Thursday, August 20, 2009

The latest melting glacier scare

The Warmists are crowing about this report but with a complete lack of logic. If the glacier were melting due to global warming, lots of other glaciers should be melting similarly but the report itself notes that what is happening at this glacier is anomalous (See the last sentence below). So WHY IS it melting? There is a cogent suggestion at the foot of the article

One of the largest glaciers in Antarctica is thinning four times faster than it was 10 years ago, according to research seen by the BBC. A study of satellite measurements of Pine Island glacier in west Antarctica reveals the surface of the ice is now dropping at a rate of up to 16m a year. Since 1994, the glacier has lowered by as much as 90m, which has serious implications for sea-level rise.

The work by British scientists appears in Geophysical Research Letters. The team was led by Professor Duncan Wingham of University College London (UCL).

Calculations based on the rate of melting 15 years ago had suggested the glacier would last for 600 years. But the new data points to a lifespan for the vast ice stream of only another 100 years. The rate of loss is fastest in the centre of the glacier and the concern is that if the process continues, the glacier may break up and start to affect the ice sheet further inland.

One of the authors, Professor Andrew Shepherd of Leeds University, said that the melting from the centre of the glacier would add about 3cm to global sea level. "But the ice trapped behind it is about 20-30cm of sea level rise and as soon as we destabilise or remove the middle of the glacier we don't know really know what's going to happen to the ice behind it," he told BBC News.

"This is unprecedented in this area of Antarctica. We've known that it's been out of balance for some time, but nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this glacier."


A comment from Hermann Burchard []

There is a subglacial volcano near Antarctica's Pine Island glacier, which could explain recent rapid melting of the glacier, as reported by BBC. Wikipedia has a paragraph on this, with the last sentence stating: "The presence of the volcano raises the possibility that volcanic activity could have contributed, or may contribute in the future, to increases in the flow of the glacier."

NHS ordered to pay £100,000 to family of Alzheimer’s sufferer Judith Roe

Rather unbelievably, Britain's "caring" government bureaucrats claimed that Alzheimer's was not a health problem!

The family of an Alzheimer’s sufferer have won a legal battle to reclaim more than £100,000 in care home fees that the local NHS trust had refused to pay because it claimed that her condition was not health related. Health authorities had ruled that Judith Roe, who died aged 74 last October, did not qualify for NHS funding because her condition was deemed to be a social rather than a health problem. As a result, she was forced to sell the home that she had lived in for 30 years for £170,000 to pay for her £600-a-week nursing home fees.

Her family began a five-year legal battle to reclaim the money and the Health Service Ombudsman has now ordered NHS Worcestershire to repay them more than £100,000.

Yesterday Mrs Roe’s son, Richard, 40, urged other families in a similar situation to fight for the care they are entitled to. He said: “The way the health trust behaved was scandalous. It has been very stressful. All the time we were told we were wrong while believing we were right. ”They told me I should count myself lucky because there are people that are more ill than my mother, which was an outrageous thing to say. "I want anyone else going through a similar experience to know they may be entitled to care. Even if they’re being told they’re not entitled, they should fight for it. With us, they made a mistake. They did not carry out their duties properly.”

Mrs Roe, a retired church warden and school teacher, was cared for in The Firs care home and then Henwick Grange Nursing Home, both in Worcester. Her care should have been funded by NHS Worcestershire Primary Care Trust. Mrs Roe died at Worcestershire Royal Hospital on October 30 last year from a combination of pneumonia and physical and mental deterioration as a result of Alzheimer's.

Mr Roe, a manager for Homebase in Telford, Shropshire, said: ”We became very angry because the primary care trust was very arrogant and unhelpful. They took a long time to respond to letters and requests for information.”

Under English law, elderly people must pay for their own residential care unless their needs are health related, even though it is provided free in Scotland. The Health Service Ombudsman upheld the family’s appeal and awarded them the costs of Mrs Roe's care on June 23, eight months after her death.

