Formula 1 returns to Austin, Texas, for the sixth time, and for the second time the venue could see Lewis Hamilton crowned F1 champion – if results go his way.

CircuitofAmericas.png

When the Circuit of the Americas was designed, inspiration was drawn from several other venues, including Silverstone’s famous Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel sequence, the Senna Ss at Interlagos, and some of Hockenheim’s big bends. The track also features a big uphill charge to the first corner, and turn 1 is a big, beefy left-hander, on one of F1’s rarities – a counter-clockwise circuit.

Since the inaugural event here in 2012, the US Grand Prix has enjoyed something of a boon in popularity, which is good for Formula 1. F1 has traditionally struggled to crack the US market, despite at one stage hosting races at the spiritual home of US motorsport, Indianapolis. The on-going success of the Austin venue might finally mean that F1 can look forward to a long-term presence State-side.

The British are Coming

Lewis Hamilton has won at COTA four out of five times, including the opening race in 2012. The only other winner here is Sebastian Vettel, who won for Red Bull in 2013. Hamilton’s dominance of the venue saw him claim the title here in 2015, following an exciting and dramatic semi-wet grand prix, which including a very bullish push past Nico Rosberg into turn 1, and a late spin from Rosberg to hand Hamilton the win and the title. From 2017’s perspective, a Hamilton win would leave Vettel needing to finish no lower than fifth to keep the title fight alive for another round, whilst if Hamilton were second, Vettel could afford to finish no lower than eighth. Should Hamilton finish third or lower, the title race would definitely rumble on to Mexico.

Wet Weather

It’s entirely possible for rain to impact the race on Sunday. If that happens, it could bring the Red Bulls into play, whilst it could make things more interesting between the Mercs and Ferraris. Rain might also inspire McLaren to a points finish, whereas dry weather, with some of the powerful straights, could hinder them.

Opportunities

The pit straight is a DRS zone, so expect overtakes, or least attempts, into turn 1. If a driver can stay close through the bendy section (turns 3-9), there could be chances at turn 11, whilst turn 12 comes at the end of another DRS zone, so there will be more opportunities there. This could be a good race for overtakes and battles.

img_0710We are now five episodes in to the sixth TV incarnation of Star Trek. I don’t think it wise to judge a show on so few episodes (if we judged TNG by the first few episodes, or indeed the first season, what would we make of it?), however there’s enough material for me to put pen to paper, and offer up my early thoughts on this show.

I’d describe it as something of a slow-burner. The first two episodes don’t involve the main setting (the ship Discovery) and instead forge the backdrop to the show – a war with the Klingon Empire. With each episode, I feel the show has gotten stronger, as we begin to establish the characters. Of particular fascination is Captain Lorca, whose methods are quite different to previous Starfleet captains, whilst lead character Michael Burnham is outwardly methodical, almost to the point of being ruthless in pursuit of what she believes to be the best outcome, but internally conflicted. Tilly is quite a nervous young woman who is trying to overcome anxiety and her character is subtly raising awareness of this issue.

Stamets is a science officer and Star Trek’s first openly gay character in a TV series. So far, his character has not been defined by being gay (always a danger by a well-meaning yet ignorant production), and instead he has cut a frustrated figure, as an arrogant scientist who nonetheless wants his ideas to benefit humanity, yet seems them co-opted by Starfleet to aid in their war with the Klingons.

Saru is second-in-command of the Discovery and this character served alongside Burnham on the Shenzhou, and therefore was present as Burnham committed mutiny and arguably started the war. He is therefore not exactly enamoured with Burnham and their relationship is a tense one.

Burnham (played by former Walking Dead actor Sonequa Martin-Green) is a complex character. Her parents appear to have been killed in a Klingon raid on a joint human/Vulcan facility and she was raised by Sarek (Spock’s father). As a result she has incorporated elements of Vulcan philosophy, such as adherence to logic, however this is overridden – or tempered – by – human emotion and instinct. Burnham is quite prepared to circumvent authority if she believes she is justified, even though this has caused her tremendous problems in the past.

