This year's lowlights from world politics, the culture wars, and the military-industrial complex.
Each year Conn Hallinan gives awards to individuals, companies, and governments that make reading the news a daily adventure. Here are the awards for 2016...
The Golden Lemon Award had a number of strong contenders in 2016, including:
- General Atomics for its MQ-9 Reaper armed drone, which has a faulty starter-generator that routinely shorts out the aircraft. So far, no one can figure out why. Some 20 were either destroyed or sustained major damage last year. The Reapers costs $64 million apiece.
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- Panavia Aircraft Company's $25 billion Tornado fighter-bomber that can't fly at night because the cockpit lights blind the pilot. A runner-up here is the German arms company Heckler & Koch, whose G-36 assault rifle can't shoot straight when the weather is hot.
- The British company BAE's $1.26 billion Type 45 destroyer that breaks down "whenever we try to do too much with them," a Royal Navy officer told the Financial Times. Engaging in combat, he said, would be "catastrophic."
But the hands-down winner is Lockheed Martin, builder of the F-35 Lightning stealth fighter. At a cost of $1.5 trillion, it's the most expensive weapons system in U.S. history.
Aside from numerous software problems, pilots who try to bail out risk decapitation. The Director of Operational Test and Evaluation recently released an assessment of the F-35's performance that states, "In an opposed combat scenario," the "aircraft would need to avoid threat engagement and would require augmentation by other friendly forces."
Translation: "If the bad guys show up, run for your life and pray your buddies arrive to bail you out of trouble."
Lockheed Martin also gets an Honorable Mention for its $4.4 billion littoral combat ship, the USS Zumwalt, which had to be towed out of the Panama Canal. The ship also leaks, as do other sister littoral combat ships, including the USS Freedom.
Note: U.S. students are currently $1.3 trillion in debt.
The Dr. Frankenstein Award to the U.S. Air Force for zapping the brains of drone operators with electricity in order to improve their focus.
The electrical stimulation was started after scientists discovered that feeding the pilots Provigil and Ritalin was a bad idea, because both drugs are highly addictive and Provigil can permanently damage sleep patterns.
Nika Knight of Common Dreams reports that "European researchers who studied the brain-zapping technique years ago warned that the technology is, in fact, extremely invasive, as its effects tend to 'spread from the target brain area to neighboring areas.'"
The Golden Jackal Award goes to United Kingdom oil companies BP and Royal Dutch Shell for their lobbying campaign following the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Executives of the companies met with UK Trade Minister Baroness Elizabeth Symons five months before the U.S. attack to complain that the Americans were cutting them out of the post-war loot.