Saturday, June 27, 2009


On Thursday, the Met Office launched its new report on global warming: UK Climate Projections 2009, otherwise known as UKCP09. This is based on the output of Hadley Centre climate models that predict temperature increases of up to 6°C with wetter winters, dryer summers, more heatwaves, rising sea levels, more floods and all the other catastrophes that one would expect from similar exercises in alarmism.

What makes this report different from any of its predecessors is the resolution of the predictions that the Met Office is making. They are not just presenting a general impression of what might happen globally during this century, or even how climate change could affect the UK as a whole. They are claiming that they can predict what will happen in individual regions of the country - down to a 25km square. You can enter your postcode and find out how your street will be affected by global warming in 2040 or 2080.

All this is rather unexpected. In May last year, I posted here and here about a world summit of climate modellers that took place at Reading University. On the agenda was one very important problem for them; even the most powerful super-computers that have been developed so far are not capable of running the kind of high resolution models that they claim would allow them to reduce the degree of uncertainty in their predictions, and also make detailed regional predictions that policy makers would like to have so that they can build climate change into infrastructure planning.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the conference website:
The climate modelling community is therefore faced with a major new challenge: Is the current generation of climate models adequate to provide societies with accurate and reliable predictions of regional climate change, including the statistics of extreme events and high impact weather, which are required for global and local adaptation strategies? It is in this context that the World Climate Research Program (WCRP) and the World Weather Research Programme (WWRP) asked the WCRP Modelling Panel (WMP) and a small group of scientists to review the current state of modelling, and to suggest a strategy for seamless prediction of weather and climate from days to centuries for the benefit of and value to society.

A major conclusion of the group was that regional projections from the current generation of climate models were sufficiently uncertain to compromise this goal of providing society with reliable predictions of regional climate change.

Modellers also fretted that the GCMs, or General Circulation Models, were blunt instruments.
Current generation climate models have serious limitations in simulating regional features, for example, rainfall, mid-latitude storms, organized tropical convection, ocean mixing, and ecosystem dynamics. What is the scientific strategy to improve the fidelity of climate models?

This was summed up by Julia Slingo (at that time Professor of Meteorology at Reading University, who also chaired part of the conference) in a report by Roger Harrabin on the BBC News website:

So far modellers have failed to narrow the total bands of uncertainties since the first report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1990.

And Julia Slingo from Reading University admitted it would not get much better until they had supercomputers 1,000 times more powerful than at present. "We've reached the end of the road of being able to improve models significantly so we can provide the sort of information that policymakers and business require," she told BBC News. "In terms of computing power, it's proving totally inadequate. With climate models we know how to make them much better to provide much more information at the local level... we know how to do that, but we don't have the computing power to deliver it."

Professor Slingo said several hundred million pounds of investment were needed. "In terms of re-building something like the Thames Barrier, that would cost billions; it's a small fraction of that. "And it would allow us to tell the policymakers that they need to build the barrier in the next 30 years, or maybe that they don't need to."

If, since the conference, several hundred million pounds had been invested in producing a new generation of supercomputers, a thousand times more powerful than the present generation, and the Met Office had already developed and run the kind of high resolution models which were so far beyond the scientist's grasp just a year ago, then I suspect that this might have seeped into the media and we would have head about it. So far as I am aware, the fastest supercomputers are still a thousand times slower than the modellers consider necessary for credible regional scale modelling of the climate.

So I wondered whether Professor Slingo had anything to say about the Met Office's new. In fact, she did:
"Through UKCP09 [UK Climate Predictions 2009] the Met Office has provided the world's most comprehensive regional climate projections with a unique assessment of the possible changes to our climate through the rest of this century. "For the first time businesses and other organisations have the tools to help them make risk-based decisions to adapt to the challenges of our changing climate." Slingo confidently explained the 'breakthrough' to Bloomberg. "We can attach levels of certainty," she said.

So what’s changed since last year? Well one thing is that Julia Slingo has a new job. She has been appointed as Chief Scientist at the Met Office. So far as I know, the limitations that lack of computing power place on the accuracy and resolution of models are just the same.