On the Klingons

klingon-star-trek-discovery-from-trailer

They’ve undergone a major visual change, both in terms of their appearance and also their outfits, as well as the décor of their ships (mind you, Federation ships are notably different to the TOS era). Given that the show is set just ten years prior to the events of the original series, this creates a bit of a stylistic issue. I have no problem with modernising the overall aesthetic of the show, but some of the changes have been quite drastic, and I’ve wondered a few times during the course of the show so far, if it might have been better off marketing itself as a reboot.

The F Bomb

The Star Trek TV shows don’t tend to feature swearing, and least of all ‘fuck’. That’s not to say that swearing is completely absent, and the movies (especially the Kelvin-verse films) have featured swears on a few occasions. That said, the F-word on Star Trek was unexpected, but it’s hardly the huge deal (at least, in this meerkat’s humble opinion) that some quarters are making it out to be. There is a perception that Star Trek is and always has been a family show, yet large chunks of Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise moved away from being aimed at a family audience – they might have been about families, this doesn’t mean they were for families. The Kelvin-verse films are not, in my view, appropriate for younger children and it’s an individual judgement call as to whether you let older kids watch them.

I’m also not sure of the action sequences. The space battles have been a touch too disorganised for me, in that I’ve found them a little hard to follow. This isn’t to say they’ve been bad, but I can’t call them great either.

Final Thoughts

I’m warming to Discovery. I’ve read a lot of things elsewhere from people who are determined to hate the show, but then, a lot of these people were determined to hate the show before it had even aired. Not everyone can handle change, yet if Star Trek remained static, it would fade away. Just look at what happened with Enterprise (which was basically an second attempt at recreating TNG, following on from Voyager). Star Trek cannot stubbornly stick to the same approach and expect to remain relevant; nor can it expect to maintain or expand its appeal by sticking to a tired formula. Discovery isn’t perfect, but it is trying to be different, which is no bad thing. So far, 7.5/10.

 

So I’m walking home from the station on Friday, and I have my headphones in, grooving to some tunes (ok, I don’t groove in public, but you get the idea), when a man starts waving at me.

At first I thought, ‘do we know each other?’ However it became clear I had no idea who he was. He was pleasant enough, but it became clear as to why he’d stopped me, when he asked ‘what do you think of the world today?’

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Cue a conversation about light and darkness, good and evil, and God. I have nothing against people of the faith, but he actually walked with me without taking the hint that I wasn’t really keen to have this conversation in an underpass on the way home from a long day at work.

This is the final part of a little discussion I’ve been having regarding guns, with one ‘Virus-X’. This final part of the exchange formed my final comment to him on this matter, which firstly got put into a moderation queue (not necessarily unusual), and then disappeared. I therefore post it here, and have also archived the original post by Virus-X, as well as the entire exchange, via the Wayback Machine, for posterity and accuracy. It should be noted that I do not regard Virus-X as representing the attitudes of any and every American toward guns, and that I have no problem with gun ownership per se. I do have to wonder why the idea that virtually unregulated access to weapons is seen as somehow making society safer, when all the evidence points to the opposite.

[QUOTE]By the way, how many of those homicides were justifiable? You do realize there is a distinction between justifiable homicide, and unjustifiable homicide, right? And, previously, you were complaining about my bringing up the UK and other nations. Actually, YOU were the first one to do that. I never mentioned it anywhere in the article, and it wasn’t mentioned, until you tried using it as a justification for an argument to violate Human Rights in the United States, as they are in the UK.[/QUOTE]

This will be, for now, my final direct response to you on this issue (though I reserve the right to dissect your posts in more detail, via my own site, if I feel it a worthy use of my time).

If you’re going to claim that somehow, the vast majority of the much higher homicides in the USA are justifiable, whilst elsewhere, they’re not, then I’ll trust you to back up your claims. Meanwhile, I’ll point out (yet again), that the national comparison is one where *you* wanted to make this solely about the USA and UK, whereas I was always making a wider comparison, one that you didn’t want to acknowledge. Furthermore, anyone glancing at the comments will see that my first comment didn’t mention other nations at all – your reply on the other hand, kept mentioning how we’re apparently not free here in the UK, and after that, I brought up several other nations as a point of comparison, whilst you have fixated on a simple UK vs US comparison.

