Thursday, November 16, 2006


A group of climate scientists from the UK's Met Office have flown to Nairobi to meet colleagues from around the world to discuss climate research and present their most recent findings. They have taken with them an imaginatively titled report detailing the predicted effect climate change will have on the developing world (It's called "Effects of climate change on developing countries"). The report is based on climate models running on PRECIS, a regional climate modelling system developed by the Met Office to run on personal computers.

The Met Office's Dr Vicky Pope will set out the main conclusions of their research: the likely increases in areas affected by extreme drought from three per cent of the globe to 30 per cent by 2100, and severe drought increasing from eight per cent to 40 per cent of the planet. In news that will no doubt confuse climate change sceptics like Jeremy Clarkson, their models also predict some areas will have a lower incidence of drought if the planet gets hotter.

However, nowhere in the government announcement of the visit is there a calculation of the amount of carbon that will be produced by sending all these climatologists to Nairobi, when they could all have stayed home and had a video conference instead. Tch tch. [The climatologists are not stupid: they know where the good weather is in November]



The anus running this school should be delighted that the kids are affectionate towards one-another

A school has told pupils to avoid hugging because they are taking too much time to reach their lessons. Callington Community College, a mixed comprehensive in Cornwall with 1,250 pupils, said hugging had begun to cause "problems". The headmaster, Stephen Kenning, wrote on the school's website: "Hugging has become very acceptable amongst students. This has led to some students believing that it is okay to go up to anyone and hug them, sometimes inappropriately. "This is very serious not only for the victim but also for anyone accused of acting inappropriately. To avoid putting anyone at risk please avoid hugging."

Yesterday, Mr Kenning added: "During the changing of lessons, girls were hugging each other and taking too much time to get to lessons. "We also had complaints from other students about inappropriate hugging. It was going on too often and people were abusing it. The school has not banned it. However, it is being discouraged and we are asking pupils to cut out anything unnecessary and only hug when they need to hug." Pupils would not get into trouble if they ignored the advice, he added.

However, Kath Pascoe, a local councillor who has two grandchildren at the college, said: "I don't see anything wrong with hugging - better that than fighting and arguing. Surely it can't take that long to get to lessons?"

Mr Kenning said he had had one complaint from parents about the anti-hugging drive and that pupils had taken the advice on board. David Cohen, a member of the British Psychological Society and author of the book Body Language said hugging was a basic human instinct. He said: "Human beings are touchy-feely creatures by nature. It is only a problem if you invade someone's personal space. Surely it is better youngsters get the human contact they need innocently. If you ban it, they are far more likely to seek it round the back of the bike sheds." Pupils said there had been detentions at the school for hugging, and a "naming and shaming" policy in assembly.


UK: Fox hunters outfoxing the law

Eighteen months ago hunting was banned. Or was it? The hounds are still running, foxes are still being killed and the number of people taking part has actually increased. As the new season begins, Stephen Moss saddles up and discovers how the hunts are outfoxing the law.

'Are you pro or anti?" Florence (aka Florrie, aka Flossie) asks me. "Neither," I insist, sitting firmly on the fence. "I'm here to report, to see both sides, to be objective, to tell it as it is, to -" "Yes, but are you pro or anti?" she asks again, seeing through my obfuscation. Florrie is nine, and nine-year-olds just won't put up with bullshit.

"My children have grown up marching," says Florrie's mother, Philippa Mayo. She is the head of the Countryside Alliance's hunting campaign, and one of the reasons I am sitting on a horse, about to follow the hounds across the Leicestershire countryside.

Eighteen months ago, hunting was banned. Remember? Hounds were going to be slaughtered; red coats abandoned; huntsmen sacked. It was the end of hunting - and probably the end of rural life, too. Today, however, there are more hunts than there were at the time of the ban; more hunters, too, according to the Countryside Alliance. No stores selling hunting gear have gone bust. Indeed, business is buoyant, according to Jane White at equestrian store Calcutts in Sutton Scotney, Hampshire. "There was a drastic dip in 2004, the year of the ban," she says. "People didn't know what was going to happen. Last year saw a slight improvement, and this year has picked up incredibly. A lot of people have taken it up." Hunting, a banned activity, appears to be booming.

Mayo lives in a village on the border between Leicestershire and Rutland. This is a place where everyone says good morning; despite the November chill, elderly ladies engage in lengthy conversations outside the post office; and the newsagent's counter is covered not with copies of Closer and Heat, but with Horse and Hound, the Field, Sporting Gun. Here, field sports call the shots.

Mayo has convinced me that I should ride with the Cottesmore in my quest to discover how hunting has survived the ban. She is lending me a horse and promises to keep me company during the hunt. I haven't ridden for four years, so anything could happen. The Cottesmore is what might be called a middle-ranking hunt - not as posh as the neighbouring Quorn, but more upscale than the farmers' packs in Wales and the West Country. There are about 70 riders this Saturday morning, with another 40 or so people following in cars. Hunting's car followers are often forgotten, but they are a vital part of its ecology.

The other misconception is that all these 70 riders are engaged in the act of hunting. They aren't. The only people who hunt are the professional huntsman, his two whippers-in (also usually professional hunt servants), and two or three trusted volunteers. They and the hounds do the hunting; everyone else - "the field", in the jargon - tries to keep up as best they can. But they are expressly forbidden to get too close in case they distract the hounds. Hunting is a secretive activity, often undertaken in wooded areas that are out of bounds to the field, and largely impenetrable to the non-expert. All of which makes it very difficult to decide whether huntsmen are acting legally.

