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Charles Laffiteau's Bigger Picture

Last update - Monday, July 1, 2013, 15:01 By Charles Laffiteau

Have you ever wondered whatever happened to Sarah Palin? 

The 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, that darling of America’s Tea Party minions, hockey moms and pigs that love to wear make-up? If so, then I’m sure you’ll be happy to know that even though Palin resigned three years ago from the only state or national political office to which she was ever elected, she continues to work tirelessly to maintain her spot on the national political stage.

Shortly after resigning as Governor of Alaska in June 2010, Palin landed a new job starring in a reality TV show called Sarah Palin’s Alaska. The first episode, which garnered over five million viewers, aired in November that year, but after the ninth episode was shown in January 2011 the series got the chop. Following that failure, Palin went on a nationwide tour to promote her second book, America by Heart, which initially made the New York Times Best Seller list. But sales dropped off so sharply that the $26 book soon became a staple of the 95-cent bargain bin.

Palin spent most of 2011 touring the country and raising money for a possible run for the US presidency before finally announcing in October that year that she’d decided not to enter the contest for the 2012 Republican nomination. To keep herself in the national limelight, she then landed a job doing interviews for Fox News during the 2012 election campaign. But after musicians LL Cool J and Toby Keith claimed Palin culled their ‘chats’ from other interviews they had done and that they had never even met Palin, Fox pulled the plug on her in January this year.

Speaking of missing faces, whatever happened to Barack Obama’s Republican opponent in last year’s heated presidential race, Mitt Romney? That bane of dog lovers everywhere and champion of the 53 per cent of American voters who pay more taxes than he does? 

Well, Romney has been keeping a low profile while he oversees the multi-million-dollar renovations on his beach house in San Diego. But he briefly abandoned the California beaches last month so he could host a three-day retreat in Park City, Utah for his high-powered political campaign donors. The real purpose of this meeting, however, was to rehabilitate Romney’s tarnished political ‘loser’ image by allowing potential Republican presidential candidates a chance to exchange some hot air with many of his very wealthy donors.

Speaking of hot air, whatever happened to Biosphere 2, the three-acre glass and steel dome erected in the Arizona desert to demonstrate the viability of using a self-contained earth ecosystem with its own atmosphere to colonise other planets at some point in the future? 

Twenty years ago, a ‘crew’ of eight men and women emerged from Biosphere 2 after living inside the sealed-off structure for almost two years. After a six-month transition period, another crew of seven men and women entered the dome in 1994, but they re-emerged less than six months later after a dispute over financing the project brought it to a premature end.

It turns out that Biosphere 2 was not exactly as sealed off and self-contained as its proponents initially claimed. The build-up of warm CO2 gases in the dome’s atmosphere led the designers to install ‘CO2 scrubbers’ to exchange the carbon dioxide for fresh air from outside the dome. The residents also lost 30-40 per cent of their normal weight because they had trouble growing enough food to sustain them, and ended up eating most of their seed crop because they were starving. 

Yet even though some of Biosphere 2’s initial science claims were full of hot air, a lot of valuable scientific research has also been conducted inside the facility over the last two decades. Since Columbia University and the University of Arizona took over management of Biosphere 2 in 1995, more than 150 papers have been published based on the earth science research conducted there. Columbia ditched the closed system atmosphere in favour of a flow-through atmosphere that could be used to inject CO2 to raise levels, or vent it to lower levels, for research on global warming. Furthermore, most of what we know about ocean acidification and its effect on coral reefs is based on research conducted in Biosphere 2’s self-contained ‘ocean’. 

Water has always been a scarce resource in the Middle East and North Africa, although conflicts over water have seldom led to armed conflicts. But as if Egypt doesn’t already have enough internal political, ethnic and religious conflicts, the country’s Islamist regime has recently raised the spectre of war with Ethiopia to stop the latter from building a dam on the Blue Nile. 

While Egypt is a major military power in North Africa, I seriously doubt its armed forces would also be able to succeed in stopping the construction of a dam so far from its own territory. 

Finally, on the subject of firearms, President Obama has been pushing US Congress to pass national gun control legislation that will require background checks prior to the sale of any guns. Unfortunately, I see very little chance that Congress will pass this legislation. Why? Well for starters, please consider Nelson, Georgia’s Family Protection Ordinance, a local law that, believe it or not, requires every homeowner in the town to own and maintain a gun and ammunition. What can I say? Only in America!   



Charles Laffiteau is a US Republican from Dallas, Texas who is pursuing a PhD in Public Policy and Political Economy. He previously lectured on Contemporary US Business & Society at DCU from 2009-2011.

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