During a rather bad-tempered interview on Thursday evening’s Newsnight, Kirsty Wark asked Hilary Benn, the UK Environment Secretary, why local authorities were being told to use the Met Office predictions as a template for infrastructure planning when their report had not been peer reviewed and the authors had postponed publication of information about the methodology that they had used. She also told him that there was considerable concern among other climate scientists about the Met Office’s research.

Myles Allen made an appearance on the programme warning that local authorities should be very wary about planning infrastructure projects on the basis of climate models unless they were sure that the science was robust. Mr Benn parroted the usual mantras without addressing the questions, and looked as though he would have much preferred to be elsewhere.


More arrogant British bureaucrats

'I was turned into a pariah for complaining about a yob' -- Woman blacklisted by her local council. And the council would not admit that they had got it wrong. She had to go all the way to the High Court to slap them down. Legal costs: Half a million pounds -- to be paid by the council's insurers. I'm guessing that when the insurance policy comes up for renewal they will have to pay a huge premium to get any insurance cover at all

Jane Clift saw it as her public duty to report a drunk she saw trampling flowers in a park. But her efforts led to a surreal nightmare in which she was branded potentially violent and put on a council blacklist with thugs and sex attackers. Her details were circulated to an extraordinary range of public and private bodies, including doctors, dentists, opticians, libraries, contraceptive clinics, schools and nurseries. Their staff were advised not to see her alone. The 43-year-old former care worker was forced to withdraw an application to become a foster parent and, eventually, to leave the town where she had lived for ten years.

Now, after a bitter four-year legal battle with Slough Council, the stain on her character has finally been removed. The High Court ordered the council to pay her 12,000 pounds in libel damages after a case which has cost taxpayers an estimated 500,000 in legal fees. Mrs Clift said last night: 'I hope this means others will never have to go through the hell I have suffered.'

Jane Clift, 43, was 'outraged' in December 2005 on learning she had been put on the council's 'register of potentially violent persons', with officials warned only to approach her in pairs, a High Court jury heard during a week-long trial. Her QC, Hugh Tomlinson, said she was unfairly branded a trouble-maker in order to 'get rid of her' due to her persistence in pursuing complaints against the council and its staff.

The court heard in August 2005 Mrs Clift confronted an abusive drunk in the town's Sheffield Road Rest Gardens after she objected to a small boy vandalising a flower bed. Her deadlock with the council developed over Mrs Clift's claims that staff in its anti-social behaviour unit took no action over her complaints.

Former care worker, Mrs Clift, claimed damages for libel from the council and its then head of public protection, Patrick Kelleher, both of whom denied the claims. Each insisted that they acted in good faith. On Wednesday the jury rejected allegations that Mr Kelleher had acted maliciously, but upheld Mrs Clift's libel claim, awarding £12,000 damages.

Ms Clift sued for libel over the insertion of her name on the violent persons' register, and over an email distributed by Mr Kelleher. The jury found the disputed register entry and email were not 'substantially true', but cleared Mr Kelleher of allegations of malice in composing the email.

She said she had no idea such a register even existed before her name was added to it. The entry expired after 18 months but by then she had been forced to leave Slough. Mrs Clift, who now lives in Birmingham, said: 'I am not and never have been violent - as the jury have found. 'It has taken me four years to clear my name and I hope Slough and other councils never again misuse their registers.'

Simon Davies, from the human rights watchdog Privacy International, said: 'This just shows the megalomania of these local authorities. This poor woman was subjected to a Kafkaesque ordeal because of an incorrect allegation made by one official. 'It is the sort of behaviour that we would have condemned if it came from China or Russia. Our councils seem to be out of control.'

During the eight-day hearing the court was told Mrs Clift had told another council worker that, as far as she was concerned, Miss Rashid could 'drop down dead'. She followed up with a letter in which she wrote: 'I felt so filled with anger that I am certain I would have physically attacked her if she had been anywhere near me. I truly am not of that nature and so, surely, this should act as a wake-up call to the borough as to the capacity she has for offending people.'

But her counsel, Hugh Tomlinson, said the letter was misinterpreted and the decision to put her on the register had been 'completely ridiculous'. Her name was added to the blacklist because she was 'a thorn in their side' and the council thought the move would mean no-one would take her seriously.

