Ralph Maraj___Use

political analysts Ralph Maraj 

Last week, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced plans for new scientific missions to visit and investigate Venus, the planet similar in structure to Earth but slightly smaller, whose orbit brings it closer than any other in our solar system.

Have beings from other planets been similarly visiting Earth to investigate our world with benign or dark intent? Is it conceivable that we are alone in this universe of more than a trillion galaxies, each with over one hundred billion planets?

We might soon get answers. This month the Pentagon, after strong demands for transparency, will release “a highly anticipated report” to Congress about unidentified flying objects (UFOs), re-branded unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs). The report will contain years of sightings that could “suggest highly advanced extra-terrestrial” life. Washington is now “swirling with chatter among top senators” about UAPs.

Former president Barack Obama is one of many public figures speaking openly. Last month, he told CBS, “There’s footage and records of objects in the skies that we don’t know exactly what they are, we can’t explain how they moved or their trajectory.” Previously, preoccupation with UFOs “used to be career-ending”, says Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff, John Podesta. But today Republican senator Marco Rubio and White House press secretary Jen Psaki can openly say they take the matter “very seriously”.

Late last year, former CIA director John Brennan said it is “presumptuous for us to believe there’s no other form of life anywhere in the entire universe”. Another former head, R James Woolsey, concurs. Both have referred to Air Force and Navy pilot videos showing “unexplained objects on radar, travelling at unusual speeds, faster than anything seen before” and performing aerial manoeuvres that “defy logic”.

In one video, a pilot screams, “Look at that thing!” referring to a strange flying object. “It’s rotating,” another pilot says. “My Gosh!” the other pilot responds. Pentagon officials confirm the videos are authentic, “eyebrow-raising”, says Brennan, and “could involve some type of activity that constitutes a different form of life”.

Talk of UFOs has been around for some time. In 1952, there were reports of “flying saucers” around Washington. And in the late 60s, Jimmy Carter, before becoming president, reported seeing a UFO just before giving a speech at a Lions Club supper in Leary, Georgia. In 2OO5, he told GQ magazine, “There was a bright light in the sky. We all saw it. And then the light got closer and closer to us. Then it stopped, I don’t know how far away, but it stopped beyond the pine trees. And all of a sudden it changed colour to blue, and then it changed to red, then back to white.”

The US Capitol’s more modern attention started in 2007 when then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was contacted by Robert Bigelow experiencing paranormal events on his ranch in Utah. “Cattle had vanished. UFOs were spotted. Strange magnetic fields appeared.” A Defence Intelligence Agency official visited the site, was convinced, contacted Reid, and an investigative unit was established. Luis Elizondo, former military intelligence officer who ran the unit, recently told the Washington Post, “We’re seeing UFOs on a daily basis.” The question is, “What is it? What are its intentions? What are its capabilities?”

Indeed. What were those “triangular-shaped objects buzzing around in the sky” in April this year? Why was that “oval object” in July 2019 flying near a navy ship in San Diego for a few minutes before disappearing into the water? What was that oblong object flying through the sky near San Diego in 2004? And what were the capabilities of that “little white Tic-Tac-looking object” flying, moving in different directions with no wings or conventional exhaust plumes over the Pacific in 2004 which suddenly vanished when navy pilots got within a half-mile of it?

Hans-Werner Peiniger, head of the Society for Research into the UFO Phenomenon in Germany, thinks the majority of sightings have explanations, are often helium balloons of the kind you see in fairs, “insects in-flight that can appear like a flying saucer in photos, weather phenomena or satellites”. But he can’t find “any comprehensible explanation” for around five per cent of the sightings. He is not “completely ruling out” the possibility we are being currently visited by extra-terrestrials.

Neither is Nick Pope, former British Ministry of Defence (MoD) UFO investigator and expert. His continuing investigations revealed sightings in March 1993, with several dozen witnesses in different parts of the United Kingdom who saw “a huge, triangular-shaped craft, emitting a low-frequency humming sound, overflying two military bases in the British midlands”. Pope thinks “it’s only a matter of time before we find alien life—or before it finds us, if it hasn’t already”!

This month’s coming Pentagon report will be “big”, says one former official. The New York Times on Thursday cited senior administration officials saying the report reviewed more than 120 incidents, but is unable to explain the mysterious movements of aircraft involved—unusual acceleration, direction changes and the ability to rapidly submerge.

Are we getting closer to finding out whether we are alone in the universe?

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The initiation of a Commission of Enquiry into the Government’s management of Covid-19, for which Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is so passionately clamouring, would be instructive if it presented an opportunity for the people of Trinidad and Tobago to hear from her just how she would have managed this health crisis had she been in charge.

The hush-hush arrival of a “small donation” of vials of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, flown in and apparently hand-delivered by courier to the Ministry of National Security, raises more questions than the number of vials involved.

I am repeatedly asked by various stakeholders whether Covid-19 vaccination could be made mandatory, so today I offer some initial thoughts.

This is not a clear-cut legal question and there are good arguments on both sides. There is no law, precedent or policy which governs the matter at present. Labour law, public health and human rights issues intermingle and ultimately, what is reasonable and in the majority interest would likely prevail.

Why would a person willingly give up their family, job and community to embark on an illegal, dangerous journey to another country?

In the case of the Venezuelans, it’s because they are generally running away from unbearable, life-threatening circumstances.

Did the staff at the health centres know only 50 persons could have been be vaccinated per day? When they realised this, did they not think to register the names and telephone numbers of the other elderly citizens already in line from 5.30 a.m. who were sent home when the vaccinations ran out?

I hope the Government considers giving a booster shot of the Sinopharm vaccine if supplies are available to this country. Dr Amery Browne, Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs, said T&T will receive 200,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine from China this week.