Paul Bates, chief executive of NHS Worcestershire, which has replaced NHS Worcestershire Primary Care Trust, said: “Decisions around eligibility for continuing NHS care are extremely complex and difficult, even though we have national guidance to assist us. ”The line between the need for healthcare and social care is a very thin one indeed, but the impact for the individual is the difference between free care and care which is means tested. “We would not wish to see Mrs Roe’s experience repeated and clearly there lessons for us to learn. "Mr Roe pursued his claim that the NHS should have funded his mother’s care and all the formal procedures put in place to allow families to do so were followed.”


Blunders cost the NHS £807m: Targets blamed as payouts rise by a quarter

The amount paid out by the Health Service for serious medical blunders and other accidents has soared by almost a quarter in just one year. Last year, the NHS paid out £807million - up from £661million the year before - after the number of claims against it rose. Figures obtained by the Conservative Party show that the overall number of claims has risen by 11 per cent to almost 8,900 in 2008/09.

The 22 per cent surge in payouts mirrors a huge rise in the number of patients killed by hospital blunders. Official records show that 3,645 patients died as a result of outbreaks of infections, botched operations and other mistakes in 2007/08. That was up 60 per cent from 2,275 two years before.

Critics say quality of care has suffered in the NHS over the past few years as doctors and nurses come under mounting pressure to meet Government waiting time targets. Experts say the true toll is certain to be far higher, because many hospitals do not record all 'patient safety incidents'.

About a fifth of the total paid out - some £143million - went to lawyers, rather than as compensation to victims and the families of those who died. Experts say increasing numbers of cases are being taken to court by 'no win, no fee' soliciaccidentstors, who even tout for business in A&E waiting rooms. To cover their extra risk, these 'ambulance-chasing' lawyers get more in costs if they win than would be paid in legal aid cases.

The annual report of the National Health Service Litigation Authority said that clinical claims - including claims for botched operations and wrong drugs dosages - rose by more than 11 per cent while nonclinical claims - which cover general such as falls - were up by more than 10 per cent. It added: 'We have not been able to identify any single factor that might have precipitated the rise.'

Of the 8,885 total claims made in 2008/09, less than 4 per cent will go to court, the report said. But it added: 'The costs claimed by claimant lawyers continue to be significantly higher than those incurred on our behalf by our panel defence solicitors. This remains a very significant concern for us.'

Last night, Conservative health spokesman Mark Simmonds said: 'We need a robust and fair way for patients who have received negligent treatment in an NHS hospital to get the compensation they deserve. 'Instead, we have an inefficient system which incurs vast legal costs for NHS Trusts. 'Our proposals would have required an initial "fact-finding" phase, which would then allow more cases to be resolved without costly litigation. 'But the Government missed this opportunity and as a result hospitals will now have less money to spend on patient care.'


Britain's totally deranged justice system targets a good Samaritan over a fraction of a penny

When nine coppers turned up and found that there was nothing for them to do, they arrested the only guy who happened to be there. No doubt it helped with their "targets". Tick box: One villain arrested. They were really scratching to find something he had done wrong, however. One doesn't expect police to be bright but the lawyers in the Crown Prosecution Service were just as bad. No doubt they had government targets to meet too. It took the threat of a jury trial before anybody started thinking.

But if your car is stolen in Britain don't bother reporting it to the police. They're not interested. Looking into that matter would require some effort from them before they can tick a box. Leftist Britain's target-driven and box-ticking rules have destroyed sanity wholesale

A documentary film-maker was hauled into court on a charge of stealing electricity worth 0.003p. But by the time the ludicrous case was dropped, the bill to taxpayers was more than £5,000. Mark Guard, 44, had to appear at two separate hearings before the Crown Prosecution Service finally saw sense.

Mr Guard, who makes documentaries about crime and the homeless, was filming squatters entering a disused building through an open window at 10pm on August 1. A security sensor inside detected the movement and the alarm was triggered. The squatters fled but Mr Guard, a former electrician, decided to stay behind and turn off the alarm to save neighbouring families from the noise. To do so he had to turn on the electricity in the building for a few seconds, to give him light, and then turn it off.

