Private Military Corporations (PMCs) and the Threats They Pose

(Nikhil’s Assignment : Grade 12 : World Affairs)

PMC

Mercenaries are a very old concept which, like all warfare, has undergone a major transformation in the twenty first century. What were once merely violent individuals employed by states against each other have now integrated themselves into modern militaries. Their lack of professionalism, regulation and respect for the law makes them an incompetent fighting force, which present several threats to the very states which hire them.

The rules of war outlined by the Geneva Convention and the United Nations (UN) are supposed to be all encompassing, and yet has gaping holes in it for the use of mercenaries. The UN 1989 mercenary convention identifies mercenaries as people “motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain”[1], but are neither a national of a party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a party to the conflict.” Modern PMCs do fit this description and so are just twenty first century mercenaries, which are outlawed by the Geneva Convention, “A mercenary shall not have the right to be a combatant or a prisoner of war”[2]. While the convention illegalizes the use of mercenaries, the modern PMCs do not have to define themselves as such. This is because the primary employers of PMCs (Canada, Great Britain, USA, China) did not sign the UN convention, and so do not call their employees mercenaries. International law is also vague on the division of responsibilities of the employer to control their PMCs, which allows the PMCs to operate unchecked. The parties that “issue the contracts are barely capable of doing much in the way of monitoring, because army officers do not want to discipline private soldiers that aren’t part of its chain of command.”[3] This lack of mandatory control has given PMCs the confidence to operate unscrupulously like they did in Nisour Sqaure in 2007 (refer Appendix A), because there will be no oversight on them. There is also the issue of the rights of employees of PMCs operating in countries that did not hire them, such as American corporation Blackwater operations in Iraq. When Blackwater operatives abused women, and children and tortured civilians as part of counter-terrorism operations in Fallujah, the Iraqi people there killed four of them. This violent reaction has ” been the only justice the employees received for their crimes.” The actions of these Iraqis was also not, strictly speaking, illegal because the PMCs were not military personnel allied with the Iraqi government.

PMCs are supposed to replace real military personnel, but their lack of training and professionalism has made them a hindrance to the militaries they are supposed to support. The modern PMCs are desperate to keep overhead costs low, and so “sources and trains private military personnel from Latin America with minimal education and no military experience”[4] and ” these agents are paid as little as $1,000 per month”4. This lack of proper training makes the individual operatives unable to cope with the intricacies of the modern battlefield, and the low pay creates frustration and lack of motivation. There is also a lack of professionalism among PMCs, because they lack reverence for the cause and organisation they are serving with. This has led to a loss of cohesiveness amongst mercenaries, who have nothing to unite them except their paychecks. The fact is PMCs can do jobs like transportation and administration, but cannot replace actual military personnel.

PMCs pose a myriad of dangers to the states that employ them, making them the double edged swords of modern warfare. The financial motivations of these companies, along with their lack of infrastructure and lack of scruples are what make PMCs so poisonous to the countries today. The PMC is a corporation, and so is driven solely by a fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders. Corporations like DynCorp make three billion dollars, paid mostly before their deployments. This guaranteed payment regardless of quality of work removes the need for self-discipline in DynCorp, this “earned the firm a trigger-happy reputation as its soldiers fought rebel groups in Columbia in the early 2000s.”[5] The other danger of PMCs is their lack of loyalty to a state or ideology, which has led to rogue PMCs conducting illegal operations abroad. There are several documented examples of mercenaries in Africa attempting government overthrows for unknown employers, one “group, led by Nick Du Toit and former SAS member Simon Mann, were planning a coup in Equatorial Guinea.”[6] (refer Appendix B) The greatest threat of PMCs are their ruthlessness when on deployment, which historically has led to several tragedies. When a crowd in Iraq(refer Appendix C) appeared to be getting agitated the PMCs used excessive violence to quiet them, and “Four Blackwater guards have been found guilty of killing 14 people and injuring 17 more in a 2007 shooting in Baghdad’s Nisour Square.”[7] This shows clear the ruthless, and inconsiderate nature of PMCs, and why they present such a problem for professional armies today.

