Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Stanislav Petrov, The Man Who Saved The World

Thirteen years ago, on September 26th 1983, Stanislav Petrov may have saved the world and a large chunk of human civilization from apocalyptic nuclear war with his cool-headed actions as a Soviet nuclear missile officer. Not too shabby for a day's work.

Remember the forgotten hero who saved the world
By Iain Thomson

It might seem odd to celebrate a 23rd anniversary but every year since I heard of this man I go out and raise a glass to his memory. In truth you can get most journalists to raise a glass to anything but in this case I’m thanking him for my life.

On 26th September 1983 the hero of the day, Colonel Stanislav Yefgrafovich Petrov, clocked on for work as normal. Petrov was in charge of the Soviet Union’s satellite warning systems and this was the height of the cold war. Everyone was on edge because NATO was carrying out its annual tactical exercises and two weeks before the Soviets had shot down a Korean airliner that had wandered into the wrong airspace.

Meanwhile in the wider picture Ronald Reagan was publicly calling the Soviet Union an ‘Evil Empire’, the warm up man at a UK Conservative party rally had opened with the call to “Bomb Russia” and we had Andropov, a former leader of the KGB, as the current ruler of the Kremlin. Things were, to put it mildly, on a hair trigger.

All in all it was a scary time to be alive. If I hadn’t had the first Sláine series in the comic 2000AD and Duran Duran’s Rio to distract me I’d never have made it through the year without digging a fallout shelter – something plenty of people did.

Anyway, at 40 minutes past midnight on the 26th Petrov looked up and saw a missile launch from a United States silo had been detected by one of his satellites. Now you might expect panic at this point but missile command tends to attract the serious, sober type, probably the type of people who smoke a pipe and sew leather patches on their jackets, and Petrov kept his head.

He knew the satellite had been reported as suspect and decided to hold off on informing the high command. Then a second missile launch was picked up, and shortly after another, and another and another. Petrov knew that if he waited until he could confirm the launches with ground radar it would be too late for his country, he and his family would die and the Yankees would win the Cold War.

Thankfully for us he thought before acting. He reasoned that it was illogical for a surprise attack to launch missiles one after the other – instead you’d launch everything you had and hope to wipe out the enemy before they reacted. He left the launch button alone and thankfully the missiles proved to be ghosts.

Myself and millions other slept peacefully in our beds that night, blissfully unaware of how close we came to fiery death or a worse existence than we could imagine if we had lived. Had the missiles flown Britain would, according to government war plan projections, currently be at a medieval level of technology in most places, having lost 90 per cent of its population.

Petrov was reprimanded and now lives in the scientific community of Fryazino in Russia. He was honoured this year in a ceremony at the United Nations and has been honoured with two World Citizen Awards. So take some time out today and say your private thanks to the man who saved the world.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Centre-right victory in Sweden's elections

As anyone following the news already knows, the centre-right coalition achieved a victory in Sweden's parliamentary elections ousting the leftist Social Democrats, led by prime minister Goran Persson, who have been in power for over a decade. Fredrik Reinfeldt, the chairman of the Moderate Coalition Party, started negotiations to form a new government in which he will serve as the new prime minister. This is obviously good news for everyone not too affectionate with the social democrats, such as myself, although it is widely expected that there won't be too much of a change in most aspects of Sweden's policies.

Helsingin Sanomat: Finns lukewarm on idea of centre-right cooperation on the Swedish model
Helsingin Sanomat: Finnish political leaders react to result of Swedish election

Monday, September 11, 2006

5th Anniversary of the September 11th Attacks

A minute's silence in memory of all those lost. Some pics from the WTC site, taken one year ago (four years after the attack) might be added later on if I have the time to go through my New York photos and pick a few.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The 40th anniversary of Star Trek

Today is the 40th anniversary of Star Trek.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Rakkautta & Anarkiaa - The 19th Helsinki International Film Festival

It's that time of the year again when movie fans living in Helsinki start to prepare for the Rakkautta & Anarkiaa (Love & Anarchy) film festival, and I'm no exception. If anyone is interested, you can find my personal R&A schedule for 2006 under my homepage's (finnish language) movie section.

It seems there has been no other entries on this blog for the summer besides RIP announcements. If nothing else, at least this post will break that morbid trend.

Monday, September 04, 2006

RIP Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin