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The last episode of our series looking at the challenges of delivering electricity to a power-hungry nation finished last night. You can now watch the full series on iPlayer.
The House of Commons is currently debating whether approval should be given for UK planes to become involved in airstrikes targetting ISIS in Syria. Here's a short reading list providing some background on the issues at the heart of the debate:
Victoria Honeymen at The Conversation: Britian still thinks it's a great power - but isn't:
Britain’s economic position has been overtaken so it pursues military prowess to exert power. Irrespective of how the UK is perceived overseas, governments of all parties have long believed that Britain needs to have a military befitting a great power – even if the dwindling military budget is closer to what might be expected for a medium size power.
Britain, like many nations, historically used its military power not only to defend itself from aggressors, but to pursue benefits overseas. It has taken control of nations, forced rulers and governments to adopt a pro-British line and generally ensured that Britain benefited wherever possible.
Anderson Jeremiah at The Conversation: The Church of England’s vote to effectively back military action is a shocking mistake:
Responding violently to violence goes against the non-violence practised by Jesus, even when protecting the victims of arbitrary violence. This knee-jerk reaction to support military action will have grave consequences for the public witness of the church in promoting peace and love, particularly during this season of Christmas.
The motion by the church not only undermines the good work the church is doing for refugees but consequently questions its commitment for working towards peace. By playing into the false sense of necessity of military intervention, the church is willingly sacrificing its critical moral role in pursuing a peaceful and just course of action.
Hugh Miall, Kevin Clements and Feargal Cochrane at The Conversation: The case for Britain bombing IS in Syria is empty – here’s why:
The critical and under-explored questions about a new intervention in Syria are: is it justified? Will it work to weaken Islamic State? And what are the likely consequences for both Syria and the UK when the bombing stops? Past answers to these questions ended badly in Afghanistan, Iraq (twice) and Libya. We should reflect before making the same mistakes in Syria.
The rationale for bombing is unclear on several grounds: David Cameron’s case for bombing as set out in the Commons motion is based on shared values and alliance solidarity, rather than evidence that expanded bombing will remove the threat from IS. He has not managed to establish any causal connection between expanded bombing and how this would weaken ISIS or make Syria more stable.
Paul Rogers at OpenDemocracy: ISIS's plan, and the west's trap:
The intensity of the war has been scarcely reported. It has involved 57,000 sorties and 8,300 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria that as of 13 November 2015, hit 16,075 separate targets. The overwhelming majority of the sorties were flown by US air force (USAF) and US navy planes. The Pentagon estimates that 20,000 ISIS supporters have been killed. Furthermore, the withdrawal of Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates from airstrikes in Syria means that this is now essentially a western war.
Ranj Alaaldin at LSE Middle East Centre blog: Intensifying the military campaign will help but it won’t be enough to defeat ISIS:
The West has plenty of catching up to do. Before seizing territory in northern Iraq, last year in June, ISIS operated with impunity and had at least three years’ worth of space to flourish, namely by taking advantage of ungoverned territory in Syria as well as weak and impoverished populations.
An intensification of the campaign will allow the West to define and assert its role in the war on ISIS, therefore providing conviction and direction to the campaign against extremism, both at home and abroad.
Today, your life could change. Or you might take a first step towards changing your life - if you've ever been curious about becoming a student with The Open University but aren't sure where to start, we're hosting a live chat about Access Modules on Facebook. Here's some more about the event:
If you’re thinking of studying with the OU but don’t feel quite ready for it, an Access module could be the right answer for you. You could even study one for free!
Join our live online chat on Facebook to find out more about the three Access modules we offer and how studying on one of them could help you on your journey with the OU and beyond.
Staff will be available to answer your questions and provide practical advice on everything from course content, to what to expect from an Access module and the registration process.
It's a great way to find out about some brilliant courses. It starts at 12.30pm this afternoon.
This week, as Tim Peake prepares to be the second Briton in space, we're celebrating the astronauts who have so far been the only space traveller from their respective nations. Yesterday, South Korea's Yi So-yeon was our focus. Today, we're crossing to Central America, and meeting Rodolfo Neri Vela.
Rodolfo was the first - and, so far, only - Mexican to have travelled into space. Born in Chilpancingo, he studied first in his home country before moving to Britain. He completed a Masters in telecommunications systems at the University of Essex, and, in 1976, earned a doctorate from the University of Birmingham in electromagnetic radiation.
Returning to Mexico, he worked on the Moreleos Satelitte Programme while also working as an educator for postgrad students. He joined the STS-61B Space Shuttle mission as a payload specialist, flying on Atlantis between November 26th & December 3rd, 1985. While in space, he photographed Mexico over 500 times and carried out experiments on behalf of other Mexican scientists; he unwound by listening to music on his Walkman. That Rodlfo had to take cassettes into space throws some light onto how relatively primitive the technology of the 1980s was. (If he ever had to deal with the problem of a tape unspooling in zero gravity, the event is not recorded by history.)
Since returning to Earth, Rodolfo has kept a foot in space - he was worked for the European Space Agency helping develop part of the International Space Station; he became a Professor in the Faculty of Engineering of the UNAM. He's proud of his collection of science books for young people.
He shared his passion about the imaginative power of space exploration with the University of Birmingham's alumni magazine Old Joe:
Children should dream about their future and my series about ‘El Pequeño Astronauta’ (the small astronaut) provides motivation for them to study. Sometimes when I give school presentations, a parent will come up to me afterwards to show me a photograph taken of them with me 25 years ago when they attended one of my first presentations after returning from space.