Monthly Archive for June, 2006

Paper accepted for ESA Wireless in Space Workshop

My paper, based on my MSc dissertation, has been accepted for next month’s Wireless in Space workshop at the European Space Agency. So, I’ll be travelling to the Netherlands to present it :-)

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Joining Technorati

I have now created a Technorati Profile. Expect tagging on this blog in the not-too-distant future.

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NASA take Shuttle risk by overruling engineers (again)

NASA have announced they are ignoring their engineers’ concerns over safety and launching the Space Shuttle Discovery next month. The last time NASA ignored it’s engineers it resulted in the Challenger disaster.

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Why would anyone want a secret “honour”?

Craig Murray cites a story in the Observer about UK honours having been granted, in secret, to senior US military commanders and businessmen involved in the military campaign and follow-up reconstruction work in Iraq. Liberal Democrat MP, Norman Baker, apparently brought the matter to light after a series of parliamentary questions.

There has been some commentary raised in the media about the appropriateness of these awards whilst Iraq shows further signs of descending into civil war. There is a further issue with the businessmen awarded honours, particularly, Riley Bechtel, boss of Bechtel Corporation whose closeness to George W Bush’s administration, and multi-million dollar reconstruction contracts in Iraq remain controversial

Nevertheless, the big issue is, of course, the secrecy. Obviously, given the controversial nature of the individuals concerned, it does look bad and makes a mockery of the government’s claims of openness and transparency. Yet, what I find extraordinary is Margaret Beckett’s comment that “Honorary awards to citizens where Her Majesty the Queen is not head of state are not formally announced.” So according to the Foreign Office it is normal practice to make awards a secret.

I can’t understand this. Why would anyone want an “honour” that is secret? Surely the whole point of an honour is that you are honoured, i.e. publicly recognized for the contribution that you have made. What on earth is the benefit of getting a gong if it’s kept private?

Having written so far and about to rant about the value of secret “honours” I realize that the Foreign Office statement is complete rubbish. I remember a few years ago Terry Wogan’s name was published on the Queen’s Birthday or New Years’ Honours lists (I forget which). Either way, his honorary CBE was definitely published in that list (being a citizen of Eire, where HM is not head of state). I remember that because he made particularly reference to the ‘honorary-ness’ of his CBE (as well as his Irish-ness) during the obligatory 10-second interview clip on the BBC evening news that day. Come to think of it, I have, on occasion, looked through the names of honours recipients published in newspapers and ‘honorary’ awardees have been named. So this is all rubbish – which makes it stink even more.