India maintains world lead – in road fatalities

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

India lives in its villages, Gandhi said. But increasingly, the people of India are dying on its roads.

India overtook China to top the world in road fatalities in 2006 and has continued to pull steadily ahead, despite a heavily agrarian population, fewer people than China and far fewer cars than many Western countries.

While road deaths in many other big emerging markets have declined or stabilized in recent years, even as vehicle sales jumped, in India, fatalities are skyrocketing — up 40 percent in five years to more than 118,000 in 2008, the last figure available.

A lethal brew of poor road planning, inadequate law enforcement, a surge in trucks and cars, and a flood of untrained drivers have made India the world’s road death capital. As the country’s fast-growing economy and huge population raise its importance on the world stage, the rising toll is a reminder that the government still struggles to keep its more than a billion people safe…

The breakdown in road safety has many causes, experts say. Often, the police are too stretched to enforce existing traffic laws or take bribes to ignore them; heavy vehicles, pedestrians, bullock carts and bicycles share roadways; punishment for violators is lenient, delayed or nonexistent; and driver’s licenses are easy to get with a bribe…

International safety experts say the Indian government has been slow to act. Bringing down road deaths “requires political commitment at the highest level,” said Dr. Etienne Krug, director of the department of violence and injury prevention at the World Health Organization. India’s government is “just waking up to the issue,” he said…

RTFA. Detailed, responsible article.

Predictable excuses are at hand – money is always the lead rationale. But, it always comes down to establishing priorities on behalf of ordinary citizens doesn’t it?

360º quilting-video surveillance stitches perfect spot-zoom

Traditional surveillance cameras can be of great assistance to law enforcement officers for a range of scenarios—canvassing a crowd for criminal activity during a Fourth of July celebration, searching for who left a suitcase bomb beneath a bench, or trying to pick out a terrorist who has fled the scene and blended into a teeming throng in the subway. But there are shortfalls. For starters, once they zoom in on a specific point of interest, they lose visual contact with the rest of the scene.

But a new video surveillance system currently being developed by the Department of Homeland Security…may soon give law enforcement an extra set of eyes. The Imaging System for Immersive Surveillance (or ISIS) takes new video camera and image-stitching technology and bolts it to a ceiling, mounts it on a roof, or fastens it to a truck-mounted telescoping mast.

Like a bug-eyed fisheye lens, ISIS sees v-e-r-y wide. But that’s where the similarity ends. Whereas a typical fisheye lens distorts the image and can only provide limited resolution, video from ISIS is perfectly detailed, edge-to-edge. That’s because the video is made from a series of individual cameras stitched into a single, live view—like a high-res video quilt.

“Coverage this sweeping, with detail this fine, requires a very high pixel count,” says program manager Dr. John Fortune, of S&T’s Infrastructure and Geophysical Division, “ISIS has a resolution capability of 100 megapixels.” That’s as detailed as 50 full-HDTV movies playing at once, with optical detail to spare. You can zoom in close…and closer…without losing clarity.

The stitching together of several images isn’t exactly cutting-edge magic…ISIS is quilting video—in real time! And a unique interface allows you to maintain the full field of view, while a focal point of your choice can be magnified…

As in any aspect of security control – the critical quality is who is in charge? What will they do with what they see and learn? And the ever-popular – who is charged with protecting individual privacy rights?

55 bodies from mine shaft mass grave in Mexico

Mexican authorities found 55 bodies inside a mine ventilation shaft that was used as a mass grave in the city of Taxco.

Of the 55 bodies, three were mummified, and two were skeletal remains, the Guerrero state attorney general’s office said.

Only four of the bodies have been identified. Among them is David Bravo Mota, who was an area prison warden, officials said.

State Attorney General Albertico Guinto Sierra said he was asking families with missing loved ones to come to his office to begin a process of genetic testing to help identify the remaining bodies.

Meanwhile, authorities said they would explore the mine’s 10 other ventilation shafts to see whether any more bodies were discarded there.

Also…authorities in the southern Mexican state of Quintana Roo found inside a cavern six bodies that had signs of torture and mutilation.

The bodies of four men and two women were found just outside of the resort city of Cancun, the Quintana Roo state attorney general’s office said.

Three of the bodies were marked with the letter Z, and had holes in their chest over their hearts. An autopsy would confirm whether or not the hearts were removed, the agency said.

One of the six was identified as Isaias Valenzuela Ruiz, who was the head of security at Playa del Carmen and had been reported as missing five days ago.

Anyone volunteering for law and order gigs in Mexico? A nation defined by lawlessness and death – seems to me – would have to offer some pretty special incentives for a career in law enforcement.

Starting with throwing at least the most corrupt politicians in jail.

U.S. oil spills quadrupled since 2000

The number of spills from offshore oil rigs and pipelines in U.S. waters more than quadrupled this decade, a trend that could have served as a warning for the massive leak in the Gulf of Mexico, according to government data and safety experts.

The spills — and the amount of oil that leaked — grew markedly worse even when taking increases in production into account, a USA TODAY analysis of federal data shows. The leaks came as the oil industry repeatedly claimed that offshore drilling was never safer.

The same Louisiana officials who now whine about government response to the BP oil spill being inadequate – led the march of political lemmings backing the Gulf drilling industry. They all got their slice of the contribution pie.

From the early 1970s through the ’90s, offshore rigs and pipelines averaged about four spills per year of at least 50 barrels, according to the Minerals Management Service (MMS)…The average annual total surged to more than 17 from 2000 through 2009. From 2005 through 2009, spills averaged 22 a year.

The company with the most spills from 2000 through 2009 is BP, which leased the well spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf since April 20, according to the data. The oil giant and its affiliated companies reported 23 spills of 50 barrels or more, not including the latest blowout. Oil firm Shell was next with 21, according to MMS spill reports…

Richard Charter, a marine expert with the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife, said the smaller spills should have foreshadowed bigger mistakes were on the way.

Carelessness is usually a sign of impending disaster,” he said.

Political kickbacks, corruption, cronyism are usually the source of the “carelessness”. Take it all the way from the Bush White House and Congress right back to local hacks who managed to praise and support offshore drilling – safe or otherwise.

Harper spends money like water. Buys water!

Security barriers begin to go up – don’t fall in the water!

Canada’s government has been criticised for spending huge sums to host G8 and G20 summits at the end of June, including two million dollars on a fake lake inside the media centre.

The artificial lake will reportedly include canoes, trees, lounge chairs and a fake dock.

It is being built in downtown Toronto to showcase the site of the June 25-26 G8 summit in Huntsville, 140 miles north of Toronto, which is to be accessible to only a small pool of journalists…

Liberal and New Democrat MPs ridiculed the Conservative government in the House for spending lavishly on the lake, as well as earmarking nearly one billion dollars for summit security.

“We have a government here that has to create an artificial lake when Canada has more lakes than just about any other country in the world,” said NDP leader Jack Layton…

Liberal MP Mark Holland said: “Did anyone in government not think that two million dollars (on a) fake lake to host a 72-hour meeting on fiscal restraint was a bad idea?”

Government flunkies say they need an appropriate backdrop for the media of the world. I’d suggest the nearest politician’s hospitality suite.