And that is the crux. Does the legislation outlaw hunting or not? Those who succeeded in getting the Hunting Act on to the statute books in 2004 are in no doubt - hunting is banned. "Hunting live quarry is illegal," says the RSPCA's Becky Hawkes. "If dogs are not being kept under control and people going out hunting are aware of that, then the law would be broken." "Any pursuit or chase is illegal," insists Barry Hugill of the League Against Cruel Sports. They are right - up to a point. There it is in the first line of the act: "A person commits an offence if he hunts a wild mammal with a dog." Couldn't be clearer. Except there are a further five words in that sentence: "... unless his hunting is exempt." Those five words - and the list of exemptions in schedule one of the act - have been the salvation of hunting. One exemption in particular has been manna to the hunters: "Flushing a wild mammal from cover is exempt hunting if undertaken for the purpose of enabling a bird of prey to hunt the wild mammal." And so hunts have begun using packs of hounds in combination with birds of prey.

Today the Cottesmore is out with its golden eagle, Anna (they did think about calling it Notil, as in Notil-eagle, but pulled back). It is perched on the arm of its handler, Vernon Moore, and is the most important participant in the day's hunting. Without the bird of prey, it would not be legal to flush out a fox using a pack of hounds. All that would be permissible would be the use of a pair of hounds to flush out a fox to be shot. Some hunts are using the latter exemption, but it is the presence of a bird of prey that permits the hounds to work as a pack of 30 or 40 - the essence of hunting, in the view of connoisseurs. "The exemptions in the act allow us to do an awful lot," admits Mayo, "and the mood is much more optimistic now than it was. For so long we had the ban hanging over us, and then the worst that could ever happen happened. Now we're over that huge hump. We've survived two seasons, and for the first time in years there is a real prospect of my grandchildren being able to hunt. Meltdown didn't happen." ....

The hunts are using every grey area in the act. What they cannot afford is a chase across open country, which would be a clear breach of the law, might be witnessed or photographed, and could end up with the huntsman in court. Overall, it's a mess, a farce, a typical British fudge that leaves no one happy except the lawyers......

The ultimate objective, of course, is repeal, and for the hunters there is a knight on a white charger on the horizon. David Cameron has pledged that, if he becomes prime minister, he will allow another free vote on the issue. With a Conservative majority, backed by a group of Labour pro-hunters and about half the Lib Dems, the hunts are convinced they will get repeal. All they have to do is sit tight and live with pseudo-hunting for the next four or five years....

Seed says the present chaos helps no one - least of all the foxes, which are being shot in far greater numbers than when farmers left them for hunts to deal with. "The hunts are continuing; the hounds are continuing; all those misguided parliamentarians have done is condemn a far greater number of foxes to a slower and longer death." When hounds kill, hunters argue, death is instantaneous. A man with a rifle may only wound a fox, leaving it to die lingeringly.

More here


Plenty of money for ever more bureaucrats but cutbacks in money for employing dentists -- with the inevitable results. Sad that it is hurting kids, though

THOUSANDS of children are being forced to wait three years or more for braces or corrective dental treatment, after new government regulations that affect the way dentists work. Patients needing treatment to straighten protruding teeth or correct misaligned jaws are facing long waits and permanent dental damage because of a shortage of practitioners and a lack of funding for orthodontic work, the British Dental Association (BDA) has said.

An estimated two million Britons are now unable to find NHS dentists after the introduction of dental contracts by the Department of Health in April, prompting increasing numbers to seek treatment abroad.

While many children require dental surgery before adulthood to prevent permanent damage, the new contracts will cut the number of children receiving orthodontic work by up to a fifth, the BDA says. Under the previous system, dentists were responsible for budgeting for orthodontic treatment. They are now limited to spending a certain amount each year, forcing them to limit treatment to the most needy.

A lack of funding for training has also exacerbated the shortage of specialist orthodontic dentists, experts say. A BDA spokeswoman told The Times: "The BDA is aware that since the introduction of the new dental contract in April, access to orthodontic treatment has been reduced. "This is a national issue surrounding the funding for these treatments. Only those patients who most need treatment will be able to get it on the NHS. "It's estimated the new criteria will reduce the number of children treated by up to 20 per cent. Those who do qualify for treatment may find they are on a waiting list of several years."

Some dentists who formerly provided orthodontics in less complex cases have now been given purely dental contracts, which has led to a reduction in the amount of orthodontic treatment, the BDA said. The Department of Health said yesterday: "The transition to the new arrangements has inevitably thrown up some challenges, but we are confident the NHS is now taking advantage of the reforms to put orthodontic services onto a more secure footing for the future." [Pure waffle!]


Big cars to be hit hard in London: "Drivers of gas-guzzling cars may have to pay 25 pounds a day to enter London's enlarged congestion charge zone, under plans by Ken Livingstone to tackle climate change. The Mayor of London is proposing an emissions-based congestion charge fee that will penalise drivers of the highest-polluting vehicles, including many 4x4s and luxury saloons. The new 25 pound rate would apply to cars rated in band G for vehicle excise duty, which covers those emitting more than 225g of carbon dioxide per kilometre..... Owners of fuel-inefficient cars in Richmond upon Thames, southwest London, are already facing a tripling in the cost of parking permits to œ300, under proposals put forward by the local council."

Futile attempt to make British bureaucrats work: "Being told to clear your desk used to be synonymous with dismissal. But civil servants have been asked to remove photographs, food and mobile phones in an attempt to improve efficiency. Under an edict sent to Revenue & Customs staff in tax offices, desks have to be tidy, clean and free from clutter to promote "efficient business processing". The so-called Lean programme, designed to improve productivity in government offices, has provoked a work-to-rule among 14,000 civil servants. An internal memo from a senior manager in North Wales outlining the process evoked claims from the Public and Commercial Services Union that the organisation was trying to "dehumanise" working conditions."

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