Nine police then arrived in response to the alarm. When Mr Guard told them what he had done, he was arrested and held in a cell for six hours before being charged. At his first magistrates' court hearing last week, the film-maker pleaded not guilty and asked for the case to be tried at a crown court so a jury could decide.

He said last night: 'When I told the chairman of the bench I wanted a jury trial, he began to realise the ludicrous nature of the case. He said: "Why is this going to a trial in the crown court when it's going to cost £200,000?".' But Mr Guard had to appear again in front of Highbury Magistrates in North London, before the charge was dropped.

Experts estimate that the court hearings cost taxpayers £4,200 - Mr Guard's legal bills were paid from public funds - a night in police cells added £385 and the arrest operation around £600.

Mr Guard, from Knightsbridge, West London, said he was astonished the case went as far as it did. He added: 'I thought I was acting in the public interest. It was late in the evening and I knew families would have struggled to get to sleep if I hadn't done something. 'I even offered to pay 1p to the energy company which supplies electricity to the house, but it's not bothered about collecting such a paltry sum. I've been mugged three times and the police know who did it - but they have never been able to prosecute. 'But on the night in question officers wasted no time in slapping handcuffs on me. I
feel this is double standards. If the charges had not been dropped I would have fought all the way.

'Part of me is relieved that I can get back to making my documentary, but most of me is angry that I've been forced to go through all this.'

Neither the squatters nor Mr Guard broke the law by entering the disused house in Camden, North London, because they did not force their way in. Mr Guard has been following and filming criminals and homeless people in London for two years. Using hidden cameras he has been able to capture drug deals and shop thefts as they happened. In 2006, Mr Guard made news when a building firm paid him £3.5million for a plot of land in Surrey he had bought 11 years earlier for just £1,000.


Oppressed British snappers focus on police

Photographers attempt to reclaim the right to photograph

Relations between police and photographers, already at an all-time low, look set to worsen this week as activists set up a new national campaign group to protect photography, and protesters get ready to take to the streets in Chatham. The national campaign launched last Saturday in the Foundry pub in East London, with more than 200 photographers showing their support for a new photographers' rights website by being snapped holding up a placard saying "I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist!"

Although the campaign is skewed very much toward professional photographers, it claims that it is the rights of all photographers that are currently under attack. According to the site: "Not only is [this attack] corrosive of press freedom but creation of the collective visual history of our country is extinguished by anti-terrorist legislation designed to protect the heritage it prevents us recording." It goes on: "This campaign is for everyone who values visual imagery, not only photographers."

Materials available on-site include a "bust card", that photographers should carry in case they are stopped under anti-terror legislation, as well as a Google map pin-pointing areas of the country known to be problematic for photographers. Supporters of the campaign are encouraged to upload a self-portrait including the campaign slogan "I’m a photographer, not a terrorist". There is also a fan page available on Facebook.

Meanwhile, in Chatham, to mark the recent arrest of local photographer Alex Turner for the heinous offences of being too tall and laying claim to his legal right not to give his name and address to the police, Medway Eyes is planning a meet up in the Riverside Gardens and photo walk on August 15th. Medway Eyes is an informal umbrella organisation that supports, promotes and collaborates with Medway artists and venues.

They have sent an open invitation to photographers and friends, stressing that the event is not a protest, but adding that they will be happy to speak on the subjects of photographers' rights and the value of social documentary photography whilst the group assembles.


Freedom is now flowing from West to East

In August 1989 as communism collapsed, Britain was a beacon to the new regimes. Today Britain is squandering that liberty

I’ve spent much of the past 20 years living in or reporting on the former communist countries of Eastern Europe. Nowadays, with Budapest, Prague and Warsaw two hours away by budget airline, it’s hard to imagine that before 1989, half a continent was imprisoned behind landmines and barbed wire, its citizens terrorised by secret police, intentionally ground down by the endless, intrusive demands of the one-party state. I saw those borders torn down, democracies arise and the basic freedoms that we take for granted — speech, movement and public protest — enthusiastically embraced.