Mr Justice Tugendhat ordered Slough to pay the legal costs of the case, estimated at between 450,000 to 500,000 pounds. Mrs Clift brought the action under a 'no win no fee' arrangement with her legal team.

A council spokesman said later: 'The jury found that what we recorded about Mrs Clift was not true, but they were not prepared to find that we acted in bad faith. 'We will reflect carefully on how we need to respond.'

See here and here (The Daily Mail article was incomplete so I have inserted part of a report on the case above from another newspaper)

British headteachers to get more powers as Labour Party performs massive U-turn

Schools are to be freed from the key central government controls imposed under New Labour in a dramatic turnaround, it was reported today. The Government's 'national strategies' for education are to be scrapped, ending centralised prescription of teaching methods and of literacy and numeracy hours in primary schools. It will hand back powers to headteachers - and save the Government up to £100million a year currently spent employing private consultants to 'improve' schools, a newspaper reported.

The central controls, introduced after 1997, were the flagship of Labour's education policy under Tony Blair. The money saved on private consultants will instead be used to encourage successful schools to forge networks with worse-performing neighbours and to buy in their own advisers to help drive up standards.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families last night confirmed that the Education White Paper expected to be published next Tuesday will set out a new approach to provide more 'tailored' support to schools, based on their individual needs and circumstances. However, a spokesman insisted the changes were actually a mark of the success of the National Strategies. He said the reforms would not stop the daily literacy and numeracy hours introduced in the early Blair years. Schools are expected to continue with these because good teachers 'know this is the right thing to do'.

The DCSF spokesman said: 'Building on the successes we have seen since 1997, the White Paper will set out our new approach to local authority and school accountability and support, making the support that schools can access even more tailored to their individual needs and circumstances. 'The confidence that such a shift is viable is in many respects testament to the success of the National Strategies. 'All primary schools will continue to have daily English and maths lessons because strong school leaders know this is the right thing to do. We must continue to do the very best to ensure that all children get the reading and writing skills they need to succeed in later life. 'This is not about getting rid of the literacy and numeracy hours but a renewed push to raise standards and provide new forms of support and challenge for schools who need it.'

Tuesday's White Paper is also expected to include new U.S.-style 'report cards', giving grades to schools on a scale of A to F as well as information about truancy levels, behaviour and sporting achievements.

The Guardian today quoted sources close to the White Paper as saying that the Government's national strategy contracts with consultants Capita will be wound down from 2011. The company currently provides management advice, as well as materials and training to standardise teaching across schools. The White Paper follows a report from the Commons Schools Committee in April which criticised the 'degree of control' exercised by Whitehall over the curriculum and said lessons were too prescriptive and failed to take account of the needs of pupils in different areas. 'At times schooling has appeared more of a franchise operation, dependent on a recipe handed down by Government rather than the exercise of professional expertise by teachers,' said the report.


Four in ten under-20s in London aren't white

Four out of ten young people in London are members of ethnic minorities, it was revealed yesterday. A government report found that more than 700,000 children and teenagers are classed as non-white, around 40 per cent of the age group in the capital.

At present, just over a third of Londoners of all ages are reckoned to be non-white - but the new figures indicate that this share will grow substantially in the future. They also point to the way recent waves of immigration have made a bigger impact on London than other parts of the country.

The analysis from the Office for National Statistics said that in the West Midlands, the second most multi-racial area of the country after London, just 19 per cent of children and teenagers are non-white.

The figures were disclosed in Whitehall's annual Regional Trends report. They drew warnings from migration experts that politicians are taking a risk by ignoring the changing nature of cities and suburbs.

Sir Andrew Green of the Migrationwatch think-tank said: 'This illustrates the massive change that is taking place to our society at a rapid pace and without the indigenous population ever being consulted. 'It is high time that the political class took their heads out of the clouds and responded to the very strong public opinion that wants to bring immigration under control.'

Many of the migrants who have come into Britain in the past ten years have settled in London. Three London boroughs have had majority ethnic minority populations since the turn of the Millennium - Newham, Tower Hamlets and Brent - and others are likely to see whites become a minority in the near future. The estimates yesterday put the under-20 ethnic minority population of London at 714,000.

