2946-06-21 - Editor's Loudspeaker: New Rheims Ecological Collapse

This Editor's Loudspeaker post was written with the consultation of the rest of the Cosmic Backgrounds staff. Opinions contained within it are a consensus reached by the employees of Cosmic Background, not the sole opinion of the specific writer, Duncan Chaudhri.

It's time to clear the air about New Rheims. Because Cosmic Background - on the vidcast and on this feed - has avoided reporting directly on events there, we've been inundated with messages asking why we haven't, and by others promising an inside account of what happened there.

To be clear, Cosmic Background is not a news operation. If you want a news feed, there are thousands of them out there to choose from. We are an entertainment program for the interstellar community - a variety show for spacers, about spacers' interests. It is not our intent to find out "what really happened" in any current event. We will offer perspectives on current events that our audience might find interesting, but we leave the journalism up to the journalists.

We don't have any answers as to what happened, but we know who almost certainly does. We are worried that the Navy had something to do with the New Rheims disaster. That is, to be sure, a sensational claim, and we're going to take heat from Naval Intelligence for submitting it to our text feed - but we have reasons for this conclusion.

While this is not the proper medium for a full breakdown of all the reasons we suspect this, we can point out a few key observations which led Ashton, Sovanna, myself, and the others to this conclusion.

Peculiar Timing

Most of us here in the Core Worlds learned about the disaster on New Rheims on 06-10, when the story went from being a datasphere rumor to being picked up by some of the largest newsfeeds out there all at once. Oddly enough, there was no official announcement at first. The Navy, which had ships already on the scene evacuating the planet's residents less than six shifts after the disaster had begun, didn't formally announce the crisis until the twelfth, when private relief organizations had already begun to mobilize. This delay is odd, as in the navy's own published version of events, it had ships - an entire patrol group no less - on scene by no later than the last shift of the 06-09.

Moreover, six shifts is too soon for a response from a nearby system. To have been on-scene within that time, the responding vessels would have to have already been deep in the system. I can find no good reason for a patrol group deployed to the Hegemony border to have been in the vicinity of New Rheims.

Censorship of Images

Until the announcement, all we knew was that the world of New Rheims in Riviera des Soleils was suffering an ongoing natural disaster of some type which was quickly rendering it uninhabitable. Hard data beyond that was difficult to find. For a while, orbital images of gigantic, dusty-brown storms growing and multiplying on the planet's surface were available, but by the time of the Navy representative's official announcement, they had all been removed from the datasphere here in Centauri. As of this writing, I am still unable to find these images on any public datasphere resource. The Navy's announcement did not feature any pictures except those of the refugees, possessions in hand, being herded onto shuttles and settled into spartan accommodations hastily prepared aboard the Arrowhawk, the light cruiser which was, as per the Navy's account, on scene within six shifts. No other visual evidence of the disaster has been available since.

I didn't think anything of the images at the time, but evidently someone in the Navy or the government thought they were harmful enough to send takedown notices. The only kind of takedown notice that would be so universally honored is, of course, the sort issued by Naval Intelligence.

Lack of Military Response

The Navy hasn't mobilized any warships, beyond those already on the scene. No battle groups have been diverted to Riviera des Soleils. The only ships ordered into the region have been military haulers. I can find no evidence of these convoys being escorted more heavily than usual. The Navy claims it hasn't ruled out any possibilities, but the lack of movement from its combat squadrons, and the unescorted nature of its relief effort, suggests that they've ruled out enemy action. As of this writing, the Navy's official story still asserts that the investigation is ongoing and has not yet ruled out any cause of the sudden ecological collapse of New Rheims.

There needs to be a full investigation of New Rheims. I personally hope we, and the other personalities I've seen who have noticed that the Navy appears to have had a hand in the disaster, are wrong - but we'll only know for sure if there's an open inquiry. The Navy, for its own sake, needs to open its records about the matter, whether or not military personnel are culpable.

Cosmic Backgrounds supports the military forces of the Confederated Worlds, but this support does not extend to concealing misconduct. We call the Navy's reputation for honorable conduct into question only reluctantly, and we hope that the Admiralty lives up to the reputation built by generations of heroic officers in this matter.