Sunday, January 2, 2011

AWV Award Time!

With 2010 now behind us, it's time for our annual look back at the year that was and at all the strangeness this world has to offer. So, without further adieu, it's time for the A World View Awards, and as always, any sarcasm contained within is most surely intentional.

The Maxwell Smart Award – Anna Chapman
It's only fitting that an award named for a spy who continually screwed up, yet somehow always managed to find success goes to the redheaded femme fatale Anna Chapman. Apparently gone are the days when failing in your mission as a spy meant a dank prison cell followed by a bullet; after being caught in a ham-handed FBI sting (or betrayed by a rogue FSB colonel) and repatriated to Russia, Chapman has found nothing but success: taking a job as a spokeswoman for a Russian bank, singing songs with Prime Minister Putin, being named to the board of a pro-Kremlin youth group, having ballads written in her honor and even getting her own iPhone app. There's speculation that next year Chapman may try to represent her native Volgograd region in the Russian Duma, not bad for someone who apparently failed badly in her espionage mission. We should note, since the other ten alleged spies swept up with Chapman have all sunk into lives of relative obscurity, being hot helps:

Golden Lights of Democracy Award – Yahya Jammeh, The Gambia and Laurent Gbagbo, Cote d'Ivoire
A split award to two men doing everything they can to undermine the cause of democracy in Africa this past year. First is President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia, even with the media firmly under his control and elections fully rigged, Jammeh decided this whole process of pretending to run for president was just a big ol' waste of time, his solution: attempt to have himself named King of The Gambia, an idea dutifully pushed by compliant political lackeys. But not to be out done is President Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d'Ivoire, who came up with a great way to respond to losing a presidential election: just don't stop being president! After his loss was certified, Gbagbo, who called the free and fair election a “coup”, had himself sworn into office again and for the past month has insisted he's still the president. Unfortunately he is backed by a vast security force augmented by members of the Ivorian military and allegedly mercenaries from neighboring Liberia as well who are brutally attacking supporters of the legitimate president, Alassane Ouattara; the whole situation is threatening to descend into civil war, which doesn't seem to bother “president” Gbagbo in the least.

Bad Science Idea of the Year Award – Geoengineering
2010 saw some ardent global warming skeptics come around to the idea that greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) are actually having an effect on the world's climate. Unfortunately rather than working to limit the amount of GHG pumped into the atmosphere – by taking steps like shutting coal-fired power plants, moving away from a car-centric culture and generally changing the way the developed world works – some scientists are proposing an idea called “geoengineering”, or essentially hacking the global climate. Geoengineering would involve pumping huge amounts of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere to reflect a portion of the sunlight hitting the Earth back into space. With less sunlight hitting the Earth's surface, global temperatures would drop, or more correctly, would drop in a manner offsetting the rise in global temperatures caused by the GHGs, thus keeping things about where they are.
Two small problems: first is that once started, the sulfur dioxide pumping would have to continue, permanently; otherwise global temperatures could suddenly spike upward by several degrees, thanks to the GHG saturated atmosphere. The other problem is that the sulfur dioxide-reflected sunlight would cause a “permanent whitening” of day-time skies, an effect something akin to the skies from the movie The Matrix. Unfortunately, this daffy idea has the attention of some right-wing groups in the United States including the influential conservative think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute.

Photo of the Year #1 – Putin and Buffy
Russia's Vladimir Putin is a man who likes flying in jet fighters, sparring in judo matches and wading bare-chested through Siberian rivers (and critics will say rigging elections, limiting the freedom of the press and running a mafia-like empire); but just to show he has a softer side he also hugs adorable puppies!

