sunny beaches, in short, it looks like a blast. When their time in Purgatory is over, they all ask to be sent to Hell. Once there, they are shackled, sent into the fire of the bottomless pit, roasted alive, they feel pain, sorrow, etc. After a while, one of them asks an orderly demon about what is happening. "It all looked like such fun! What is going on?" The demon replied, "Well, of course, you realise that holidays are one thing, and inmigration quite another!".

Indeed. I think these last couple of days I forgot this. Funny that.