PMCs also pose several latent dangers which, while not obvious now, have the potential to be even more devastating. The possible dangers of the continued use of mercenaries are PMCs making warfare deceptively easy, and lobbying for increased military operations. As of today 468 private contractors have died in Iraq.[8] Yet these deaths are never displayed on news networks or in newspapers, which allows states to wage wars without their citizens becoming concerned. Wars becoming easier will lead to more of them, and a disconnect between the population declaring war and the conflict itself. The second possibility is more alarming because of its inevitability, PMCs paying elected representatives to wage wars and thereby manufacture the need for PMC contracts. “The Defence Contractors, along with the PMCs, are one of the interests groups with powerful control over policy and decision making in the US Congress.”[9] This may lead to a cycle of incessant warfare, where PMCs use their wealth to lobby Congress and other governments to declare a war, and use the profits they generate from that war to lobby for more. The dangers are not obvious now, but evidence does suggest that the PMCs will make them a reality.

Private military companies are abundant today, with the industry worth over $100 billion a year. These companies have fully integrated themselves into the US military, and so have a great deal of control over when, where and why the US wages war. PMCs do reduce the costs of a deployment, so it is impossible for countries to ban their use, nor should they be banned as they serve a useful function. However the use of mercenaries must be strictly monitored, and regulated to ensure they obey the rules of engagement. It is only when these companies operate unchecked that illegal actions occur, and the UN, NATO, ICRC, and various watchdog groups must keep these “dogs of war” on a tight leash.

Footnotes

[1], Todd S. Milliard, Overcoming Post-Colonial Myopia a Call to Recognize and Regulate Private Military Companies. Diss. Judge Advocate General’s School, (United States Army Journal, 2003) 214.

[2] Additions to Geneva Convention (ICRC, 2014).

[3] Rolf Uesseler, Servants of War: Private Military Corporations and the Profit of Conflict, trans. Jefferson Chase (Brooklyn, New York: Soft Skull Press, 2008) 146.

[4] Private Military Companies:Beyond Blackwater.(The Economist, 2013)

[5], Luke McKenna and Robert Johnson, A Look At The World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Armies (Business Insider)

[6] Adam Roberts, The Wonga Coup: The British Mercenary Plot to Seize Oil Billions in Africa (Egjustice.org, 2009)

[7] Meredith Clark, Blackwater Guards Found Guilty in Nissour Square Massacre (MSNBC ,2009)

[8] Private Military Companies: Beyond Blackwater. (The Economist, 2013)

[9] Mario Zorro, Defence Contractors and Private Military Contractors: Armourers, Mercenaries, and Politics (Mediums.com, 2011)

PMCA.png

PMCB.png

PMCC.png

Works Cited

 “Additions to Geneva Convention.” Icrc.org. ICRC, 2014. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.

Clark, Meredith. “Blackwater Guards Found Guilty in Nissour Square Massacre.” Msnbc.com. MSNBC, 22 Oct. 2014. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.

Isenberg, David. “Why Fighting Pirates Is Both Good and Bad for PSC.”The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 30 Oct. 2012. Web. 17 Sept. 2014.

Johnson, Luke McKenna and Robert. “A Look At The World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Armies.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 26 Feb. 2012. Web. 17 Sep. 2014.

Milliard, Todd S. Overcoming Post-colonial Myopia a Call to Recognize and Regulate Private Military Companies. Diss. Judge Advocate General’s School, United States Army, 2003. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

“Private Military Companies: Beyond Blackwater.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 23 Nov. 2013. Web. 22 Sep 2014.

Roberts, Adam. “The Wonga Coup: The British Mercenary Plot to Seize Oil Billions in Africa.” Egjustice.org. EG Justice, 2009. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.

Uesseler, Rolf, and Rolf Uesseler. Servants of War: Private Military Corporations and the Profit of Conflict. Brooklyn: Soft Skull, 2008. Print.

Zorro, Mario. “Defence Contractors and Private Military Contractors: Armourers, Mercenaries, and Politics.” Mediums.com. Mediums, n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.