By the way, if you practice what you preach and actually *look* at the details, you’ll see that the data on homicides involves intentional homicide (in other words, murder). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

[QUOTE]And if you’ve been doing your homework, you’re not getting a passing grade. I haven’t ignored gun homicide, at all. The whole article was pointing to the fact that many unjustifiable homicides would be prevented, if more potential victims were armed. So, no, you’re wrong, again, in suggesting I’m “ignoring” it, at all. You, on the other hand, completely ignore, time and again, every answer presented in every evidentiary video, so I’m not going to present them, anymore, because you only look at what you want to look at, while accusing me of doing the same thing.[/QUOTE]

You *are* ignoring evidence, in favour of Youtube videos. Every piece of statistical data demonstrates that countries with more robust gun laws have lower homicide rates. As mentioned in my previous post (which you have must have skimmed through), the total murder rates of the UK, Japan and France are *lower* than the USA’s murder rate with guns alone. It’s not a co-incidence that all three nations have stronger gun regulations than the USA.

I asked you why the US has a DEcreasing problem with violent crime, while experiencing an INcrease in legal gun ownership. Again, you ignored the question, and continued to make comparisons to the UK, France and Canada, dodging the question.[/QUOTE]

I haven’t dodged anything. You more or less admitted that the measuring criteria between the UK and USA is different and haven’t been able to justify why we should apply different yardsticks.

I quote:

DEFINING VIOLENT CRIME ==============================

United Kingdom:

“Violent crime contains a wide range of offences, from minor assaults such as pushing and shoving that result in no physical harm through to serious incidents of wounding and murder. Around a half of violent incidents identified by both BCS and police statistics involve no injury to the victim.” (THOSB – CEW, page 17, paragraph 1.)

United States:

“In the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Violent crimes are defined in the UCR Program as those offenses which involve force or threat of force.”   (FBI – CUS – Violent Crime)

So in the UK there is a much broader definition of violent crime, covering a wider range of incidents.

When the numbers are looked into more thoroughly (I suggest you read this link – https://dispellingthemythukvsusguns.wordpress.com/), it appears you are in fact more likely to be a victim of rape in the US, more likely to be raped, much more likely to be murdered, and more likely to be a victim of aggravated assault. This rather rubbishes the implication that the UK is a more dangerous place than the USA. Even if we accept as fact that the UK’s rate of violence is rising and the USA’s is decreasing, it doesn’t change the fact that the US remains more dangerous in several aspects, and to just to make sure it sinks in, those aspects are murder, rape, and aggravated assault.

[QUOTE]“So the presence of more guns doesn’t necessarily reduce the rate of robbery, though it does increase the likelihood of a fatal incident during a robbery.” That’s the POINT. If someone’s trying to rob you, or commit some other violent crime against you, that’s the point of firearm ownership.[quote]

Then it’s a pretty lousy point. The risk of serious injury or even death is dramatically reduced in nations with more robust gun control measures – firearms were used in 40% of robberies in the USA, and fatalities are three times as likely during a robbery with a firearm than without. If the same level of robbery is taking place, with or without guns, yet with guns they are far more likely to turn deadly, I fail to see how this demonstrates guns somehow reduce the problem, or make the situation better.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/2579469

[QUOTE]You also ignored your own point that the violent crime is concentrated in major cities (of which the US has far more than the entirety of the UK). This means more people, with the possibility of more criminality. It also shows that the per capita rates are skewed, thanks to those cities, which have political structures and gun laws more closely matched to your own, instead of what is legal and just. One of the first videos I posted addressed that, and showed what the crime rate would actually be, minus those cities. Those facts were ignored, too. Again, you’ve ignored the evidence the crime is dropping in the US, but not in the UK, and, again, your arguments have amounted to nothing more than European extreme Hoplophobia.[/QUOTE]

