Woke up, fell out of bed …


Britannia to be recommissioned as symbol of global Britain
Royal Yacht Britannia to be recommissioned as symbol of global Britain

Daily Mail, Friday 16th September 2016
Royal Yacht Britannia could be used to conduct UK trade deals post Brexit and plans are already being discussed to recommission the vessel 20 years after retirement. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is considering returning the yacht to the waves as a ‘great symbol of global Britain’.

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Hinkley: Chinese-funded 'unproven technology'
Hinkley: Chinese-funded “unproven technology”

Telegraph, Friday 16th September 2016
Theresa May met Chinese president Xi Jinping at the G20 conference for bilateral talks at which Hinkley Point was discussed. Days later, on September 15, the government has given the green light to the controversial scheme following a “new agreement” with EDF. Hinkley Point C has been the subject of fierce controversy in the UK because of its cost and its unproven technology, but cancellation of the project would have led to a diplomatic rift with China and France.

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Avoid tabloid headlines like the plague

crane fly“Invasion of almost 200 billion daddy-long-legs on the way, warn experts!” says the Telegraph. “A record 200 billion daddy-long-legs are set to hatch this autumn and experts are warning the warm weather will see the insects spread further across the country than ever before. The bugs – also known as crane flies – have benefited from a combination of a hot summer and the right amount of rain, which has helped them grow in their subterranean tunnels.”

The Mirror concurs: “Britain is set to be invaded by a plague of 200 BILLION daddy long legs thanks to the warm, wet summer!

And the Express chimes in with: “DADDY LONG LEGS INVASION: Record 175 BILLION on rampage across Britain! Climate change and a perfect storm of weather conditions has led to record numbers of the terrifying insects – also known as crane flies – taking flight.”

Terrifying insects? Really?

What’s astonishing about these shamelessly alarmist and misleading headlines is not so much the implication that crane flies pose a threat to humans (they don’t; they’re harmless), but the conclusion that the apocalyptic plague about to descend upon us is one of the consequences of climate change.

In fact, we can attribute any proliferation of crane flies to the withdrawal of products containing chlorpyrifos as of 1 April 2016.

Chlopyrifos underpins a class of organophospate pesticides, e.g. Dursban and Lorsban, developed during the Second World War. Dursban is found in everything from flea collars to lawn insecticides, while Lorsban is used to protect crops. The chemical attacks the nervous system of insects such as leatherjackets (the larvae of crane flies) that feed on the roots and stems of plants and cause crop damage from early spring until mid–summer when they pupate. It is moderately toxic to humans, and exposure to large doses of it has been linked to various neurological effects and autoimmune disorders, but its withdrawal leaves farmers at significant risk of being unable to meet the challenge of sustaining production in the face of pest infestations. Some experts feel that legislators have over-reacted to the risk; others feel that the ban has been imposed in an unrealistic timescale that may result in major crop failures and food price inflation. Farmers in the United States have expressed concern that decisions have been based more on politics than on sound, science-based policies.

One thing is clear – completely banning these chemical pesticides is problematic because effective and affordable alternatives are not yet widely available. Nematodes (microscopic worms used to attack leatherjackets), for example, are hugely expensive and are hypersensitive to environmental conditions. So, in the meantime, yes, we are susceptible to seasonal invasions by insects such as crane flies. We should avoid tabloid headlines like the plague, but the reality could actually be much worse. You see, no effective pesticides means no grass. And no grass means no cows, no sheep, no milk, no lamb, no beef and no wool. Yep, this could be a lot more serious than a few extra daddy-long-legs finding their way into the living room.

Posted in Dark Mutterings, Good planets are hard to find, Science Tagged , , , , , , ,

Woke up, fell out of bed …


Keith Vaz quits as Home Affairs Committee chairman
Keith Vaz quits as Home Affairs Committee chairman

BBC News, Tuesday 6th September 2016
Labour MP Keith Vaz has stepped down as chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee.It follows newspaper claims he paid for the services of two male sex workers.