Twenty years ago today the world witnessed the power of the crowd. Hungary’s reformist communist Government permitted the pan-European picnic near the city of Sopron, on the border with Austria, as a symbol of its commitment to a united Europe. The border was to be opened so that about 100 dignitaries and officially approved picnickers could cross freely back and forth. But Hungary was crowded with thousands of East Germans desperate to escape to the West. Many camped near the site of the picnic, waiting for the crucial moment. When the border was opened at three o’clock they surged forward. The guards did not open fire. They stepped back and allowed the East Germans to break through.

This, not the opening of the Berlin Wall in November, was the tipping point. August 19, 1989, accelerated a chain of events that brought down communism and the Soviet Union itself. Such is the power of the crowd.

After 1989 Big Brother was no longer welcome in Budapest, Prague or Warsaw — he moved to London to be ever more warmly embraced by successive Labour administrations. The birthplace of political liberties, the home of the Magna Carta, is now one of the most intrusive democracies in the world. Labour governments have introduced surveillance and monitoring systems of which the communists could only dream. Of course, Britain is not a real police state. But it is certainly sliding further into authoritarianism.

Perhaps because I live abroad, each time I return home I can clearly see quite how subtle and dangerous a process is unfolding. A series of Home Secretaries have presided over a steady, stealthy shredding of our civil liberties. I am amazed at how supine citizens allow local and national government to intrude ever further into their daily lives, logging, tracking and recording everything from household waste disposal to mobile telephone use.

These small changes seem to herald a more dramatic constitutional shift: the rewriting of the social contract under which citizens are apparently regarded not as active participants in society, but, at best as irritants to be monitored, and at worst as potential criminals to be pre-emptively arrested, just as George Orwell predicted in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The phrase Big Brother has entered common parlance. But Orwell’s book was published in 1949 as communist regimes in Eastern Europe cemented their control through “salami tactics”. These were invented by Matyas Rakosi, Hungary’s communist leader from 1948-56. He sliced away freedoms sliver by sliver, until he established one of the most feared dictatorships in Eastern Europe. When the communists took over a town, for example, they did not appoint the mayor, but a deputy, to work behind the scenes and stealthily take control of the police and municipal administration.

In my more cynical moments I imagine Labour ministers following a similar methodology. They would never say openly: “We intend to criminalise public protest; to grant sweeping blanket powers of arrest to the police and change the very foundation of law, making citizens prove their innocence, rather than have the police and judiciary prove their guilt while demonstrating.”

Nor would they say: “We intend to privatise formerly public spaces and hand over state functions of public order to armies of unaccountable security guards.” Instead, changes are introduced stealthily, rarely debated by Parliament and are nodded through with the acquiescence of the Opposition, in the name of that useful catch-all “security”. Whether by design or not, that seems to me to be happening.

Security is an issue. Communist regimes sought control for its own sake, to preserve their monopolies of power. The Labour Government has had to respond to a new wave of terrorism, perpetrated by British citizens who use the internet and covert communication techniques. Preventing further terrorist attacks is part of a government’s duty. But preventing government from intruding too far into our daily lives is our duty — one we have so far singularly failed to carry out.

In the communist era Hungarians, Czechs and Poles looked to Britain as a beacon of fairness. After 1989 our Parliament, judiciary and free press were models for them. The former one-party states are now vibrant democracies. Despite corruption and a sometimes prickly nationalism, most of the new EU members can be proud of their transformation into modern civic societies.

While our freedoms wither, theirs flourish. It’s a common sight to see far-right demonstrators in front of the Hungarian parliament, hurling abuse and calling for the resignation of the Government. The police watch, nobody is arrested and everyone goes home peacefully. And when the police do use force, there is a vigorous national debate about balancing the right to protest and public security.