Police

Police

While on our trip to Ottawa, the Canadian capitol city, with Guillaume Le Floch, the French exchange student, we wanted to get to the National War Museum. We could not find the way, so Nikhil and Guillaume approached two police officers to find the way. A chat ensued between the police officers and the two teens and they ended up snapping photos with them.

A few days later, on a long drive to see the native aboriginal village, we wanted to stop at a coffee shop for a break. We did not spot one for a long time and hence I decided to pull off the road and search for one on the GPS. A police cruiser pulled up behind our car and an officer came to ask whether we needed any assistance. I rather sheepishly said that we were looking for a coffee shop to which the officer said that GPS will not help you as an outlet of Tim Hortons has recently been opened and to reach there he advised us to turn back, drive 500 meters and turn right at the intersection. We thanked him and drove to the coffee shop for a much deserved break.

During the coffee break Guillaume said that he would never have asked a police officer in France for such an assistance. The modern police institution in France has remained an instrument of state, regardless of who happens to hold state power. During the Second World War (1940-45), when France was occupied by Germany, the police became an instrument of suppression by the occupier. French police, from the time of the French Revolution to date have been used for handling various demonstrations by public and hence have an image of being unfriendly to the citizens. This has created a gap between the police and the people, especially the youth in France.

The first Canadian police officers recorded in the history books worked in Quebec City in 1651 and their duty was to act as night watchmen for the community. Today, policing in Canada is carried out at three levels: federal, provincial and municipal. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) operate at the federal level in all provinces and territories. At the provincial level, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Quebec Police and the Newfoundland Constabulary operate as provincial police services. Crime control and order maintenance are the primary police in which crime control activities occupy less than 25% of police time.

Community-based policing has gone a long way ahead in Canada and it involves a full partnership between the community and its police in identifying and reducing local crime. Crime prevention is the joint task of both the community and the police, and this joint effort is carried out within an interactive, cooperative and reciprocal relationship.

The increasingly multicultural nature of Canadian society is having an impact on Canadian policing. Complaints about the police by members of ethno-cultural and visible minorities include over- policing of their communities, random stops and searches, discrimination in the use of police power, ‘blaming the victim’ when the victim is a member of a minority group and underrepresentation of minorities within police organizations. The governments at all levels have taken many initiatives that address police-minority relations.

One such initiative is the Youth Education Bureau of the police that works in partnership with the Health Department and the School Boards to create a positive and safe learning environment within the school system. The Officers of the Youth Education Bureau are responsible for initiating the SAFE (Schools Against Fearful Environments) programs to their individual schools. In this programme, the staff, parents and the police work together to ensure a safe environment at school and in the community. The programme ensures that the students are given a voice in their school. Any concerns raised is worked on through a focused plan of action. Each officer is assigned approximately 30 schools and they deliver various presentations and participate in special events hosted by their schools.

Project RAID (Reduce Abuse in Drugs), is a seven-part drug education and awareness program delivered by a team of dedicated officers at all middle and high schools.  The police have established a Children’s Safety Village, which receives students on a fun educational trip in grades 1 to 5 to educate the students on road and personal safety.

The officers visit various schools and interact with the students. For Grades 1 and 2 they cover, bullying, street proofing/ pedestrian safety and stranger awareness. For Grades 3, internet security is added to the above list. For Grades 4 and 5, introduction to drugs and tobacco is also added. For Grades 6, 7 and 8, drug abuse prevention, youth crime, youth gangs are in addition to the above.

In addition the Neighbourhood Policing Officers work with the area high schools to maintain a presence with our youth population. They work directly with teachers, parents and the community to ensure that the youth are on the right path to a great future.

There is a system of Co-op placements with the police for students of Grade 12 as well as those in college or university. Co-op placements follow school semesters and are available for 15 weeks. To be eligible for the co-op placement program, students must be attending college or university and be enrolled in a co-op or work term program at their institution of learning.