The Merit Promotion Award – Kim Jong-un
For his first 27 (or 28) years, the only knowledge the world had of Kim Jong-un was a blurry photograph of a young Korean boy taken at a Swiss boarding school. But when your dad is the head of the world's last remaining Stalinist state, change can come quickly; this summer Kim Jong-un was elevated to the rank of four-star general (complete with the modest title of “Great General”) and named successor to the ailing Kim Jong-il. To prove his bona fides as the “Great General”, Kim Jong-un is allegedly the one who ordered the artillery attack on the sleeping South Korean fishing village on Yeonpyeong Island, which killed four people and brought the two Koreas to the brink of war, along with going down as one of the most lopsided military conflicts since the Klingons battled the tribbles. Unfortunately, Korea observers believe that there is still a lot of internal strife over the elevation of the 27 (or 28) year old Kim Jong-un to leader-in-waiting status, promising more uncertain times on the Korean peninsula.

The “Who Can It Be Now” Award – the Togolese “National” Soccer Team
“Friendlies” - matches between the national teams of two countries – are a fixture in world football (or soccer to us Americans) circles; so that Togo's national team traveled to the Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain for a match in September wasn't unusual. But the Bahrain team was surprised by the poor quality of the Togolese side, some of whom were so out of shape they reportedly had trouble making it from one end of the field to the other; it certainly wasn't a national-caliber team, and for good reason – it wasn't the Togo national team, but rather a group of imposters gathered together for the match. The resulting scandal led to dismissals among the management of the national football authority and was a black eye for Togo's team, which earlier in the year was the victim of a terrorist massacre in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that killed two team members traveling to the Africa Cup tournament in Angola.
Honorable mention in this category goes to “Mullah Akthar Mohammad Mansour”, or at least to the guy who posed as the Taliban commander who was apparently flown into Kabul by NATO for a high-level meeting with President Karzai and given $100,000 before disappearing into Pakistan with the loot. Imagine what would be going on if we weren't winning that war...

Photo of the Year #2 – The Irish Banking Crisis
Perhaps this photo of officials from the International Monetary Fund scurrying into a meeting in Dublin on the Irish financial crisis needs no set-up...

“They Pull Me Back In” Award – Doku Umarov
In August, Doku Umarov, the leader of the Islamic militant movement in Russia's Chechnya region and the self-styled “Emir of the North Caucasus Caliphate”, announced he was retiring from jihading during an Internet press conference. A few days later Umarov held another Internet press conference to announce he was un-retiring and would once again take up the cause for jihad in southern Russia; to quote Michael Corleone: just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in...
Analysts say that the move reflects a split in the Chechen militant community between Umarov's supporters, who have thrown their lot in with al-Qaeda and have bought into Osama bin Laden's idea of a worldwide jihad, and other Chechen factions who want to ditch the global jihad talk and get back to their original mission of using terror attacks to secure independence for Chechnya, this faction supposedly didn't want to win independence from Russia only to become a small part of some new regional caliphate. Whatever the reason, it is enough to win Umarov the Pull Me Back In Award and make him the first two-time winner in the history of the AWV awards.

The Golden Cockroach – Silvio Berlusconi
Named for nature's ultimate survivor, the Golden Cockroach goes to the national leader who somehow manages to stay in power despite everything they've done during the past year; and for 2010 there's no more fitting recipient than Italy's Silvio Berlusconi. While Italy's poorly-performing economy might be enough to doom most politicians, Silvio ups the ante by making racist comments about other world leaders, cavorting with underage lingerie models, making other of his ladyfriends members of the government and hiring escorts to attend to his VIP guests at his private villa; actions that have even his own daughter speaking out against him. In November it looked like Silvio was done for, facing a “no confidence” vote by the parliament; yet somehow Silvio survived, and there are indications his ruling coalition might emerge stronger following the next election. Silvio, this cockroach is for you, you've earned it.

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1 comment:

Shaun Randol said...

regarding the geoengineering... i find myself paralyzed on that front. some of the ideas in that line of thinking are borderline brilliant, but the sheer magnitude of scale and force they would require to actually work make them equally borderline absurd.

geoengineering: the field for mad scientists.