The fact that you wish to move the goalposts is in itself an act of dishonesty. Let’s compare several major cities and their crime rates, as well as their policies regarding deadly weapons…

New York: New York has been one of the best examples of how to reduce crime levels, and funnily enough has some pretty reasonable laws on guns. However, as of 2012, there were 5.6 homicides per 100,000 people. https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/interactive/2012/nov/30/deadliest-cities-worldwide-murder-rates-interactive

Tokyo had just 0.4 in 2012, London just 1.6 and Seoul 2.6. Berlin had 1.8 and Mumbai 1.3.

Tokyo follows the same strict gun control laws as the rest of Japan, and 78% of Japan’s population live in urban areas. This is only slightly smaller than the US figure of 80%. Tokyo’s murder rate was fourteen times lower than New York’s in 2012.

Around 80% of South Korea’s population also live in urban areas and South Korea has strict gun laws. Seoul follows the same laws as the rest of the country.

So the idea that greater urban populations somehow skews figures has been thoroughly debunked. It gets scorned still further – the UK urban population is similar to the USA’s, standing at around 81%. The same is true for Germany (75%). The only country to buck this trend out of the ones compared is India.

With that in mind, the conclusions are pretty clear – greater urbanisation does not lead to greater homicide rates, at least in countries where robust gun control laws exist.

On the Freedom Argument

This is, frankly, an absurdity that flies in the face of common sense. It must have escaped your attention that we held a general election in this country earlier on this year, as we have on many occasions. Last year we held a referendum on leaving the EU. We can protest our government and criticise our political leaders (I’ve done that myself, on a few occasions). We are not so lacking in confidence and faith in our sense of freedom that we need a prop, a crutch, in the form of a lethal weapon, to uphold it.

 

 

 

Following a recent discussion over the pros and cons of gun control measures (and the wider question of whether guns actually make a location safer), I feel compelled to offer up a few facts…

Homicide Rates

Data collected from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC for short) reveals that the USA had the highest homicide rate per 100,000 people of developed nations, circa 2015, with a figure of 4.88 homicides. How does this compare to other developed nations? We’ll look at a set of countries for a fair comparison.

2. Belgium: 1.95 homicides per 100,000 people (again, circa 2015, which will be the case unless stated).

3. Canada: (2012) 1.68 per 100,000.

4. France: 1.58.

5. Romania: 1.49.

6. Sweden: 1.15.

7. Denmark: 0.99.

8. Australia: 0.98.

9. United Kingdom (2014): 0.92

10. Germany: 0.85.

11. Italy: 0.78.

12. South Korea (2014): 0.74.

13. Spain: 0.66.

14. Republic of Ireland: 0.64.

15. Japan (2014): 0.31.

So the homicide in the USA is nearly three times higher than that of Canada’s, more than five times higher than in the UK, and fifteen times higher than Japan’s.

Of course, it’s not necessarily as simple as ‘more guns = more homicides’. With that in mind, what percentage of homicides in these countries are carried out by firearms?

Well, as of 2014, the USA had 3.6 firearm homicides per 100,000 people. Granted, the total figure for homicides is from 2015, however, as the FBI’s own data shows, firearm homicides have consistently remained by far the highest percentage of total homicides. 3.6 is approximately 74% of 4.88 – it is actually more likely that the percentage is closer to 65%, accounting for a direct comparison of total homicides in 2014, versus firearm homicides in 2014. Nevertheless, a clear majority of US homicides are carried out with a firearm.

The second country on the list is Belgium. Belgium recorded 1.95 homicides per 100,000 in 2015, as of 2010 guns could be attributed to 0.33 homicides per 100,000 people.

In Canada (though we must again allow for a margin of error, as the homicide by gun figures are from 2013), the figure stands at 0.38 of 1.68. This is around 22%. Therefore, Canada has not only a much lower homicide rate, but also a much lower homicide rate involving guns. Canada, co-incidentally, has more stringent laws surrounding guns than the USA does.

