Thursday, October 02, 2008

Big natural climate change very recently

WINTER 1947, when Britain could have used some global warming

After the Second World War Britain was bombed out, bankrupt, exhausted and desperately short of fuel. The winter of 1947 sank the country to a level of deprivation unknown even during the war. A catalogue of weather calamities precipitated a national crisis and changed Britain and the rest of Europe for decades afterwards.

The winter began deceptively, with just a brief cold snap before Christmas 1946. Snow lay thick on the ground when, in mid-January, temperatures soared so high that it felt as if spring had arrived early. The snow thawed so rapidly that it set off floods - just as hurricane-force winds brought down roofs, trees and even houses and a railway bridge in Birmingham. But real winter arrived soon afterwards as the country was gripped in an Arctic freeze that lasted for two months, with snow whipped into monstrous drifts that buried roads and railways. The temperature fell to -21C at Woburn, Buckinghamshire.

On February 20 the Dover to Ostend ferry service was suspended because of pack-ice off the Belgian coast. It became the coldest February ever recorded - and there was virtually no sunshine for almost the whole month.

The freeze paralysed coalmines, with coal stocks often stuck at the collieries by railways and roads buried in snow. Even carrying coal by sea was hazardous, with storms, fog and iced-over harbours.

A week after the freeze began, the Minister of Fuel and Power, Emmanuel Shinwell, ordered electricity supplies to be cut to industry, and domestic electricity supplies to be turned off for five hours each day, to conserve coal stocks. Whitehall and Buckingham Palace were reduced to working by candlelight. Television was closed down, radio output reduced, newspapers cut in size and magazines ordered to stop publishing. The emergency package hardly made a difference to power supplies but was a crushing blow to public morale.

Food supplies shrank alarmingly and rations were cut even lower than they had been during the war. Farms were frozen or snowed under, and vegetables were in such short supply that pneumatic drills were used to dig up parsnips from frozen fields. For the first time, potatoes were rationed after some 70,000 tons of them were destroyed by the cold.

The Government tried a deeply unpopular campaign to encourage everyone to eat a cheap South African fish called snoek, millions of tins of which had been imported - but it tasted disgusting and was used eventually as cat food.

Those delivering food supplies were battling to get through blizzards and snowdrifts, and The Attlee Government was seriously worried that the country could slide into famine.

March turned out even worse than February. March 5 brought the worst blizzard of the 20th century. Supplies of food shrank so low that in some places the police asked for authority to break open stranded lorries carrying food cargoes. On March 6 The Times reported: "The blizzard has virtually cut England in two. It is almost impossible to get from South to North."

Eventually, on March 10, a sustained thaw set in - and triggered another spectacular disaster. After weeks of deep frost, the ground was so hard that the melting snow ran off into raging torrents of floodwater and, to make things worse, a huge storm dropped heavy rain. Indeed, it was the wettest March on record in England and Wales. The winds whipped up floodwater into waves that breached dykes in the Fens, flooding 100 square miles of rich farmland, and houses collapsed. Canada sent food parcels to stricken villages in Suffolk, and the prime minister of Ontario even offered to help to dish them out.

It is difficult to imagine a worse run of weather, although the Government was blamed for the food and fuel crises. Elected in the summer of 1945 with a landslide majority, the Labour administration had embarked on a radical programme of nationalisation, including the health service, coalmining, electricity supply and railways. But it was caught unprepared when people began to buy electric fires and immersion heaters, and power stations could not meet the rising demand for energy.

Yet despite the collapsing economy and threat of starvation, the Government carried on behaving as if it were in control of a world superpower. Military expenditure was 15 per cent of GDP - far higher than before the war - and included the development of Britain's own nuclear bomb, as well as forces stationed in Europe and across the Empire. With a hugely ambitious programme of free healthcare and reconstruction, it was simply unsustainable. The winter of 1947 led to savage cuts in public spending at home and contributed to the humiliating devaluation of sterling from $4 to $2.80 the next year.

Less than two years after winning the war, the nation was left freezing cold, plunged into darkness and on the brink of starvation - and for many people it showed that national planning and socialism did not work. Labour was turned out of office in a landslide defeat at the next general election.


Oxford 'is not a social security office'

Chancellor of university rejects government plan to attract more state pupils

Oxford University should not be treated by the Government as "a social security office" to widen participation in higher education among disadvantaged pupils from state schools, its chancellor said yesterday. Oxford had "no chance" of increasing state school admissions to meet targets so long as the gap in exam performance existed, Lord Patten of Barnes told the annual meeting of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC).