Police and the Canadian Forces through Army Cadet Movement are long-time partners in developing the youth through the Cadet Organization Police School (COPS). The mandate of this programme is to develop youth into leaders within the community. Many of these graduates have progressed to become active members of the Police, while others have succeeded in different areas of the community.

The interactions between students and the police has ensured that there exists a warm, welcoming and community-oriented relationship between the citizens and the police. The confidence built up through these programmes have ensured a high level of confidence in the police. It is not uncommon for people of all ages to seek police assistance in any eventuality, at times for routine route directions or even a help to change a flat tyre. This is what every citizen of any country wants their police to be.

After a Snow Storm in Canada

Snow Storm

Snow storms results in accumulating snow on the roads resulting in driving becoming hazardous. The municipal governments are mostly responsible for ensuring that the roadways, back lanes, sidewalks, active transportation trails and designated park pathways in such a manner so as to provide safe and accessible operating conditions for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians; reduce the hazards of icy road conditions; and facilitate the handling of emergencies by Police, Fire and Ambulance Services during the winter.

Salters are sent out at the start of the storm when snowfalls do not exceed 8 cm (3″) and plows are sent to clear the roads when the snow on the roads is accumulating faster than the salt can melt it away (when snowfall exceeds 8 cm). Main roads with high traffic volume are cleared first. Streets with less traffic volumes and lower speeds are cleared after the main roads to ensure that residents, and emergency service vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances, can safely travel to hospitals, schools, work and get to public transportation systems during or immediately after a snowfall.

The municipalities employ trucks for many horticultural activities during spring and summer. They are used for tree planting/pruning/cutting, watering (mounted with a water tank), grass cutting (mounted with a tractor), landscaping, etc. By fall, these vehicles (trucks and tractors) are fitted with a light dozer blade in the front and a salt dispense is mounted on to the body. The trucks are used for plowing the roads and the tractors for the walkways. They doze the snow away in the front while spreading slat from the back. The highway construction/maintenance companies also modify their trucks for snow plowing. These trucks travel at about 100 kmph on the highways plowing the snow, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUds1pWKMjs)

Approximately 150 kilograms per Canadian is used on roads each year to make them safe for travel in winter. In Ontario the salt comes from the world’s largest salt mine is located on the eastern shore of Lake Huron in Goderich.

How does salt act as an ice melter? All icy surfaces have a thin layer of water. When salt (Sodium Chloride NaCl) applied to such surfaces, salt starts to dissolve. This ionises the salt into positively charged sodium and negatively charged chlorine ions. These ions, in turn, react with water molecules and form hydrated ions (charged ions joined to water molecules). This process gives off heat, because hydrates are more stable than the individual ions. That energy then melts microscopic parts of the ice surface. When an automobile drives over the ice, the pressure helps force the salt into the ice and more of this hydration occurs.

The ice-cream makers of the pre-refrigerator days employed the same principle (freezing point depression). The ice and salt mixture ensured that the temperature was well below the freezing mark (0 degrees C), even though the ice melted.

Environment Canada has recognized that salt has adverse impacts on wildlife, plants, water and soil, and in 2001 considered adding it to the country’s list of the most toxic substances. Instead, in 2004, the government instituted a voluntary code of practices to encourage municipalities and others to use the de-icer more sparingly, while maintaining highway safety. But with the vast amount used, huge quantities are still polluting soil and water. It noted that after winter thaws, there were spikes in the amount of salt in streams, with those taking runoff from the main highways having approximately double the concentration of the pollutant than watercourses nearby that don’t take its storm water. Environment Canada says it is currently reviewing whether the voluntary practices code has led to any reduction in the amount of salt being spread on roads.

Pre-wetting is the process of spraying salt with a liquid de-icing agent (salt brine) before spreading the salt on the roadway. A salt brine solution on the roads before any expected freezing temperatures. The liquid starts to work before the precipitation starts to freeze. It works immediately and acts like a barrier between the road and the snow/ice, so it doesn’t stick to the road and cause slippery conditions. If no precipitation happens, the salt brine stays on the road and last for several days. Pre-wetting results in less salt being spread, saving money and minimizing the threat to the environment. Wet salt clings to the road instead of bouncing off or being swept off by traffic.