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How pig swill helped win the Falklands War

pig swillNearly fifty years ago, contaminated pig swill was blamed for a catastrophic outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Britain.

Strangely enough, it can plausibly be claimed that the same pig swill indirectly contributed to Britain’s victory in the Falklands War.

Very strange indeed, if you consider that the Falklands War did not start for another decade and a half!

Click here for the full story.

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Libyan people smugglers
Libyan people smugglers

Al Jazeera, Tuesday 30th August 2016
On Monday, around 6,500 refugees and migrants were saved off the Libyan coast in 40 separate rescue missions by the Italian coastguard. Traffickers are taking advantage of the calm summer weather, piling refugees on to flimsy boats when the sea is more placid so that the southern wind can push them into international waters. More than 400,000 have successfully made the voyage to Italy from North Africa since the beginning of 2014, fleeing violence and poverty.

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Book Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Antidote by David Winship

Antidote

by David Winship

Giveaway ends September 09, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

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Woke up, fell out of bed …


Burqa and burkini bans

CNN, Monday 29th August 2016
France’s highest administrative court ruled that mayors do not have the right to ban burkinis. But several French mayors have reportedly maintained their bans despite Friday’s ruling concerning the town of Villeneuve-Loubet, near Nice.

In April 2011, France became the first European country to ban wearing in public the burqa, a full-body covering that includes a mesh over the face, and the niqab, a full-face veil with an opening for the eyes. And much like the recent burkini bans, opinion in the country is divided between those who see the laws as an infringement on religious freedom, and those who view the Islamic dress as inconsistent with France’s rigorously enforced secularism.

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Should we criminalise clothes?

burkini banIt’s not a bad thing that the political row over burkinis has intensified. It’s a debate that really needs to take place.

It all kicked off when a woman in a headscarf was photographed on a beach in Nice surrounded by armed police apparently ordering her to remove a long-sleeved top. The city, along with 15 other seaside areas in south-east France, had imposed a ban on the burkini on its beaches.

The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, condemned the ban during a visit to Paris last week. “I’m quite firm on this,” he said. “I don’t think anyone should tell women what they can and can’t wear. Full stop. It’s as simple as that.”

But it’s not as simple as that, is it?

Ultimately it raises the question of gender inequality. Until such time as husbands are seen wearing full-body swimsuits alongside their wives, the issue of Muslim women covering up will always smack of oppression and inequality to me. What are we supposed to tolerate next in the name of multicultural sensitivity? Polygamy? FGM?

Maybe criminalising clothes is not the best approach, but if the burqa and the burkini are so empowering for Muslim women, please explain all the iconic images of Syrian women burning burqas in joyous celebration after being freed from Isil. So let’s carry on – let’s welcome this debate about integration. It’s no good pushing the issue aside. Or covering it up.

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Faster, Higher, Stronger and not Russian

The International Paralympics Committee has imposed a blanket ban on Russian athletes competing in the Rio Paralympic Games. IPC president Sir Philip Craven said the Russian system was so “broken, corrupted and entirely compromised” that it must face the ultimate sanction. That is just so wrong.

The decision affects about 267 Russian athletes across 18 sports. Far from demonstrating a determination to clamp down on drugs, it further damages the credibility of the IPC and the IOC. Not only does it send a worrying message about the rights of disabled people, but it also threatens to undermine the Olympic ideal. Although athletes compete at the Games under their country’s flag, an indiscriminate ban is a blunt instrument that distorts the vision of gathering the best athletes in the world to compete against one another in pursuit of excellence (Faster, Higher, Stronger).

A Russian sports ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, described the sanction as inhumane. “The decision to bar the entire Russian Paralympic team from the Paralympic Games is strikingly filthy and inhumane,” she wrote on social media. “It is a betrayal of those high human rights standards the modern world is resting on.”

Egregious as the sins of the Russian sports ministry have been, no individual athlete should be made to answer for them if he or she is clean.

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