Research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development showed the gap in performance between Britain's private and state schools was the widest in the Western world, he said, adding: "The sense that many universities have is that they are being asked to make up for the deficiencies of secondary education. If this were the aim, it would be a fool's mission."Latest figures show that 53 per cent of Oxford's student intake is from state schools. The target is to raise this to 62 per cent by the end of the decade.

Lord Patten's comments were coupled with a plea to charge middle-class parents more for a child's university tuition by lifting the current fees cap of 3,140 pounds per annum. "It is surely a mad world in which parents or grandparents are prepared to shell out tens of thousands to put their children through private schools to get them into universities and then to object to them paying a tuition fee of more than 3,000," he said. His long-term preference would be for no cap at all, which could lead to universities charging up to 20,000 for some courses.

The chancellor's remarks coincided with a study for the HMC, carried out by Buckingham University's Centre for Education and Employment, which showed that independent schools were concentrating on "hard" A-level subjects such as further maths, rather than "soft" ones like media studies and psychology - which are more popular in comprehensive schools. The study's authors said: "Independent schools have above-average A-level entries in further maths, physics, French, economics and classics, while comprehensives have above average entries in sports studies, media studies, law, psychology and sociology."

The Schools minister, Lord Adonis, also addressed the conference, insisting there was plenty of teaching of the "harder" subjects at state schools.


British children are still being treated in adult psychiatric wards

Hundreds of mentally ill children and teenagers are being treated on adult psychiatric wards in defiance of a government promise to halt the practice. A report that lifts the lid on the desperate state of mental health services for young people says that only 15 per cent of health trusts have complied with the Government’s commitment that all young people would be treated in special units, not with adults, by this November.

The findings come from the charity Young Minds and the Children’s Commissioner, Sir Al Aynsley-Green. He has, for the first time, used his powers to force primary care trusts (PCTs) to disclose what is going on in clinics and psychiatric hospitals. The report, entitled Out of the Shadows?, says that mental health services for children and teenagers are so stretched that 72 per cent of inpatient referrals are turned away, forcing young people to travel hundreds of miles from their home or, more commonly, to be sent to adult wards.

No national figures on admissions are collected by the NHS but research by the Royal College of Psychiatrists suggests that about a third of the 3,000 or so children and teenagers admitted for inpatient psychiatric treatment each year end up on adult wards. PCTs were told more than 18 months ago that this must stop. It will become illegal in 2010 for all but the most dire emergencies under the new Mental Health Act.

The Children’s Commissioner has singled out some basic standards that adult wards must meet when young people have to be treated there. These are based on government guidelines and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The standards are to ensure that young people feel safe from other patients, know why they are there, what drugs and other treatment they will receive, can maintain contact with their peers and continue with their education.

However, the report says that about half of all PCTs make no special provisions when children are admitted to adult wards. Fewer than one in four trusts allocates young people a key worker with any training in children’s mental health. The report says that is a serious concern. Less than half comply with guidance that young people must be given information on what medication they receive, for how long they will have it and possible side-effects. Only a third have facilities for education and only a quarter offer any daily activities for young people. This has been identified as a particular problem as it is very harmful to leave children and young people “watching the wall” for hours on end.

Independent advocacy, particularly important to young people who are sectioned under the Mental Health Act, is available in 75 per cent of wards and clinics but only 20 per cent advise patients of the service and only a handful have an advocate who has expertise with children. Professor Aynsley-Green said that while some of the findings were encouraging, some trusts clearly did not believe that young people’s mental health was a priority.

Lois Ward, 20, a representative from Young Minds, who helped to compile the report, said: “The young people entering mental health services have their lives ahead of them and it is essential that the environments in which they are placed are safe, supportive and serve to boost their potential in the future.”



Justice for the Gurkhas at last

It's a disgrace that the Gurkhas had to fight the leftist British government for this. Only reality-defying and military-hating Leftists could argue that the Gurkhas "did not have strong ties to the UK"

I remember once when I was in Britain, probably in 1977, seeing these small Asian men in green caps on guard at Buckingham palace. I expected tall men in red jackets and bearskin hats. It was very surprising to see until one realized that the guard that day were Gurkhas. It is only the great affection felt towards the Gurkhas by most British people that gave them the honour of standing guard at Britain's most important ceremonial post. The one thing that we can be grateful about in the disgraceful affair described below is that the Gurkhas saw very clearly that the British government was the problem, not the British people.

