Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The first snow of the year... and it's only October

Any hope of a mild winter were dashed today when winter's first snow made an early appearance. It seems amazing that only a week ago, the sun was out and there was even optimistic talk of a dry season. But temperatures plunged to below zero overnight and today neighbours in the Highlands were left shovelling their driveways after a surprise snowfall.

Cairngorm in Scotland is the first place to see the snow but the rest of the country isn't in for much better weather. Torrential downpours and gale force winds are on the way this weekend. Those braving the outdoors will need waterproofs and umbrellas to hand, with 1.2in (30mm) of rain predicted in some parts. Following the relatively sunny and dry end to September, classic autumn conditions are now likely in many areas.....

Temperatures in London on Monday could reach a balmy 64f (18c) and 59f (15c) or 61f (16c) in other areas. But the overall outlook for the immediate future appears wet and gloomy. We should hardly be surprised. Following last year's record-breaking wet summer, weather statistics show the summer of 2008 was anything but average as well. In fact, it was one of the wettest and least sunny on record.

We had the dullest August since records began in 1929 and a well below par 463.9 hours of sunshine between June 1 and August 31. August was the sixth wettest since 1914 and some parts of the country experienced double the average summer rainfall.


Britain's heartless and rigid socialist bureaucracy again

Not a hint of any human kindness, decency or fellow-feeling: Politicized police refuse to allow mother to lay flowers at death scene of her young sons

The mother of two young children killed in a fire at their family home has been marched away by police after trying to lay flowers on her own doorstep. Denise Goldsmith, 29, said she wanted to pay tribute to her sons Lewis, seven, and Taylor, five, who died when a blaze broke out at their house in the coastal town of Eastbourne, Sussex. The mother was locked out of the property on Saturday afternoon while her children were trapped inside as the flames tore through the house.

She returned to the scene yesterday, and witnesses said that she became hysterical when police told her she could not pass a cordon while forensics teams worked at the property. She pleaded: "Let me in, I need to leave these flowers for my boys. I need to get through, this is my home."

Mrs Goldsmith and members of her family then hit out at officers, according to witnesses, and were led back to their car and advised to leave. A forensic investigator finally retrieved the bunch of flowers, which had been dropped on the road, and placed it on the doorstep behind the cordon.

Jason Maynard, 35, who attempted to save the children, revealed their "devastating" last moments. He said that Mrs Goldsmith had run out of the house to seek help tackling the fire - leaving the children inside - but had locked herself out when the front door slammed behind her. The boys were left trapped inside. Mr Maynard, who was in a neighbouring house when he heard shouting and went outside, said: "The mother was outside on the path, just screaming the place down. She couldn't get back in. "She told me her kids were playing inside, under the stairs. She was screaming, please save my kids, get them out, my kids, my kids, my kids. "The kids wouldn't have been able to reach the door latch to let themselves out. They were just trapped."

The witness said that attempts to break into the house were futile. "The kitchen had already caught fire. The house was just full of flames and there was a huge amount of smoke. "There was nothing we could do. When the fire brigade turned up they battered the door down and went inside, then brought the kids' bodies out and laid them on the pavement. "It's absolutely heartbreaking."

Linda Carey, a friend of the children's father, Stuart Jenkins, said: "Both Stuart and Denise absolutely doted on those boys. I have no idea how she must be feeling right now. "Doctors have put her on sedatives to calm her down. But she must be absolutely torn apart."


Two good letters to "The Telegraph"

1). Your correspondent who contradicted Christopher Booker and expressed approval for the BBC's climate change programme (Letters, September 28) quoted figures from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for past CO2 atmospheric levels which are based on pure guesswork.

The CO2 figures for the past 650,000 years of 180-300 parts per million (ppm) are a guess based on corrected ice core data. Since they were published the corrections have been found to be wrong, based on supposition and giving figures that were too low.

Research into sedimentary carbon isotope data shows higher figures, and the fact that CO2 is not a fixed quantity but has varied over time after temperature changes. This would indicate that CO2 did not drive climate.

There is also the problem with CO2 atmospheric residence time, which the IPCC maintains is 200 years. Recent research by at least 20 independent scientists has given the true figure as 5-10 years. This discrepancy is a serious error and is the problem with the IPCC models, which do not work.

The greenhouse effect is also in question. It might have been proved over a century ago by good scientists, but science moves on and current research shows that this well-known effect is a false trail.

2). Writing in support of the BBC's position on climate change, your correspondent says "the onus is on the sceptics to explain why this [increase in atmospheric CO2 levels] should not cause climate change". The answer is well known to everyone in the climate debate. The relationship between CO2 levels and the greenhouse "forcing effect" is logarithmic. It is a law of diminishing returns.