Up next is France. France is yet another nation to put into place more rigid gun control measures. 0.21 firearm homicides in France in 2012, meaning just over 13% of homicides involved guns.

Romania is next on that list and has some of the strictest laws on gun ownership of anywhere in the world. In 2012 0.04 per 100,000 people were killed in homicides by guns. Again, there is likely to be a small discrepancy in the numbers, as we’re comparing different years, but this is also likely to be nominal. With these figures, 2.7% of homicides in Romania involved firearms.

Is a pattern emerging yet? Canada, France and Romania all have tighter laws regarding firearms, all have lower overall homicide rates and all have lower homicide rates involving firearms. Let’s pick a few more countries shall we?

Contrary to popular belief and misconceptions, firearms can be owned in the UK. There are are however, tight rules on what sort of firearms are available and how to go about obtaining a licence for them. As of 2011 (we must again allow a small fudge factor) 0.06 homicides involved guns – meaning roughly 6.5% of homicides in the UK involved guns.

The data from Japan is from 2008 and so somewhat dated compared to other nations, but shows a homicide from guns as zero. In reality there will be a small number, but if Japan’s recent record is anything to go by, it may well not even make double digits. Japan has incredibly strict laws on guns, amounting to more or less a complete ban.

By now the pattern is clear. Countries with stronger gun control laws have fewer homicides with or without guns. In fact, with 3.66 per 100,000 homicides involving guns in the USA, there are less homicides in total in the UK, France and Japan combined.

What about other forms of Violence?

One popular piece of misdirection is to distract from the homicide figures to focus on other crimes. ‘Guns reduce incidences of robbery, assault, rape etc.’ Quite why homicide is ignored when it is arguably the most serious of all violent crimes is beyond me, but nevertheless, is there any truth to this claim?

Let’s start with robbery. In 2014 the USA actually scored better than several of the other nations listed, but also much worse than several others. The USA had nearly double the robbery rate per 100,000 people of the UK and Germany, 40% more than Canada, and far more than Japan. It fared better than Belgium, France and Spain. In 2016, 41% of all robberies in the USA involved firearms. In the UK, the broad trend of robbery with firearms shows a decline. In Canada, the percentage of robberies with guns is roughly 20%, or half that of the USA.

It has long been regarded by people who have studied the crime of robbery that, even if removing guns from the equation did not reduce the number of robberies, it would almost certainly reduce the number of fatal incidents when robberies do occur. The presence of guns as a deterrent is an idea which is clearly not working.

Which brings up an interesting point. The pro-gun side (or, more precisely, the anti-regulation side, as you can be pro-gun but also in favour of stronger regulations) often argues that easier access to guns can save lives. Statistically speaking, this is not true of the USA, as the earlier link demonstrates. There’s no evidence to suggest an increased presence of guns on the streets reduces violent crime, and plenty to suggest that ease of access to guns plays a massive part in the homicide rate – itself the most serious and violent of all crimes.

For instance, when considering another violent, serious crime – rape – is the USA better or worse than the other comparison nations? As per 2010, the answer was generally worse. The USA had a marginally lower rape rate than Australia (27.3 compared to 28.6) and a much higher rate than Germany (9.4), Spain (3.4) and Japan (1.0).

Conclusions

Guns clearly contribute to higher homicide rates, and countries that have taken steps to introduce stricter controls have lower homicide rates. As already mentioned, the combined rate of total homicides across several nations is lower than the homicide rate with only firearms in the USA. The rate of robbery is, by and large, an inconsistent mixture of results, with some countries with tighter gun controls faring worse than the USA, and some faring better. However, there is a much higher likelihood of a robbery turning deadly where guns are involved. The USA also has a bigger problem with rape.