It is difficult to imagine a more racist policy in this day and age than the British government claim that it OK for Gurkhas to die for Britain but not OK for them to live in Britain

Former Gurkha soldiers from Nepal won the right to settle in Britain on Tuesday, in what their lawyers hailed as an "historic victory" for the veteran fighters. Ending a two-year legal battle, the High Court in London ruled in their favour in a test case affecting some 2000 Gurkhas who retired from the British army before 1997.

"Today is a wonderful, terrific victory day for the Gurkhas of Nepal," said their lawyer, Martin Howe. "It's a victory for common sense. It's a victory for fairness. ... It's a day that will go down in history for the Gurkhas." Until now, only Gurkhas who retired after 1997, when their base was moved from Hong Kong to England, had the automatic right to settle in Britain. All other foreign soldiers in the British army have a right to settle in Britain after four years of service anywhere in the world.

Around 200,000 Gurkhas fought for Britain in World Wars I and II, and about 3500 currently serve in the British army, including in Afghanistan and Iraq. More than 45,000 have died serving Britain. Judge Nicholas Blake underlined the "moral debt of honour" and gratitude which Britain has to the Gurkhas for their long military service, wounds sustained in battle, conspicuous acts of bravery and loyalty to the crown.

Howe said the case had seen "a torrential outpouring of affection and concern" from ordinary British people - and called on the government to allow the affected Gurkhas in immediately. "We call today on our government to respect the views of the people of Britain, to respect this judgment fully and immediately allow the men and women affected by this judgment to come into this country," he said.

Subas Gurung, 47, a former staff sergeant in the Gurkha Transport Regiment, told AFP outside court that the British government's stance was "very unfair." "I'm very, very happy to hear the verdict," said the Gulf War veteran who was decorated with the British Empire Medal for his service peacekeeping in Cyprus in 1991. "All the soldiers who retired before 1997 who were badly affected now can join with us which is very, very good news for me and people like me who are back in Nepal. "We joined together, we worked together, we should be able to get the right treatment together as a group," he said. He added: "The British people really supported this case. If they had not supported so well, this day probably would not have come. "I would really like to thank the British public supporting us and recognising the value of the soldiers who have been in service over 200 years."

British actress Joanna Lumley, who has been a key supporter of the campaign, welcomed the judgment but called for a change in the law to cement it. "It gives our country a chance to right a great wrong, and to wipe out a national shame that has stained us all," said the actress, whose father fought alongside the Gurkhas. "It's not over yet. Until the laws are changed, fundamentally rewritten, it's not over yet."

The Gurkhas, who are renowned for their bravery and ferocious fighting skills, have also struggled for many years for pension rights equal to those of their British army counterparts. Three Gurkhas who lost a court challenge on pensions in July are taking their case to the Court of Appeal in October.


British local government tyranny


CAMPAIGNERS have condemned a council's plan to fine residents $10,000 for leaving wheelie bins out, branding it an "abuse of power" and "blatant moneymaking". Under the scheme residents would face a penalty of $200 if their bin was still on the street the day after it had been emptied. But if householders fail to pay up within 14 days they could face court action - where they may be fined 50 times more.

East Staffordshire Borough Council has been given permission to issue the notices to those who persistently leave bins out. They will be introduced in Burton-on-Trent in the coming weeks.

Taxpayers' Alliance chief executive Matthew Elliott said: "This is quite staggering and completely over the top. "It is a blatant attempt by the council to make money rather than enforce a law reasonably. "I am sure there are many scourges in communities which would be better addressed than leaving a wheelie bin outside your home for more than 24 hours. "This is just the kind of abuse of local authority power that makes people resent councils."

Christine Melsom, founder of council tax campaign group IsItfair, said: "A lot of people find it hard to stick to a deadline, especially if they are going out to work. "People are trying hard to be responsible with their rubbish. This is heavy handed."

A council spokesman said: "The starting date for the scheme is imminent. We have everything in place and wardens will be the eyes on the streets to enforce it. "Bins should only be put out on the evening before refuse collection is due and returned to private land on the same day." Town hall bosses say left-out bins present a danger to pedestrians, especially those with impaired vision or disabilities.


More stupid and uncaring bureaucracy

Stalker Barry George has been living at a run-down hotel used as a hostel for vulnerable women, The Sun can reveal. The weirdo tried to strike up friendships with battered wives and destitute single mums he met there.