Around 15 per cent of young Londoners are classed as Asian or Asian British, it said, and 14 per cent black or black British. Lowest populations of ethnic minority youngsters were in the North-East - five per cent of all people under 20 - and in the South-West, at six per cent.

The all-party Balanced Migration group of MPs said that 70 per cent of future population increase and 40 per cent of new households will be a result of immigration.

In a statement, the group's co-chairmen, Labour MP Frank Field and Tory Nicholas Soames, said: 'As we face severe cuts in public spending, it is the politics of madness to continue with immigration policies that will mean us having to provide thousands of new homes for newcomers - not to mention the necessary roads, schools and hospitals - on this unprecedented scale, when our own citizens, both black and white, cannot get homes.'


Jewish school broke race laws by refusing boy whose mother had converted

This is muddled thinking even by the standards of modern British law. Despite what the judges said, Jews are a religion, not a race. There are Jews of all races. And the fact that the school was willing to accept a convert shows that the discrimination was not based on ancestry. It was based on religion. How can you be converted into a different race??? Even Michael Jackson couldn't manage that. The school just wanted the conversion to be up to orthodox standards and not some token thing

A leading Jewish state school broke race laws by refusing to admit a boy whose mother had converted to the religion, the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday. JFS, formerly the Jewish Free School, is highly oversubscribed and has turned away several pupils for not meeting its criteria of Jewishness. Previous court hearings have supported its stance. Yesterday, however, the court ruled in favour of the parents of a boy named only as M. The school, in Brent, northwest London, rejected the 12-year-old child because his mother converted to Judaism at a Progressive rather than Orthodox synagogue. M’s father is Jewish, but custom dictates that the faith line passes through the mother.

The judges said that “the requirement that if a pupil is to qualify for admission his mother must be Jewish, whether by descent or by conversion, is a test of ethnicity which contravenes the Race Relations Act”.

The ruling will have widespread implications for other faith schools and puts the court on a collision course with the Office of the Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, from which the school takes its definition of which children are Jewish. It strikes at the heart of whether being Jewish is a religious or racial question and means that such schools will now have to adopt a religious practice test.

JFS said that it was “disappointed” and would seek leave to appeal to the House of Lords — a decision supported by Sir Jonathan. “I have advised the leadership of JFS that they have my full personal support,” he said.

Other Jewish groups, however, welcomed the ruling, saying they had been marginalised and discouraged from speaking out. Rabbi Danny Rich, the chief executive of Liberal Judaism, said: “The JFS, a state comprehensive funded by taxpayers, has been exclusively following one Jewish religious authority and ignoring the rest. We object to standard-setting by just one section of the community to the detriment of the rest. The JFS will now be open to children from all types of Jewish background.”

The court ruling stated: “It appears to us clear that Jews constitute a racial group defined principally by ethnic origin and additionally by conversion and that to discriminate against a person on the ground that he either is or is not Jewish is therefore to discriminate against him on racial grounds. “If for theological reasons a fully subscribed Christian faith school refused to admit a child on the ground that, albeit practising Christians, the child’s family were of Jewish origin, it is hard to see what answer there could be to a claim for race discrimination. The refusal of JFS to admit M was accordingly, in our judgment, less favourable treatment of him on racial grounds.”

John Halford, who represented the boy’s father, said: “It is unlawful for a child’s ethnic origins to be used as the criterion for school entry. Such a practice is even more unacceptable in the case of a comprehensive school funded by the taxpayer.” Many other Jewish schools operate according to similar policies and will be affected by the court’s decision.

David Lightman’s daughter was also turned away by JFS because it did not accept her Jewish status, even though her mother is head of English at the school. Mr Lightman, an Orthodox Jew, said yesterday: “This is a victory for common sense and religious freedom. We are talking about two Jewish children who want an education. If the school thinks it’s worth spending millions of pounds to stop that happening, then they need to re-examine what Judaism is about.”

JFS is one of Britain’s oldest Jewish schools and is the largest Orthodox Jewish school in Europe, with 2,000 pupils. It is described by Ofsted as outstanding and is oversubscribed every academic year.


