Monday, September 8, 2008

Pieces Together: Only Inside Socialism? (2008)

The Pieces Together column from the September 2008 issue of the Socialist Standard

"As we face $4.50 a gallon gas, we also know that alternative energy sources — coal, oil shale, ethanol, wind and ground-based solar — are either of limited potential, very expensive, require huge energy storage systems or harm the environment. There is, however, one potential future energy source that is environmentally friendly, has essentially unlimited potential and can be cost competitive with any renewable source: space solar power. Science fiction? Actually, no — the technology already exists. A space solar power system would involve building large solar energy collectors in orbit around the Earth. These panels would collect far more energy than land-based units, which are hampered by weather, low angles of the sun in northern climes and, of course, the darkness of night. Once collected, the solar energy would be safely beamed to Earth via wireless radio transmission, where it would be received by antennas near cities and other places where large amounts of power are used. The received energy would then be converted to electric power for distribution over the existing grid." (New York Times, 23 July)

"Washington - More than 22,000 veterans have sought help from a special suicide hot line in its first year, and 1,221 suicides have been averted, the government says. According to a recent RAND Corp. study, roughly one in five soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan displays symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, putting them at a higher risk for suicide. Researchers at Portland State University found that male veterans are twice as likely to commit suicide than men who are not veterans. ...The VA (Veterans Affairs) estimates that every year 6,500 veterans take their own lives. The mental health director for the VA, Ira Katz, said in an e-mail last December that of the 18 veterans who commit suicide each day, four to five of them are under VA care, and 12,000 veterans under VA care are attempting suicide each year." (Yahoo News, 28 July)

"A mysterious Russian billionaire has trumped his big-spending rivals and broken a world record by splashing out 500 million euros (£392 million) on one of the most sumptuous villas on the French Riveria." (London Times, 11 August)

"Stockton has become known as Foreclosure Town, USA. With 1 in 25 houses in foreclosure, there are more properties with mortgages in default here than anywhere in the country. And it is not as if there isn't some stiff competition for Stockton's dubious accolade in other corners of California, and indeed in the rest of America." (Observer, 10 August)