Freedoms and Rights

One argument I have been presented with, more than once, is the idea that a gun offers freedom, and that living in countries with tougher gun laws equates to not being free. To me, this is reflective of a very different mind set when it comes to guns, based on history. As you will see, the weaponry available during the time of the American Revolution was very different to the weapons of today. It was felt that an armed populace would keep the government in check, but back then, the weaponry available to both the armed forces and the civilian population was very similar. Flash forward to today, and the armed forces of the USA have access not only to superior weaponry, but vastly superior training, and are far more disciplined than the average citizen when it comes to using these weapons. This is to say nothing of the presence of tanks, warplanes and drones.

If the US government decided to become a tyrannical dictatorship tomorrow, complete with the backing of the police and military, would the presence of a semi-armed population, many of whom would lack the training and discipline of the average soldier, really make a difference (even with the generous assumption that every US citizen with a gun would take up arms against their government)?

The equation of guns = freedom is, in my humble opinion, a dangerous one. It has moved from a healthy respect for a deadly weapon, to one that borders on worship. It has reached a level where to even hint at tightening laws is seen as blasphemy, just as daring to suggest the Constitution (written to reflect different types of weapons) is fallible is treated as blasphemy. The irony is, the Constitution has been amended before, to reflect changing political, social and cultural forces.

Meanwhile, to suggest we are not free here in the UK is to commit a very obvious fallacy. We can and do hold local and general elections on a regular basis. We can hold protests. We can criticise our government and political parties. We can hold referendums. It’s my suggestion to those who think that the gun is the only mean to uphold freedom, to stop and consider that freedom cannot be defined by the barrel of a deadly weapon.

Back to What I Think

The final trailer for The Last Jedi has dropped, and after a few days of deliberation and thought, it’s time to offer my impressions of the trailer and what it might mean.

The First Order is going to bring the big guns. They’re pissed at the loss of Starkiller Base and want revenge. Their walkers are said to be much bigger than the AT-ATs that terrorised the Rebellion in The Empire Strikes Back, and it looks like we’re going to get a substantial ground combat sequence as a result.

Snoke is speaking at the start, to someone, about finding them and their power – and how they are truly special. During this scene we see Kylo Ren, but right at the end the scene cuts to Rey igniting a lightsaber, leading to a lot of speculation that Snoke is talking to her. I wonder though, if he is talking to Ren, about finding Rey, or at least, about learning of a pivotal point in the Force, that Ren would lead Snoke to – in this case, that point being Rey. This also implies a connection between Ren and Rey.

Luke is afraid, and with good reason, from his point of view. He didn’t respect Ben Solo’s raw power and in the end, that mistake led to the destruction of his new Jedi Order. It seems like he starts to train Rey, but upon learning of her natural strength in the Force he changes his mind. Will he compound his original mistake, or resolve to correct it?

Will he or won’t he?! The most… intense moment from the new trailer features Kylo Ren blasting away at enemy ships in his TIE Silencer, then lining up the shot that would kill General Leia (who is, of course, his mother). The scene cuts back and forth between Ren and Leia, representing the internalised struggle Ren faces, between who he thinks he wants to be, and his family ties/history. His finger hovers over the trigger…

Tense!

Emotions will run high when The Last Jedi is released. This is Carrie Fisher’s final film, the final chance to see General Leia, and the trailer poignantly sees her remain silent throughout.

‘We are the spark, that will light the fire, that will burn the First Order down.’ Poe is a fighter and from his brief appearance in the trailer, he is taking the fight to the bad guys. 

Finn is seen in First Order garb, heavily implying he’ll be going undercover. Finn has a score to settle with the First Order, and this is dramatically personified in the next image…

Finn faces off against Captain Phasma as a base or facility goes up in smoke. This is easily one of the most exciting moments from the trailer.

Supreme Leader Snoke didn’t really do a lot in The Force Awakens and we never saw him up close. Is he powerful in the Force or just astute as a leader? He’s clearly a disciple of the Dark Side, but didn’t cut an intimidating figure last time. Here, he might well be more dangerous, judging from the next picture, but will we learn anything more about him?!


It appears from the way the trailer flows that Snoke is torturing Rey. Quite how Rey ends up in Snoke’s presence is anyone’s guess.


