29th October 2012
This evening’s New Tricks, presumably made earlier in the year, is about a previously unsolved case of respectable members of Glasgow society procuring under-age girls for sex in the 1990’s.
In the early hours of Sunday morning our time a 7.7 magnitude earthquake hit the coast of Western canada. There was little damage. However there were concerns about a tsunami wave from the quake hitting the American state of Hawaii, family home of the American president, out in the Pacific ocean. Fortunately howevere the waves created were not that great.
Burma, on the southern Chinese border, is currently trying to turn itself into a democratic country. Thanks to a piece on Today this morning I now know that in June a young Buddhist woman was raped and murdered in the province of Rakhine. That has led to sectarian violence between Muslims and Buddhists in which it is estimated 100,000 people have been displaced from their homes and many killed.
This evening Hurricane Sandy is being described as a once in a generation event. As the storm moves up the American eastern seaboard a dump of cold air coming down from Canada is causing it to vere landwards. It is it’s size which is unusual not it’s intensity. The area of low pressure created above it will literally allow the sea to expand upwards creating a storm surge just as happened in the 1953 North Sea flood in which over 2000 people drowned. As it passes the coast it will hit another blast of static continental artic air causing high precipitation of snow and rain.
30th October 2012
Japan compnay Hitachi have announced this morning that they have taken the contract over from two German companies, Eon and RWE, to build new nuclear powered electricity generators at existing sites near Oldbury and on Anglesey, using tested Japanese technology. Since Fukushima, Germany has abandoned it’s nuclear power programme and Japan is currently thinking about what it wants to do in the future. 12,000 construction jobs in the UK will be created for our projects plus high skilled work on completion. Another contract is still available at an existing site on the coast of North Somerset.
It seems there are various forms of breast cancer around which are not fatal and cause no significant harm. There were two very interesting interviews this morning on Today with a pair of ladies, on what women should be told by their medical advisers after screening. One said, I thought, that ignorance could be bliss and the other that to be forewarned is to be forearmed, a conumdrum I mentioned in Chapters 7 and 10 of my book.
A typical Yesterday in Parliament exchange was broadcast on Today this morning between the government’s Environment Minister and his shadow on the ash die-back disease. The Labour lady was saying things like why had the government dithered since it was discovered in February (my undestanding is that it took some time to identify when the symptons were first noticed at that time) and how could the minister be sure the horse has not already bolted before his ban, through for example people bringing imported ash trees from abroad here in the boots of their cars. Quite rightly in my view the minister said it was a shame all the opposition wanted to do was see how they could blame the government for the present situation, rather than thinking about how the disease might best be tackled. Hardly surprising most of us don’t take an interest in politics.
I see that Gordon Brown, as an UN Envoy for Education, is meeting the Pakistani president soon in the hope of securing better education facilities for Pakistani girls, following the Malala Yousafzai story. Good for him.
Thanks to a very knowledgeable lady on Today this morning I know that Hurricane Sandy is extremely unusual is several respects. Firstly it was severe as it passed through Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti and the Bahamas causing a lot of unreported devastation. Then as it moved northwards it stayed over the sea providing it with heat and power. Turning directly left towards New York was most unfortunate. Now it has hit land but by hitting the mass of artic air there it will drop masses of heavy rain and snow over the next few days. Just before that there was a British man on the line, living in the area in America. He said it was very frustrating that, for one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, it was not a question of if Sandy would interrupt their power supply but when.
On the BBC website it is reported that an estimated six million homes and businesses stretching from the Carolinas to Ohio are without power. The New York subway has experienced it’s worst flooding in it’s 108 year history. The updated map on the website shows the hurricane’s path going directly inland from New York into Pennsylvania and then north up towards Canada, well away from Connecticut.
The opposition in Syria has now been been given shoulder held anti-aircraft waepons by it’s allies meaning the government airforce cannot strike with impunity as it wishes. In the tradition of war, capturing and holding terroritory now also seems important to the sides in the conflict. In a report on this morning’s Today it was wondered whether the ever increasing air attacks, 60 in Damascus suburbs yesterday, is a sign of desparation by the regime. They cannot keep contol using troops on the ground so all they can do is send in the planes.