A living snow fence is a barrier created by plants, shrubs and trees to reduce snow blown across roads. Planting trees and shrubs is not only more attractive and more environmentally-friendly than building a wood fence, but also more convenient than putting up and taking down traditional snow fences. Snow fences force wind to go around and through a fence. This causes the wind to lose energy and speed. As the speed of the wind slows, the snow forms a drift before or behind the snow fence. How much snow a fence traps depends on the height of the fence and the amount of snow that falls. Manufactured snow fences are installed next to roadways that experience lots of blowing snow.

Another effective snow fence is standing corn in the corn fields all along the roads. Each year in late summer participating farmers leave a swath of standing corn (six to 12 rows wide), parallel to the road and about 20 metres from the road. Farmers are compensated for this.

Delayed flights during and after a snow storm is common in Canada. Salt can never be used on an aircraft due to its high corrosion properties. The delay is mostly due to the de-icing activity carried out on all aircrafts prior to take-off.

The problem of ice or snow forming over the wings and tail of the aircrafts is a major concern as it would adversely affect the performance of the aircraft, especially at take-off as the lift may be reduced. This ice has to be removed and the airports in Canada are equipped with deicers. These are vehicles that spray a mixture of a glycol and water, heated and sprayed under pressure to remove ice and snow on the aircraft surfaces.

While it removes ice and snow, deicing fluid has a limited ability to prevent further ice from forming. If winter precipitation is falling, such as snow, freezing rain or sleet, anti-icing fluid is applied after the deicing process is complete. This fluid is of a higher concentration of glycol than deicing fluid. It has a freezing point well below zero degrees Celsius and therefore is able to prevent the precipitation that falls into it from freezing on the aircraft’s surface. Anti-icing fluid also has an additive that thickens it more than deicing fluid to help it stick to aircraft surfaces as it speeds down the runway during takeoff.

The School Bus

Schoolbus
Driving through the residential area to work or to drop off children at the school, one got to cater for a few extra minutes to stop for school buses. The rule in Canada and US is that whether on a city street, highway or county road, and regardless of the speed limit and the number of lanes, motorists travelling in both directions must stop when approaching a stopped school bus with its upper red lights flashing. A flashing stop arm will swing out while passengers are boarding or leaving the bus. While stopping behind a school bus, the drivers got to ensure that they are at least 20 meters away. Once all passengers have boarded or disembarked, the ‘Stop’ arm will fold away. Any infringement to this rule fines ranging from $400 to $2,000. School bus drivers and other witnesses can report vehicles that have illegally passed a school bus. The modern school buses are fitted with cameras to record events inside and outside the bus.

School buses have been specifically designed and equipped to carry students. Therefore, they are one of the only vehicles on the road with their size and design that maximizes the safety for children. The highly distinguishable ‘National School Bus Chrome’ colour later renamed as ‘National School Bus Glossy Yellow’ as the lead was removed from the pigment.  Black markings on an yellow background is meant to attract visual attention of any driver or pedestrian.

All school buses are equipped with flashing lights and a stop arm, which swing out whenever a child is being picked up or dropped off from the bus. These signals are used to indicate to traffic approaching from both sides of the road to come to a full stop and to remain so until the indicator has been deactivated. The crossing arm when deployed, ensures that the students who have to cross the road before boarding or after leaving their bus, have to go around it and thus are always at a safe distance away from the front bumper. This enables the driver to see them, or locate them in the bus mirrors. School bus design includes strategically placed grid of six mirrors, three on either sides (two convex and one plain mirror), that allow the driver 360 degrees visibility.

Transport Canada, after analysis of various accidents involving school buses have decided to do away with seat belts in school buses. The current school bus design provides a high level of protection to occupants and that seat belts may trap the children on school buses in case of an accident. School buses protect passengers through “compartmentalisation”, a design that includes seats filled with energy-absorbing material and high backs seats anchored strongly and placed close together to form compartments. In case of a collision, these special compartments would absorb the impact dispersing it throughout the entire body as opposed to solely the head and neck.