A frenetic space battle will grace the screen (something we’re shown a number of times), which makes sense as this is Star Wars


Finally, Rey asks, ‘I need someone to show me my place in all this’, and the trailer cuts to Ren, holding out his hand. Is this clever editing, or do they end up on the same side (whatever side that might be!)? 

All in all, the trailer does a great job of teasing a tremendous amount of drama and  a raw, tense film. If The Force Awakens was the new trilogy’s A New Hope, The Last Jedi is shaping up to have a lot of the tone of The Empire Strikes Back. The film looks astounding, amazing and utterly brilliant.

MyLittlePonyDrink

Ok, that’s a little unfair. As a matter of fact, I am going to ‘fess up – I enjoyed this movie. Judge me, don’t judge me, I don’t care. The film (and in fact the show) is not the standard sort of fare for this sort of movie.

A lot of kids’ shows and films (especially the shows) will talk down to their target audience. My Little Pony doesn’t do that and yet consistently manages to convey messages to children about honesty, loyalty, kindness and friendship. My Little Pony also manages to carry a positive message to young girls – pretty much all the lead characters are female, and they define themselves not by the company or attention of male characters, but rather by their abilities, their friendships with one another and their strength of character. The story of the film is predictable but the humour is pretty good and the film manages to avoid feeling simply like a longer episode. The animation has also been taken up a notch.

All in all, it’s a colourful, musical adventure that moves outside the confines of the show and carries a positive message to the youngsters watching it. It’s also wittier than it might first appear. 8/10.

I am not a lover of early starts, but I am prepared to put myself through it for Formula 1, so I was up at 5.40am, for a 6am race start in Suzuka. Could I have stayed in bed and spared myself a potentially dull race? Well, in hindsight, maybe I should have, for it wasn’t riveting to watch, even if Japan might prove the decisive blow in the world championship race. The key moment happened arguably before the race even began (as was the case in Malaysia last Sunday) when Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari developed a problem with a spark plug. Despite frantic efforts to fix the problem and despite starting the race, Vettel would be down on power and retiring after a few laps.

To add to the disappointment, Vettel had started second on the grid (bumped up after Valtteri Bottas took a five-place grid penalty), and might have been a threaten to Lewis Hamilton at some stage during the race. Instead, Vettel had to watch from the sidelines and hope that someone could take points off Hamilton. That person was most likely to be Max Verstappen, who moved up to second as Vettel dropped back.

The race became somewhat pedestrian, with only a handful of incidents to provide talking points. Carlos Sainz, in his final race for Toro Rosso (before he replaces Joylen Palmer at Renault) crashed out on the opening lap, whilst Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber joined him not too long after. Lance Stroll had a fairly dramatic late exit from the race when his tyre popped on the fast ‘Ss’ section of the track, nearly collecting Daniel Ricciardo in the process.

Ferrari suffered, not only with Vettel’s exit but a bit of first-lap hijinks between Kimi Raikkonen and Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg, who stuck to the inside line around the Spoon and thus left Raikkonen with no choice but to run wide. Raikkonen (who had also taken a five-place grid penalty, and like Bottas, this was due to a gearbox change) did climb up the field quite swiftly, highlighting the good pace of the Ferrari, and for the third race in a row, leaving them to wonder what might have been. Up front, the tyre stops (switching from supersofts to softs in most cases) yielded better performances from Verstappen, who began to chip away at Hamilton’s lead. Hamilton was reporting problems with his rear tyres and later on, vibrations (not a driver’s best friend) in the car. Could Verstappen claim a second consecutive win?

Down the field there were a couple of potential duels between teammates that didn’t quite bear fruit, which would have come as a relief for Force India (Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon have had a couple of accidents and with both cars in the points, the team didn’t want to risk another collision, denying Perez the opportunity to attack Ocon), and a similar situation developed as the Haas’ of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean trailed Felipe Massa’s Williams. In the end Massa, struggling with his tyres, slipped wide and got messy into turn 1, and both Haas were able to force their way through.