The higher the level of CO2, the less effect any further increase will have. If the current level were, say, 20 ppm, the effect of adding an extra 20 ppm would be dramatic. But at the current level of around 380 ppm, the effect of an extra 20 ppm is trivial.

I have discussed this point with scientists on the IPCC and they accept it as fact, but then they postulate complex feedback mechanisms between CO2 and water vapour to justify their alarmist position.


Oh Dear! More flawed logic. A British upper class lady writing below ignores the role of social class

Personality traits are highly heritable so what was probably found in the research was that upper class mothers had greater self-confidence and that they expected more of their children. That their children had greater self-confidence could therefore have been a matter of simple genetic inheritance, not a product of expectations or anything else

A study by the University of London reported last week in New Scientist magazine revealed that determined mothers, in particular, tend to produce ultra-confident daughters. This has been widely misinterpreted to mean that becoming the modern-day equivalent of an old-fashioned stage mother is a good thing. What the study actually shows is the importance of having confidence in your children, which is not remotely the same thing as being pushy: it is arguably the exact opposite. Have confidence in their abilities, the study concludes, and they will have few issues with self-esteem.

This does not mean forcing them to do five A-levels. It means not snorting and saying, “Yeah, right,” when your child announces she would like to be foreign secretary; and it also means, surely, leading by example, which probably means working – because it’s harder to be ambitious and confident when you’re milling about vacuuming or putting a load of washing on.

A closer look at the study reveals that there were 300 boys and girls involved, born in 1970. When the children were aged 10, their mothers were asked at what age they believed their child would leave school – a question chosen to illustrate each mother’s belief in her child’s capabilities [And which would have correlated highly with the mother's class rank] . Twenty years later the children themselves answered questions designed to measure their self-confidence.

Those whose mothers had high hopes for them were more likely to report that they felt in control of their lives by the age of 30. The answers also showed that the self-esteem of the women was linked to their mothers’ belief in them as they were growing up, regardless of other factors such as class and education. In addition, a mother’s own confidence and ambition were deemed likely to have rubbed off on her daughter.

I’m stumbling along in the dark like everybody else when it comes to child-rearing, but this study makes perfect sense to me. I was fortunate enough to have a mother [Her mother was an obviously clever Indian lady who married -- several times -- into the upper strata of British society] who thought my ambitions were a bit low-key – when I wanted to be a nurse, she said I should be a doctor; when I wanted to learn Italian, she asked what was wrong with Arabic or Chinese; when I said I might be a journalist, she wondered what on earth was wrong with me – what about the Nobel for literature? She was not remotely pushy – I don’t recall her ever looking over my homework – but she had absolute faith in me.

I don’t ever look at my own children’s homework either (in some circles this is akin to child abuse) because they are perfectly intelligent teenagers who don’t need their mummy to help with commas or write their essays for them on the sly, and I have absolute faith in them. They spend a lot of time just sort of hanging out. No doubt they could be honing their intellects instead of going to see bands or drawing cartoons. But they are their own creatures, for better or worse – not some tragic experiment in creating the version of myself that I’d have liked to be.

Everyone wants the best for their children, whether they are pushy parents or the more shambolic kind. I may be completely allergic to pushiness, but I don’t deny that it has its advantages. Where it fails is in creating confident, relaxed, well-rounded people who are socially at ease wherever they may land. Which is to say, happy people. Tell your children to aim high and let them get on with it.


The writer above is India Knight. Her mother was certainly a clever lady. The Christian name "India" is the sort of name one does find in British upper class circles but could also be portrayed as a frank admission of her Indian origins. The daughter is similarly clever (as one would expect from someone who writes regularly for "The Times"). Her surname "Knight" is adopted from one of her eminent stepfathers. I do not mean to mock the lady, however. Her devotion to her severely handicapped child shows great character. I actually admire how she has made her way so well in British society.

British TV program scraps script after footballers' complaints

"There is intense rivalry in Scotland between the two major football (soccer) teams: Rangers and Celtics. Protestants support the one and Catholics the other.

"Television bosses in Britain have been forced to change an episode of a staple daytime soap opera after dozens of complaints over a jibe directed at Scottish football side Rangers. Britain's biggest commercial broadcaster ITV said the script for a forthcoming episode of Coronation Street, a Manchester-based program and the country's longest-running television soap, was altered after several fans of the Glasgow club voiced displeasure at the joke.

Character Tony Gordon, played by Scottish actor Gray O'Brien, said on the show that he "could no more be interested in Rosie Webster than I could support Glasgow Rangers''. According to an ITV spokesman, the dialogue seemed "to have caused some upset''.

As such, one of the character's lines in an upcoming episode - that he was allergic to "warm beer, the English national anthem and Glasgow Rangers'' - has now been dropped.


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