Twenty years after the collapse of communism, Eastern Europe is showing us what freedom means. At last, there are signs that we are waking finally from our stupor. in 1989 the East Germans camped on the Hungarian-Austrian frontier showed the world the power of the crowd. So take to the streets, people. While you still can.


British High School exams that fail everyone

Few things are certain in August, except rain when you've planned a barbecue and an almighty row over A-level results. So I can confidently predict that tomorrow our Education supremo, Ed 'I'm Talkin' ' Balls, will grin for the cameras, welcome this year's record pass rate and praise the hardest-working, most intelligent pupils in the history of the world.

Cynics will point out that A-levels are now impossible to fail, unless you don't turn up for the exam. Meanwhile, the teenagers I know, just a few of the 250,000 anxiously awaiting their results, have been through so many hoops over the past two years they feel like human basketballs. This is supposed to be one of the best times in their lives, a period of expanding horizons, full of intellectual excitement and possibility. Instead, they feel exhausted, demoralised and very scared.

Who can blame them? Years of New Labour's social engineering have created a system that is so 'equal' that it fails almost everyone. It fails those at the bottom by giving them false expectations and a dodgy course at a bargain-basement uni where the only thing that is guaranteed at the end of three years is £23,000 worth of debt. It fails the brightest pupils by not stretching them - even steering them away from hard subjects so they get grades that make schools and politicians look better.

Let's be candid. Universities now trust A-levels in roughly the same way that Peter Andre trusts Katie Price.

Meanwhile, teenagers are coached to regurgitate buzzwords and key phrases. There are many words for this numbing production line. Education is not one of them. I can't tell you how upset I was when a clever girl who goes to our local comprehensive cheerfully told me she was doing George Eliot's great novel, Middlemarch, for English A-level and hadn't actually read the whole book. Apparently, too much knowledge could harm her chances in the exam.

As for the really tough subjects, Professor Rosemary Bailey of the University of London has said that A-level maths is now 'more like using a sat-nav than reading a map'.

Our examination system is surely what Albert Einstein had in mind when he said: 'It is nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry.'

How the hell did A-levels go from being a nourishing meal that a young person could get their teeth into to a baby puree fit only for spoon-feeding? Blame New Labour again, with its barmy scheme to get 50 per cent of teenagers into university. Increasing numbers in the sixth form became more important than maintaining the challenging content at A-level.

The tragedy is that a plan designed to improve social mobility has had precisely the opposite effect. At least the excellent shadow education spokesman, Michael Gove, is determined to do something about the dumbed-down exam system. Under the Tories, more points will be given to 'hard' subjects, which means that schools will no longer be tempted to put their pupils in for easy subjects which cut them off from the best careers later on. Personally, I am ready to declare undying love for Michael Gove if he also scraps those wretched AS-levels, which mean our knackered teenagers spend all of their time in the sixth form cramming non-stop for endless exams.

We need to bring back the holy curiosity of inquiry and make A-levels a challenge, not a chore. Don't get me wrong, I'll be as happy as anyone to see the pictures of smiling teenagers tomorrow when they get their results. They've worked hard enough for them. I just hope the reality of life beyond A-levels won't wipe the smile off their faces.


Junk food dummies: How bingeing on burgers and chips can drain your brainpower -- if you are a rat

This generalization from rats has a number of problems. The rats were fed a VERY high fat diet and fat is probably not a large part of a normal rat diet anyway. They would not have good adaptation to it. So once again poor generalizability from rodent studies to humans can be expected

Eating too much fast food will make you thicker in more ways than one, according to a study. As well as expanding the waistline, a high-fat diet of curries, kebabs, burgers and chips can make you less intelligent. The research was performed by scientists at Oxford University on rats. A high-fat diet over less than ten days damaged the rodents’ short-term memory and made them less mentally alert, as well as significantly decreasing their ability to exercise.