The biggest moment of excitement (from Hamilton’s point of view) came very late on, as Verstappen began to creep toward DRS range and the pair came across a battling Massa and Fernando Alonso. Alonso was seeking to put his McLaren into the last points position but his charge to get past Massa was interrupted by Hamilton lapping him, and Alonso in turn disrupted Verstappen’s chase of Hamilton. It was enough for Hamilton to stay clear and win, an outcome that sees him put one hand on the championship.

He is now 59 points clear with only 100 remaining. Unless he has two or three very poor races, it is highly likely Hamilton will become the first British driver to win four world championships, and he could even make this happen next time out, in Austin, USA.

Is freedom the right to have one of these?

wpid-wp-1444030168901.jpg

Or the right to do this…

MusicConcert

… without fear?

Some (and I must emphasise, only some) of the Americans I know insist that the Constitution be treated as sacrosanct, their right to bear arms immutable. Is it morally correct to regard the right to have virtually unrestricted access to a lethal weapon as being superior to the right of people to be able to enjoy a music festival, or go to work, or even school, without the potential threat of being killed?

Some might argue – ‘someone could pick up a knife and use that as a weapon’. ‘A car or a truck is a weapon in the wrong hands’. True, on both counts, but could the Las Vegas killer have killed 59 people with a knife? Would he have been able to kill 59 people with a car? Knifes and vehicles are not designed as deadly weapons – a gun’s sole purpose is to kill. It is far more effective at this than a knife.

Case in point, in 2014 just over 33,000 people were killed by firearms in the USA – the same number killed in motor vehicle accidents. You might be thinking, ‘how does this help your argument?’ Well, bear with me.

The USA has an estimated population of 323,127,513. 85% (274,658,386) own or have access to a car. As of 2016 36% of Americans (116,325,904) own at least one gun. Therefore, you are more than twice as likely to be killed by a gun in the USA than by a car. Let that sink in for a moment – less than half of US citizens actually have a gun, yet guns are responsible for as many deaths per year as cars, which nearly every American owns or has access to.

It doesn’t stop there. There are claims that locations with stricter gun controls have higher incidents of gun crime. Is this true, and if so, is it as simple as suggested?

Chicago is often cited as an example of where strict gun control laws cause an increase in crime. The situation is actually more complicated than that, and at any rate, the problem of gun violence in the USA as a whole is unique to America’s fascination to these deadly weapons. Entire countries have enacted tougher gun laws and these countries have correspondingly lower homicide rates. Take for example, the UK.

After the Dunblane tragedy, strict new laws were drafted to prevent anything like that from ever happening again. So far, 21 years on, we have not seen a repeat of that horrible event. Overall, Britain has a lower homicide rate than the USA – 0.92 per 100,000 people, compared to 4.88 per 100,000, whilst the rate with a gun is 0.06 in the UK, versus 3.60 in the USA. This also means that gun homicides account for more than half of homicides in the USA.

In Japan, where gun laws are extremely strict, homicides by gun are so low they are measured in single digit figures, and the overall homicide rate is just 0.31 per 100,000. In countries such as Germany (where guns are in fact quite prevalent) the homicide rate with guns is 0.07 – Germany’s laws on guns are robust with plenty of checks in place. Their total homicide rate is 0.85.

So the UK, Japan and Germany have all taken different approaches to gun control, and all have not only lower homicide rates with guns, but lower homicide rates overall. This seems pretty conclusive, so why do Americans remain unwilling to make any changes to their gun laws? The problem appears to be cultural more than anything – the right to bear arms reflects the right, in part at least, to resist the government in the event that they tried to develop into a totalitarian regime. This might have held true in an era with a smaller population and a relatively level playing field in terms of the weaponry, but today? Could comparatively untrained ‘militias’ hold off a well-trained army with access to tanks and warplanes? This scenario also applies to foreign invasions.

‘What about the right to defend property?’

It’s true that people want to be able to defend their homes in the event of a burglary or home invasion. However, there is every chance, under the current trends of US society, for the would-be burglar to also be armed. Is that a preferable scenario to one where no one is armed?

More importantly, is the right to bear arms more important than the right to life?