Rising Dragon raises searching questions
Chinese leader Xi Jinping's pledge to deliver "a new era" that "sees China moving closer to centre stage" as "a leading global power" with a "world-class" military should give us pause for thought. The competition to be in the "global power" elite is hotting up, while the rest of us mere "stakeholders" on this planet watch in the wings.
The rise and rise of the Dragon has been spectacular. But the noises coming from Beijing will prompt questions about the kind of future Mr Xi plans to fashion for his country.
The once-thought-of "reforming and modernising liberal" now seems intent on reasserting the authority of the Communist Party in all areas of life, and centralising control. What this means for law and the progress of daily life remains to be seen, but the portents are not good.
Reports about closer scrutiny of social monitoring and the recording of every citizen's activities will send a shudder down many who fear a return to a Big Brother era.
Just as American President Donald Trump adopts an "America First" platform, Mr Xi has opted to follow a 'belt-and-road' initiative to pour hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure investments into countries across Eurasia. He made token mentions of markets, private enterprise and openness. But the emphasis was on helping state companies become "stronger" and "bigger".
As widely commented on, in his 25 minutes Mr Xi mentioned "strong power" or "great power" 26 times.
What has been called a "neo-totalitarian ideology" will now be written into the party's constitution, making him as powerful as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.
Meanwhile, in Washington signs of dissatisfaction and disarray continue and the world is seen as having something of a leadership vacuum.
The concern would be that in the more heated race for hegemony and militaristic competition, hard-won commitments to closer co-operation, collaboration, and freedoms may be trampled upon.
More caution essential amid storm flood risks
They say that the weather is one of the few things in life that is always unrehearsed.
This week it went from small talk to a national preoccupation and with good reason. The men and women of the emergency services and the ESB had no time to draw breath following Hurricane Ophelia when in roared Storm Brian. We are used to the elements being capricious, but the extremes experienced over the past few days ought to convince most that climate change is a force that must be reckoned with.
Once more Met Éireann has been obliged to issue an orange alert for high winds in southern and western coastal counties from Mayo to Wexford, with winds gusting up to 130kmh.
A status yellow wind warning is in place for the rest of the country, with gusts reaching 110kmh.
The most serious accidents occur when we are oblivious to the dangers - well, we have been warned.
Tragic as the loss of life was when Ophelia struck, the toll would have been higher still were the warnings not heeded. The National Emergency Co-ordination Group played a key role in making sure that people were advised of the risks.
The worry with Storm Brian is that the expected high levels of rainfall, driven by gales, and the affect of high tides could result in serious flooding.
Caution, especially around coastal areas, is therefore essential.