31st October 2012
Barclays has announced this morning that it is being investigated by American authorites into whether it’s past methods for winning new business complied with their Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and how it dealt in ‘power trading’ in the western US between 2006 and 2008.
Something that really crept up on us this week was that Mark Reckless, Kent MP for Rochester and Strood, was leading a revolt against the coalition government’s position on the EU budget that it should not rise by more than the rate of inflation. He thinks the budget should be frozen or cut. That already has made us unpopular with some in Europe who think, all in all, we are a bit too much trouble to be taken along for their ride. 17 EU member states out of 27 say they intend to vote for a real budgetary increase. Mr Reckless and his Conservative colleagues however do not want us to get along with our fellow Europeans, or at least only on their terms. They would like us to be on our own, in our box, so we can be so much more easily messed about by the Gang. So it happened that the government lost the non-binding Commons motion this evening by 13 votes. The really shocking thing though is that the Labour Party were whipped to vote with them. Heaven knows how Mr Miliband can think it is in the country’s interests to destabilise the government in such difficult times, mid-term in such a small minded way. It indicates in my view he is either a man with no vision or one who is so weak he cannot control strong voices close to him.
The new mobile phone 4G network has just been launched and that led to Today broadcasting a very interesting Yesterday in Parliament this morning. A debate took place in Westminster Hall yesterday where it was estimated the new system could interfere with the terrestial digital TV signal for up to 2.3 million households. It is said a filter on the ariel lead will be required to solve the problem. That would certainly make sense of my own experience of Freeview since we went digital in the spring. Commercial channels are fine but I often get interference on all BBC stations making the picture unwatchable. A close neighbour who has the same set up has never experienced any difficulties. Gang silly games if you ask me especially bearing in mind I have had very little trouble overe the last few days since I have made provision for a branch of my sky satellite cable to be routed into my bedroom where that television is.
At the Prime Minister’s request 89 year old Lord Heseltine issued his report this morning on how to envigorate our economy. His main recommendation is that English regions should have central government funds passed to them and then be responsible themselves how that money is spent. Something I noticed around her in the early stages of my story, under the Labour government, was how all the schools suddenly seemed to have masses of money thrown at them, as though that would wave a magic wand to sort out all our local problems. The Conservative coalition reined a lot of that money back but even so we have a brand new school nearby with lots of new housing next to it.
I wrote my note about the Labour Party this evening before reading today’s FT editorial. By coincidence it comes to much the same conclusion saying thet all the opposition have seemed to want to do for the last few weeks is use every opportunity to make the Prime Minister look weak or out of touch. It concludes that unless they can be a bit more positive they are they ones voters could lose confidence in.
I don’t think I expressed it quite this way in the book but how it works of course is that an individual starts with a very strong emotional feeling. They know it is there but don’t quite understand what it is all about. However they recognise very well when their inner self is pushing them in a certain direction. Then their thinking mind takes over and they talk through the most detailed arguments to fit in with the result that self wants them to acheive.
The worst affected area on the American seeboard is Atlantic City and New Jersey where President Obama is visiting today. Mr Obama is a smart man and in his dealings with the Republican governor of the state he has been supportive solely on a personal level keeping politics out of it. That has been appreciated by the man trying to sort out all the problems on the ground. It is thought that Sandy has caused the deaths of about 40 people and the clean up costs will be $30-40 billion. Likely Gang silly games I have noticed are that 50 homes were destroyed in a fire in Queens, New York; 200 people had to be evacuated from a New York hospital when it’s electicity backup generator failed; and four electricy supply nuclear generators experienced various problems involving the shutdown of three. It is estimated Sandy destroyed 70% of Haiti’s growing crops.
I think I made a note recently about a Gillian Tett article saying how good, children in developing countries are at teaching themselves if they have access to modern technology. Today had a very similar report this morning about an experiment where children in two Ethiopian villages were given computer tablets only using English, a language foreign to them, and left, to see what would happen. It was found that they taught each other to use the devices much more effectively and quicker than would have happened in a normal classroom.
Yesterday’s FT reports that the recent Syrian ceasefire failed. Separately the BBC website says this evening that the rebel groups are meeting in Doha next week. The Americans will be making suggestions as to who they feel would best be their leaders.