Studies have shown that adding seat belts to the current seating configuration of a school bus can increase the chance of head and neck injuries. For a seat belt to be effective, it must be worn correctly, snug and on the upper thighs. Because school vehicles carry passengers from the very young to high school students, if seat belts were used, they would need to be readjusted and their use monitored. A seat belt not worn correctly may cause serious injuries.

Raised floors in the school bus ensures that in the event a vehicle collides with a school bus, that vehicle will impact beneath the seated passengers, since the school bus seats are above the crash line. Structural strength and integrity of the joints between body panels of buses ensure protection in rollover-type accidents. Burn resistance form materials are used inside the school bus.  A protective cage is provided for the fuel tank to reduce the possibility of fuel leaks. The windows are made of shatter proof glass.

Most school buses employ GPS systems to provide the exact location and speed of a school bus at any time. They also have an on-board electronic reminder system that reminds drivers to check for sleeping children before leaving the bus.

For the purposes of evacuation, school buses are equipped with a minimum of at least one emergency exit in addition to the main entry door. The rear-mounted emergency exit door is a design feature retained from when school buses were horse-drawn wagons and the entrance door was rear-mounted to avoid frightening the horses.

Many cases were reported about the clothing of students getting entangled in the handrail at the entrance, resulting in a fall or a major accident. The most common piece of clothing that can be snagged on the handrail is a jacket with a drawstring at the waist. These drawstrings commonly have a large bobble or knot at the ends that can become lodged in the handrail. However, other articles of such as scarves , long straps on backpacks, or dangling key chains can also be snagged on the handrail. The redesigned handrails minimises entanglement by filling in the gaps with rubber washers.

At the start of each day, the school bus driver has to conduct daily safety inspections, read instruments and gauges, perform routine tests, and confirm proper mirror adjustments. The inspection is recorded in a vehicle logbook to prevent and minimize mechanical breakdowns. Post-trip inspections are performed to verify that every child has exited the bus at the appropriate stop. In addition to regular mechanical maintenance and daily vehicle inspections by the driver, a Motor Vehicle Inspection Station will perform at least two mechanical inspections each year on every school bus in Ontario. School buses are also subjected to unannounced roadside safety inspections at their intended destination rather than at the roadside to avoid inconvenience to the students.

The prime need to keep our children safe at all times is a national responsibility. Redesigning the school buses to make them safer is an ongoing process and will continue to evolve to make our children safer.

110 Volts Vs 220 Volts

Electric Plugs

Travelling to Europe and India from Canada, one faces the problem of carrying adapters, plugs, converters etc, all because Canada uses 110 Volts with Europe and India operating on 220 Volts. Thankfully nowadays most electronic and electrical equipment come suitably modified to work on both the voltages.

The complicated system of plugs and sockets followed in different countries adds to the vows an international traveller faces. Why can’t they design a system like the Universal Serial Bus (USB) used in all modern gizmos to make life easier? The switch positions as whether ‘up’ or ‘down’ is the ‘on’ position adds to the confusion. Why can’t they employ a system like Double Pull Double Throw (DPDT) switches as the ones used in computers and modern digital equipment? Why no standard is followed all over the world for a basic necessity?

In 1882, Thomas Edison’s General Electric Company was distributing Direct Current (DC) electricity at 110 Volts in the United States. Transmission losses and generation costs led to the development of Alternating Currents (AC), Nikola Tesla was the first to devise a system of AC electricity at 240 Volts.   Most modern electronic systems like computers and cell phones all use DC. The charging systems in all these use AC as it is easy to convert AC to DC.

The original reason behind the decision to use 110 Volts was that the carbon filaments Edison was using in his light bulbs lasted far longer at this voltage. As technology improved and metal filaments became more readily available for light bulbs, one of Germany’s first electric utility companies decided to up the voltage to 220 Volts. In doing so increased their overall distribution capacity.