The group of biological experts say their results – dubbed a ‘high-fat hangover’ – show an important link between what people eat, how they think, and how our bodies perform.

Andrew Murray, co-author of the study, said: ‘Western diets are typically high in fat and are associated with long-term complications such as obesity, diabetes, and heart failure yet the short-term consequences of such diets have been given relatively little attention. ‘We hope that the findings of our study will help people to think seriously about reducing the fat content of their daily food intake to the immediate benefit of their general health, well-being and alertness.’

The research team studied rats fed a lowfat diet, comprising just 7.5 per cent of calories as fat, and compared them with rats fed a high-fat junk food diet, typically 55 per cent of calories as fat. They discovered that after just four days the muscles of the rats eating the high-fat diet were less able to use oxygen to make the energy needed to exercise, causing their hearts to work harder and increase in size. After nine days on a high-fat diet, the rats took longer to complete a maze and made more mistakes in the process than their low-fat-diet counterparts. The number of correct decisions before making a mistake dropped from over six to an average of five to 5.5.

The low-fat rats were also running 50 per cent further by this stage than their fatter and ‘thicker’ counterparts.

Researchers then investigated the cellular causes of these problems, particularly in muscle cells. They found increased levels of a protein called uncoupling protein 3, which made the cells less efficient at using oxygen to make the energy required for running.

The findings are published by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology. Dr Gerald Weissmann, editor of the journal, said: ‘It’s nothing short of a high-fat hangover.’

The research funded by the British Heart Foundation may have implications for athletes looking for the best diet for training and patients with metabolic disorders. The scientists are now studying the effect of a short-term high-fat diet on humans.


A name-change meant to deceive travellers

We read:
"A row erupted in Britain on Monday over the rebranding of Oxford Airport as London Oxford Airport - despite being 60 miles from the capital's centre. Officials said they hoped the rebranding of the airport at Kidlington near Oxford in southeast England would raise its international profile and attract more passengers.

But heritage campaigners slammed the rebranding as insulting, saying historic Oxford city, with its prestigious university, did not need to be seen as an offshoot of the British capital. "Good grief. Oxford is a great place in its own right and I find it insulting it is being considered just another offshoot of London," said Ros Weatherall, from the Oxford Civic Society. "Trying to make Oxford seem like a suburb of London is very misleading...

Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce, which represents businesses in the area around Oxford, said it was a "good idea" which could benefit the whole region. "Oxford and Oxfordshire is a place in its own right but you're linking tourism and business and it's an excellent business opportunity," said Claire Prosser, the chamber's policy executive.

Eight airports currently use the capital's name including London Stansted Airport, which is about 40 miles from the capital and London Luton Airport, 35 miles away.


There's only one airport in London: Heathrow. Thanks to a fast and frequent express rail connection to central London, Gatwick is also pretty convenient. Gatwick is 28 miles South of London. The train goes at about 100mph so it is a fun ride.

Criticising the NHS is not treason : “The deification of this creaking, bloated and massively over-rated money pit has always mystified me. But its reputation as an untouchable and glorious institution is set in stone and, for better or worse, it’s here to stay.”

NHS: No Health Statism : “No system is perfect. But the furthest you can get from perfection is a government controlled monopoly, such as education or healthcare. So it’s no wonder to find the people who are culpable for what passes for healthcare provision defending it to the hilt, as if it was flawless, and claiming that those who criticize it are, ‘un-patriotic’ …. A healthcare system where users don’t have to wait, drugs aren’t rationed, care is not substandard and you’re not more likely to leave with disease rather than a cure is all people request. What we get is the opposite: and to deny that fact (as Cameron et al. have) is to deny us a proper discussion about how our system needs overhauling. The remote political class are trampling over our desire to discuss the problems we face on a daily basis, a fact made even more galling because undoubtedly the majority of them will hold private health insurance.”

1 comment:

TMJ said...

Only one airport in London?

Come off it, what about City Airport, you can't get closer to London than that!