1st November 2012
There is a report on the BBC webpage today saying that mouth cancer amongst under 45’s in Scotland is on the increase. It does not seem to be related to smoking or drinking so possible reasons being put forward are poor diet, the spread of some strains of human papillomavirus or a lack of sunshine.
33 year Robert McCartney was stabbed to death in January outside a Belfast bar after some form of altercation. His sisters accuced Sinn Fein and the IRA of covering up what had happened by intimidating witnesses. Then yesterday a 53 year old man was arrested in connection with his murder. As you would expect in a delicate police investiagation like that details were sparse. However for me the Gang Master’s displeasure at what had happened came through this morning. An officer was murdered on his way to work at the high security Maghaberry Prison. A car with Irish number plates pulled alongside his on the motorway and a number of shots were fired. He is the first prison officer to be killed since 1993.
I wanted to receive a text yeterday on my mobile phone which is with Virgin. When I walked up the road however to get a signal, although it registered with Virgin alright, the battery was too low for it to work properly. I charged it for fifteen minutes and went back up. This time it was registering with Orange and still did not work. It reminded me of the times last autumn when I texted [Chrissy] sometimes when I was out. If the screen showed Virgin the texts went fine. If I was roaming with Orange the messaging failed.
Another plebs story raised it’s head on Sunday at the Chelsea, Manchester United football match. Two Chelsea players accuse the refereee of calling them monkeys, the ref and his linesmen say he did not ([Paul] has heard that he used the expression I don’t care a monkeys). Obviously they cannot all be telling the truth but I am sure it will create much stress and bad feeling for all concerned over the coming weeks.
3rd November 2012
He hasn’t done such a thing before but Jonathan Dimbleby has given an interview in today’s Times saying that newspapers and MP’s were taking revenge against the BBC over the Jimmy Savile story. He says it is disturbing the relish they take in doing that. Jonathan was hosting the Any Questions recording I mention in my book on 5th March 2010.
I saw a report in yesterday’s London Metro that the nunber of youngsters under 18 using heroin, cocaine or ecstasy in the UK has fallen by more than two thirds over the last five years.
I have just watched a clip of Mitt Romney on the BBC website. He looks a bit down and I would say has decided he will not be winning Thursday’s election. On the other hand I understand from Channel 4 News that Barack Obama has an enthused skip in his step. October’s American employment figures were better than expected.
As you would have expected it is proving a bit of a slog getting services restored after hurricane Sandy. Nearly a million people are still without power and for some reason there is a petrol shortage. The goverment therefore is transporting in 28 million gallons from strategic reserves and giving it away at mobile gas stations.
4th November 2012
By chance have just heard a File on Four radio programme on the police. It included an interview with Sir Hugh Orde and apparently even when Alan Johnston was Home Secretary he was arguing that the number of police forces should be reduced to single figures by a reorganisation as they have now done in Scotland. It seems however there is no political will for such a change.
This time Newsnight journalists have got their story out without any management interference. Last Friday they broadcast an interview with a gentleman who alleges he was sexually abused by men when he was young and in care, including a senior Conservative politician in the Thatcher government. Looking into that it is quite shocking how the full weight of responsible society can be frustrated by those evil hidden forces. It started off with care workers in North Wales children’s homes being convicted of sexual abuse in the 1970’s. However it was just rumours of large scale systematic abuse until a particular lady in the care system took her concerns to the leader of Gwynedd County Council in 1991. A Gwynedd councillor was reported as saying ‘we are fighting a machine trying to cover things up’. However a police investigation was instigated which received 365 allegations of sexual abuse but only achieved one conviction. In that December the Independent newspaper started a campaign alleging the existence of a paedophile ring involving high standing members of society including a police superintendent. That gentleman subsequently successfully sued the newspaper for libel. In February 2000 the Guardian newspaper reported suggestions that freemasonery was implicated in the activies. Clwyd County Council initiated the internal Jillings review but in March 1996 decided not to publish it in fear of being sued if they did. However the rumours would not go away and in the June William Hague, as Welsh minister, announced the Waterhouse Inquiry into the affair which finally reported in 2000. As far as I am aware no prosecutions arose as a result of that investiagation but crucially it’s terms of reference were only to look at allegations of sexual abuse within children’s care homes operated by the two county councils. And there it lay until Friday evening.