Originally Europe was 110 Volts too, just like Canada and the US today. It has been deemed necessary to increase voltage to get more power with less losses and voltage drop from the same copper wire diameter. At the time the US also wanted to change but because of the cost involved to replace all electric appliances, they decided not to. At the time (50s-60s) the average US household already had a fridge, a washing-machine, etc, but not in Europe.

In order to understand the power transmission system better, a look into the Ontario Province’s (where I live in Canada) electric supply system would benefit.

Ontario’s electricity supply is a diverse mix of sources – nuclear, hydro, gas, coal, wind and, to a much smaller degree, solar, wood waste and biogas.   52 per cent of our electrical power comes from nuclear generation, 23 per cent from hydro plants, 19 per cent from gas, four per cent from wind, one per cent from coal and a very small amount from other sources.

The power plant produces three different phases of AC power simultaneously. There are four wires coming out of every power plant, the three phases plus a neutral or ground common to all three.

The three-phase power leaves the generator and enters a transmission substation at the power plant. This substation uses large transformers to convert the generator’s voltage (which is at the thousands of Volts level) up to extremely high voltages for long-distance transmission on the transmission grid. Typical voltages for long distance transmission are in the range of 155,000 to 765,000 Volts in order to reduce transmission losses.

This high voltage power is transmitted from the generating station to the electric sub-stations using towers with three wires for the three phases. Many towers have extra wires running along the tops of the towers. These are ground wires to attract lightning.

The electric sub-stations steps down the voltage from “transmission” to “distribution” levels. The sub-station is equipped with transformers that step transmission voltages down to distribution voltages (usually 7,200 Volts).. It has a ‘bus’ that can split the distribution power off in multiple directions. It has circuit breakers and switches so that the substation can be disconnected from the transmission grid or separate distribution lines can be disconnected from the substation when necessary.

The 7,200 Volts power is transmitted from the electric sub-stations by power lines to the transformers outside the homes. Modern sub-divisions have underground power supply systems. Outside four or five blocks of houses, the transformers are housed in green boxes. In rural areas and in thinly populated sub-divisions, the electric poles hold a transformer in white drums.

These transformers steps down the power to two phases of 110 Volts. 110 Volts cannot be transmitted over long distances without acceptable losses. This calls for more transformers; nearly one per every four to five households. The 220 Volts system saves on the transformer costs.

There are two wires running out of the transformer and a ground wires running to the house. The two wires from the transformer each carry 110 Volts in two phases. This arrangement allows usage both 110 and 220-Volt (two-phases combined) for appliances like cooking ranges, dryers etc. The 110 Volts system uses two phases with a phase difference of 180 degrees to create 220 Volts and the 220 Volts system uses three phases with a phase difference of 120 degrees to create 440 Volts for use with high power domestic and industrial equipment. As the 110 Volts systems uses only two phases, the AC frequency is generally at 60 Hertz as compared to 50 Hertz in the 220 Volt system which uses three phases.

Customers in Ontario are billed based on the electricity consumed and the time it is consumed. It is achieved by using ‘smart meters’ which measures power usage based on three time-of-use periods:

  • Off-peak – when energy demand is low and less expensive sources of electricity are used
  • Mid-peak – when the cost of energy and demand are moderate
  • On-peak – when demand is highest and more expensive forms of electricity production are used.

Comparison between 220 Volts over 110 Volts

  • From the safety view-point, 110 Volts having lesser voltage results in lesser shock and thus less injuries or death due to electrocution.
  • 220 Volts generate more heat across a particular fault, thus more vulnerable to fire accidents. Burnt out sockets where the plug is loosely fitted is a testimony to it.
  • 220 Volts circuits tend to use thinner gauge wire, thus saving copper/raw materials.
  • 110 Volts systems use less costly plugs and connectors when compared to the 220 Volts systems.

Until the standardisation is achieved, electricity, plugs and sockets will all remain a troubling element for any international traveller.