George, 48, was cleared at a retrial of murdering BBC Crimewatch star Jill Dando after serving eight years for her killing. He stalked hundreds of women in the past - and has convictions for attempted rape and indecent assault. Yet he was placed in the hotel by a council while waiting for more suitable accommodation.

Last night Women's Aid branded the move "absolutely appalling". The charity - which works to end domestic violence - added: "These women should be put first and that does not seem to be happening."

Loner George approached women residents inside the hotel and chatted to them in the street. One said: "I can't believe a man who has been convicted of trying to rape someone and stalked lots of women would be housed in a place like this.

Another source said of the hotel: "It is mainly full of single mums on the waiting list for a council home. They want to be somewhere they feel safe, not in a hotel next to a stalker." George was put up at the bed and breakfast joint in Hackney, East London, despite allegedly being paid $100,000 for his story by a Sunday newspaper. He is also in line to receive up to $1,500,000 in compensation.

It was reported he had been staying with a relative but Hackney council placed him in the $608-a-week hotel - now being refurbished. He was one of only three men in the 40-bedroom establishment. George was put there under a Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangement, designed to supervise violent and serious sex offenders.

As well as fears he might start stalking women again, there were concerns for his safety. He was moved from the hotel last Thursday after a worried resident spoke to the manager. Neither Hackney council nor the Ministry of Justice - responsible for MAPPAs - would comment.


Britain's Keystone Kops again

Police confiscate walking stick from retired teacher, 78, because it is an 'offensive weapon'. And then they can't even find it when they want to give it back! They are as incompetent as they are lacking in commonsense

They must have known he was a troublemaker the moment they saw him. With his white hair, wax jacket and glasses, 78-year-old Philip Clarkson Webb clearly ticked all the boxes any eagle-eyed policemen would mark as 'danger'. And as he shuffled along the pavement towards them there was one thing above all they deemed to pose a threat - his walking stick. The officers surrounded the retired classics teacher and informed him the 3ft wooden cane was an 'offensive weapon' and had to be confiscated. Mr Clarkson Webb duly handed it over, but the farce did not end there.

When he later went to collect it from his local police station in Southborough, Kent, with his police receipt, he was told it had been misplaced. It took a string of phone calls for Kent Police to finally admit they had lost it and to offer to buy him a brand new one.

Mr Clarkson Webb was caught up by overzealous policing at a climate camp environmental demonstration in Kingsnorth last month. He was not one of the activists at the climate camp but merely paid a visit to attend a seminar on trade energy quotas. The police stopped him and confiscated his walking stick as he approached the site where dozens of policemen, some in riot gear, were stationed.

Mr Clarkson Webb said: "At the bottom of the lane Kent Police officers confiscated my stick as an offensive weapon but gave me a receipt and promised to return it. "But later when I produced my receipt and asked for the stick it was curtly refused. "Since that date there have been three different telephone conversations. They've lost the stick even though it had a numbered receipt."

Mr Clarkson Webb, who is currently using his spare stick, said: "What this shows is that the efficiency of the police leaves a lot to be desired. "In total the policing for this climate camp cost the taxpayer 6 million pounds. It was a disgraceful waste of taxpayers' money."

Medway MP Bob Marshall Andrews criticised the police for being "provocative and heavy handed" and said the vast majority of the people at the climate camp were "thoroughly decent people".

Kent Police Assistant Chief Constable Allyn Thomas has apologised. He said: "We are sorry we have not been able to return Mr Clarkson Webb's stick and we have apologised to him directly. "During the climate camp there was a considerable amount of activity and our officers and others from around the country who supported Kent Police had to make swift decisions as part of policing the protestors. "Any complaints that are made will be looked into thoroughly."


UK: We'll protect bank savings: "`Prime Minister Gordon Brown has told the BBC that he will do "whatever it takes" to protect people's savings.Moves to guarantee bank deposits up to 50,000 pounds - compared with the current 35,000 limit - are expected shortly.He declined to offer an unlimited guarantee, as has happened in Ireland, but pointed out the government had not let any UK depositor lose out. .. The Irish government has made an emergency decision to guarantee the safety of all deposits in six of its main savings institutions for two years."

You can trust us with your personal data? "Britain's MI6 intelligence service is investigating how a camera holding sensitive information about al-Qaida suspects came to be lost by one of its agents and then sold on eBay, police said on Tuesday. `We can confirm we seized a camera after a member of the public reported it,' said a statement by police in Hertfordshire, north of London, after the camera was handed into a police station."

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