Scottish scientists raise hopes of new treatments for autism

This is pretty nutty. Only 5 out of 121 autistic kids had the gene abnormality and they think they have found THE autism gene. What a lot of bollocks!

Scottish scientists have discovered a gene linked with autism, raising the prospect of the development of new treatments for the condition. Drugs to control autism could be developed within five years as a result of the findings, according to the doctor who led the research team at the University of Aberdeen. The condition affects more than 500,000 people across Britain and there is no cure.

The study, published yesterday, began seven years ago with one child with severe autism. The boy attended the genetics clinic at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, where he was found to have a rare re-arrangement of chromosomes in which one had broken and swapped with another. By using genetic mapping techniques, researchers discovered that this realignment had disrupted a gene known to be important to memory and learning. When they extended the study to examine 120 other families with autism, they found that four other children — two siblings in two separate families — had faults in the same gene, known as EIF4E.

It is estimated that 1 per cent of the British population suffers from autism, a lifelong developmental disability that affects the way that a person communicates and relates to those around them. The condition occurs in varying forms of severity, and some people require lifelong care.

The research was led by Zosia Miedzybrodzka, reader in medical genetics at the University of Aberdeen and honorary clinical geneticist at NHS Grampian. She said that the study was a significant step towards the discovery of a treatment. “When I started doing genetics I believed that conditions such as autism, that people are born with or develop when very young, would be hard-wired and that there was little you could do about it,” she said. “But what we are learning now is that they are modifiable, and that is very exciting. I think we could be trying out drugs in five years. It is not a cure, but something that would potentially improve the condition dramatically.”

Dr Miedzybrodzka said that the work suggested that a correction of EIF4E abnormalities could improve symptoms in people whose autism did not result from a fault in the gene. “If you fix the problem at the endpoint then you also fix problems further upstream,” she said.

She paid tribute to the parents of the boy who prompted the research, pointing out that the study was an extra complication for the family as they struggled to cope with his condition. “It has been a long process and the family has been key to allowing us to get the blood samples we needed from the boy. With his condition, which was very severe, that was no trivial thing,” she said. The parents of the child, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “We are delighted that the work that started with our son brings so much hope for the future.”

Carol Evans, national director at the National Autistic Society Scotland, said that the research could shed new light on the condition. She emphasised, though, that much could be done to help to manage the condition until a treatment is found. “Various studies over many years have sought to identify candidate genes but so far inconclusively,” she said. “Whilst it is important that this research continues, it is also crucial that those living with the condition have access to appropriate advice and information, as the right support at the right time can make an enormous difference to people’s lives.”

Autism is a lifelong developmental condition affecting the way that the brain processes information. The condition is on the rise in Britain, but many experts believe that the increase is because of improved diagnosis. While people can have varying degrees of autism, all sufferers share similar symptoms, including problems with verbal and non-verbal communication, difficulties with social interaction and repetitive behaviour, or narrow, obsessive interests. Boys are four times as likely to develop autism as girls. Research indicates that a combination of genetic and environmental factors may account for changes in brain development.


UK: Hackers recruited to help fight against cybercrime : “Reformed computer hackers are being recruited by the Government to defend Britain from international crime gangs and terrorists plotting cyber attacks on the country. With internet fraud costing billions of pounds a year and Whitehall computer systems facing repeated assaults from abroad, ministers are hiring hackers to protect state secrets. A new ‘cyber security operations centre’ at GCHQ in Cheltenham will monitor attempts, many orchestrated from abroad, to infiltrate the national computer network.”

Journalism and the British expenses scandal: “Sunday Telegraph editor Ian Macgregor was our guest at a power lunch in Westminster this week. His topic was ‘The importance of journalism in modern society.’ And of course, that’s a topic that Telegraph have earned a right to talk about in the last couple of months, with their brilliantly handled investigation into MPs expenses. There’s no question the story has been good for the Telegraph’s business, winning them many thousands of new readers. But I also think they have performed a genuine public service, by making people realize that you just can’t trust politicians to be responsible with taxpayers’ money.”

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