Movember

Movember

The word “Movember” is derived from the combination of the word “mo”, which is the Australian-English abbreviated form for “mustache” and “November”, as the event takes place every year during the month of November. This involves growing of mustaches in order to raise awareness of different men’s health issues like prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health challenges. Using the moustache as a catalyst, Movember encourages men to invest in their own health by more openly talking about their health concerns and more proactively seeking necessary medical care. The idea is to bring about change and give men the opportunity and confidence to learn and talk about their health and take action when needed.

Participants of Movember are called “Mo Bros”. This year our son Nikhil decided to be a “Mo-Bro” at his high school and hence grew all facial hair for a month. At the end of it he decided not shave it off. The students did succeed in raising about the men’s health issues and also collect money during a charity event at the school.

The women taking part in Movember are called “Mo Sistas”. Mo Sistas are not necessarily encouraged to grow mustaches of their own, but to support the cause, spread the word and encourage guys to become a walking billboard for the charity.

The idea of Movember originated in 1999, when a group of men from Adelaide, Australia decided to grow their mustaches for charity during the month of November. Then the Movember foundation came into existence. The goal and motto of the foundation is to “change the face of men’s health.” The movement has gone global and today is well supported in New Zealand, the US, Canada, UK, Finland, Netherlands, Spain, South Africa and Ireland. From 30 Mo Bros in Melbourne, Australia in 2003 to 4 million Mo’s by 2013, Movember, through the power of the moustache, has become a truly global movement that is changing the face of men’s health.

Some of the celebrities who have endorsed the Movember movement are Australian World Surfing Champion Mick Fanning, 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button, UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar, New Zealand’s national rugby captain Richie McCaw and US actor Nick Offerman who worked on a series of videos for the movement. Indian cricketers Ravindra Jadeja and Shikhar Dhawan, and Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh have been the prominent faces of the movement in India.

The best part is that the shaving and razor supplier Schick, is one of the biggest partners of Movember.

As stated on Movember.com, the poor current state of men’s health can often be attributed more to lifestyle than biology. Some causes include:

  • Lack of awareness and understanding about men’s health issues
  • Men not openly discussing their health and how they’re feeling
  • Reluctance to take action when men don’t feel physically or mentally well
  • Men engaging in risky activities that threaten their health
  • Stigmas surrounding both physical and mental health

According to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research of Cancer, the number of prostate cancer cases is expected to nearly double to 1.7 million in less than 20 years. The Movember movement hopes to inspire more men around the world to better attend to their physical and psychological needs. Hence we can see an improvement on current statistics, like these:

  • 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime.
  • Over 238,000 new cases of the disease will be diagnosed and almost 30,000 men will die of prostate cancer every year.
  • Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in males between the ages of 15 and 35.
  • Men who sit more than six hours a day have an 18 percent increased risk of dying from heart disease and a 7.8 percent increased chance of dying from diabetes compared with someone who sits for three hours or less a day.
  • Globally, 5.3 million deaths will be attributed to physical inactivity.
  • 24% of men are less likely to go to the doctor compared to women.

As a global men’s health movement, the Movember Foundation has the ambition to contribute to improving the lives of men around the world. This will be achieved through programs in the areas of – Awareness & Education, Living with Cancer, Research and Mental Health through:

  • Reduced mortality from prostate, testicular cancer and men’s suicide
  • Men living with prostate or testicular cancer being physically and mentally well
  • Men and boys understanding how to be mentally healthy and taking action when they experience mental health problems
  • Men and boys with mental health problems not being discriminated against

Some mustache trivia:-

  • An Indian man holds the record for the longest growing mustache. According to Guinness World Records, Ram Singh Chauhan has a mustache that spans 14 feet long. He has been growing it since 1982, after a friend with a 7-foot-long mustache suggested it,
  • A man spends an average of five months of his life shaving if he starts at the age of 14 — assuming that he lives until he’s 75 years old.
  • In a deck of cards the King of Hearts is the only king without a mustache.
  • Contrary to popular belief, Charlie Chaplain didn’t actually wear his moustache on a daily basis. It was removable, and he wore it only because, “Well, it’s amusing enough to add something to the routine, but it allows me to keep my facial expressions.”
  • William Taft was the first US President (1909-1913) to have a car and the last to wear a moustache in office