Friday, September 26, 2014

"Terror at the Mall": CNN-HBO documentary on the Kenya Westgate Mall attack in 2013

On Friday, September 26, 2014, CNN aired the 90-minute HBO documentary film “Terror at the Mall”, by Dan Reed, about the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi Kenya, Sept. 21. 2013, link here.  The HBO link is here. CNN calls this “the most videod attack in history.”  The film has a great deal of real footage, particularly of the rescues toward the end. 

The responsibility for the attack was claimed by al-Shabaab, and 71 lives were lost, including 12 children and 3 pregnant women.

The testimony of those caught in the attack is graphic, and need not be dwelled on.  I don’t know how I would react if part of a group pinned down in any such situation.   I do not think I could survive being singled out.

Police and the military used tear gas, but had to recue people in a limited time while the attackers recovered from the tear gas.  They had do bow to the cultural imperative of women and children first, maybe.
A woman with a baby heard the words “Lady with baby stand up.”  Then the tear gas came, and she escaped into the main mall where now there were security forces. 
The FBI’s page defining terrorism is well worth giving here.

A local church sent some volunteers to Kenya around 2004-2005.  This actually included a covert gay male couple.  That seems every more dangerous now.  And Prince William and Kate Middleton explored the early days of their relationship on a safari in Kenya.  
Wikipedia attribution link for battle picture here.   

Friday, September 05, 2014

Smithsonian planetarium films tread likely on solar storm risk

It may seem to put two 23-minute planetarium “films”, shown at the National Air and Space Museum, on this blog, but there is a point. 
Whoppi Goldberg narrates “Journey to the Stars” with lots of discussion of how starts and galaxies formed.  She does explain supernovas.  One would be significant if within a few hundred light years of Earth, because the resultant gamma rays could fry all life, but there is no evidence that such a specific threat really exists.  But where the film gets critical (after all the stellar art work showing the geometry of galaxies) is the discussion of how the Sun works, how sunspots form, and what solar storms can do.  She softpedals the risk, saying that the Earth’s magnetic field deflects almost all of the radiation except near the poles.  But during the strongest storms (resulting in the biggest coronal mass ejections) damaging magnetic pulses can penetrate at lower latitudes, likely damaging power grid equipment during the very largest (Carrington-sized) storms. She also describes how in a few billion years, when the Milky Way is merging with Andromeda, the Sun will become a red giant, the surface almost reaching Earth, or at least frying it.  In time, mankind will have to learn how to move to outer planets or to other solar systems, as in the film “Evacuate Earth” (Aug. 30, 2013 here), or even as series like “The 100” (TV blog, March 29, 2014).  Triage would have to be done, and enormous social problems would be inevitable.

I also saw “Dark Universe”, narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson.  It seems that the “Dark force” is responsible for the fact that the Universe keeps expanding at a faster rate.  The Universe has no center.  It’s not clear if it was infinite after the big bang.