Making connections is not difficult. There was an interview with a lady from Sark, population 600, on Today yesterday complaining about the Barclay Brothers, who own a lot of the island and live on neighboring Brecqhou, introducing a monoculture of grape vines against the islanders’ wishes. The excuse for the piece was a protest march they were holding later in the day. Normally a typical local media story I would have thought but in this case I suspect visiting BBC journalists might have suggested the demonstation for publicity purposes in light of the fact the Barclay twins are powerful, reclusive owners of the Daily Telegraph group. The link in my mind came about this morning when I read that Radio 5 Live is broadcasting this evening an expose of an umbrella company based in tax free Sark which employs 24,000 temporary agency workers and supply teachers on the mainland therefore not paying our normal taxes. If my connection is correct I personally can see nothing wrong with the jornalists’ actions. Their job is to bring information to the public in a topical way that the public would find interesting.
I wasn’t watching Andrew Marr’s programme tonight properly on Barck Obama, ‘Obama – What Happened to Hope’. But on the publicising webpage it quotes him being called a very solitary man and the most introverted president for decades. Apparently he himself calls Bill Clinton the Secretary of State for Explaining Stuff.
This quote of the President’s was not up on the BBC website for long today but I have managed to find it this evening on an American webpage. He said at a rally ‘The power is not with us anymore, the planning, everything we do, it doesn’t matter. It’s all up to you, it’s up to the volunteers …. you have got the power. That’s how democracy is supposed to be.’ In view of the last sentence of my book that obviously is very poignant for me.
I have normally had Andrew’s Marr’s TV series History of the World on whilst doing evening diary notes. I picked up my ears this evening when I heard Andrew refer to a man as arguably the most destructive person of the twentieth century. He was Arthur Zimmermann, Secretary of Sate for the German Empire during the first World War and the only non-aristocrat in their cabinet. However when he took office in November 1916 it was not a world war. That came about after Germany started to attack all, including American, merchant shipping to the UK. I do not think that alone however would not have decided insular Americans to join hostilities. And neither the accusation that, as a diversionary tactic, he encouraged the Mexican government to re-occupy, with German support, the former Mexican territories of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. Many in America refused to believe Zimmermann could do such a stupid thing but when he admitted it to journalists the American government had little option but to make the war global.
However his silliness in Russia had even more far reaching consequences. He wanted Russia to make peace in their war with Germany and came to a pact with the exiled Lenin to provide passage for him through Germany. Once back in his homeland the Russian Revolution took place and Lenin duly withdrew from the war as agreed. Zimmermann was only in post for nine months so his effect on history in such a short space of time was indeed immense.
If I wished to speculate on all that I would say Arthur was being manipulated by a group of hidden criminal people although perhaps just for the fun of it, to see what advantage from his actions they could obtain for themselves. The key for my thought is that three years’ earlier he was persuaded to help Irish revolutionaries by landing 75,000 rifles and 25,000 German soldiers in western Ireland to help fight for an Irish Free State. Zimmermann was overruled by his superiors regarding the troops but the weapons were sent in a failed mission.
Thanks to Simon Kuper in last weekend’s FT magazine I am aware that the doctor Richard Doll probably saved more lives in the 20th century than anybody else. He was the gentleman who noticed the rise of lung cancer over the decades and recorded the correlation with smoking in a 1950 study. Even so he did not think it wise to draw a definite conclusion. Nevertheless by 1954, in spite of the British government obtaining 14% of it’s tax revenues from tobacco, and smoking seeming such an innocuous habit to many, with evidence building up the Labour Health Minister announced that a connection had been established. Even though it is estimated 100 million people still lost their lives to lung cancer last century and another 1 billion will die unnaturally this, his work has had a far reaching effect.
America based Gillian Tett in the same edition shows that culture is a strange thing. 72% of the American population have celebrated Halloween this year spending an average of $80 each. It is a massive $5.8 billion consumer festival which is of course all about trick and treating, ghouls and cutting strange shapes in pumpkin skins.