27 February 2007

Greenpeace Film on Decentralised Energy

A new short film, ‘What are we waiting for?’, has been released by Greenpeace.

It was made by BAFTA award winning Memory Box Films and takes the viewer on a tour of some of the world’s decentralised energy projects, in countries such as Denmark where over 50% of electricity supplies are from decen, and The Netherlands where the figure is 40%.

A recent report commissioned by Greenpeace compared two future scenarios for the UK over the next 20 years, one with the UK taking a decen energy path and one with the UK ramping up nuclear power. The findings show that:

* carbon emissions would be 17% lower under a decen scenario;
* decentralised energy could reduce UK gas consumption by 14%;
* overall capital costs of decen would be £1billion less than the nuclear scenario.

Greenpeace will send a free copy to anyone interested.

I've also found it on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klooRS-Jjyo.

Parking Schemes For Coventry?

Following Richmond council's decision to introduce different rates for parking permits based on vehicle fuel emissions, a third of London's 32 boroughs are now looking into similar schemes.

- Before the end of May, Camden will adopt the new measures. Camden is also encouraging owners of electric vehicles to charge their batteries with power generated from renewable energy sources by setting up free charging points around the borough.

- Brighton and Hove last week agreed a 50 percent increase in the price of permits for the most polluting vehicles within a few months, taking it to 120 pounds. The proceeds will be used to fund environmental projects, including green modes of transport, the council has said.

- The city of Manchester has developed a green badge parking scheme, which allows drivers of eco-friendly vehicles to park in town at a significantly reduced rate.

- York is also offering motorists a 50 percent reduction in the cost of residential parking permits for small and less polluting cars.

If we want to reduce car congestion in Coventry, we're going to have to bite the bullet and adopt some/all of these measures.

24 February 2007

Network Rail To Check 700 Sets Of Points

BBC News:

Rail expert Christian Wolmar told the BBC that the points could have been defective with loose bolts and nuts.

The checks are to be carried out on high-speed rail lines on older tracks where trains travel above 85 miles per hour. The spokesman said Network Rail, which is responsible for maintaining track, hoped to have the checks completed within the next 24 hours.

Wolmar told BBC News 24 that he understood the circumstances were thought to be similar to those in the Potters Bar crash.

"From what I understand, they have found these points in a similar condition to those at Potters Bar, with some missing nuts and the stretcher bar which keeps the rails properly apart apparently loosened."

Mr Wolmar said it was up to Network Rail to ensure that the points were properly maintained and that "things like loose bolts, loose bolts and nuts, were tightened up regularly ... there is also the possibility that these nuts and bolts were maintained in the wrong way, or not sufficiently maintained, and that's why they were in that condition."

Pendolino Design and Cumbria Derailment

The latest from a simulcast press conference, on Radio 4 and 5 Live, is that the chief suspect in the Cumbrian rail derailment is a problem with the points on the rails.

The Pendolino design gets stick for having no luggage space, but there are some hidden benefits:
The small windows will have helped to prevent people from being ejected as the carriages overturned. In the Berkshire crash in November 2004, several of the deaths resulted from passengers being thrown through windows.

The seat backs are taller on a Pendolino than on a traditional intercity train. This design ensures that passengers are not hurled over the top in the event of a crash.

The emergency lighting on the Pendlino train appears to have worked even after the carriages overturned. This would have made it much easier for passengers to escape.

Unlike in the Paddington crash in October 1999, where some of the worst injuries were caused by a fireball, there was no fuel on board to ignite. The West Coast Main Line is fully electrified.

22 February 2007

Red Pepper and Summer Festivals

Every summer, you can volunteer to serve drinks at Workers Beer tents at music festivals around the UK ... and the money that you raise can go directly to various non-profit/political groups.

You get free entry into the festival, stay in the staff allocated campsite and get (yum) two drinks vouchers at the end of your shift. The downside is that you work a minimum six hour shift each day.

The festivals include Rock Ness, Glastonbury, the Wireless festival in Hyde Park, Reading and Leeds.

One of the beneficiaries of this neat arrangement is the left-green-radical-feminist-all-them-good-things magazine, Red Pepper.

You can contact their office manager, Dan Tierney at dan@redpepper.org.uk or phone him on 020 7281 7024.

Trident And Nuclear Weapon-Free Zones

A letter in the Independent today:

A Parliamentary vote on a decision to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system should, at the very least, be delayed. The Government's White Paper on defence [has] no consideration of recent multilateral efforts to control nuclear-weapons proliferation.

I refer in the first place to the agreement on a nuclear weapon-free zone in Central Asia reached in September last year; and second, to China's agreement to sign a treaty to establish a nuclear-weapon free zone in South-east Asia in October. Now with the latest breakthrough in the north-east Asia six-party talks, we have a practical step towards a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

Given these initiatives, a decision to replace Trident could be seen as a retrograde move, one which may reverse instead of enable these as yet fragile yet encouragingly positive trends.

Jenny Clegg
CND National Council member

21 February 2007

NME Ad by Bands Against Trident

53 rock and pop bands are supporting CND's call for the public to say no to nuclear weapons and war.

It's expressed as a press release on the CND website, and there's a full-page ad in this week's NME. It will also be in an upcoming edition of Q.

The NME ad will probably reach more people than usual, since Arcade Fire are on the cover this week.
Ian Brown, former lead singer of the Stone Roses, said: "Why do we need these weapons? Is someone going to attack us? Why are we able to have these weapons but other countries are told they can’t? Our political leaders are hypocrites and warmongers. Has humanity learnt nothing from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Would anybody like to repeat an act like that? It is a lie to say these nuclear weapons are necessary for the UK but older civilisations are not allowed them. Say NO to Trident."

20 February 2007

Climate Change and "The Archers"

Pound for pound, Transition Culture is one of the best blogs in Britain.

Rob Hopkins writes it, and he listened to "The Archers" on the 13th of February and caught Nigel (wealthy landowner, married to Lizzie, father to Lilly and Freddie, keep up!) having a moment of realisation about peak oil and climate change.

N. Lizi
E. Yes?
N. You know how one always wants better for one’s children?
E. Yes…
N. I mean a better life than we’ve had…
E. Yes, of course, isn’t that natural?
N. What if we can’t do that for Lilly and Freddy?
E. What?
N. What if, you know, that’s it… we’ve had the best of everything?

Trident Demonstration -- 24th February

Stop the War, CND and BMI are calling a national demonstration on 24 February to say no to these insane policy of spending up to £76 billion on new Trident nuclear weapons for a ‘defence’ policy based on indiscriminate killing of millions.

Both Gordon Brown and David Cameron are four-square behind the policy of renewing Trident, and they both have to expain how we are going to persuade other countries not to go for nuclear weapons ... when we are spending millions of pounds not disarming but upgrading our nuclear weapons.

Coventry coaches will leave at 9 am, on Fairfax Street (outside the Pool Meadow swimming baths), £12/£5 unwaged. Phone Andy on 07732 030231 or e-mail covstopwar@riseup.net.

19 February 2007

Trident - Labour, Tories and Lib Dems

Tony Blair wants to replace Trident, and Gordon Brown, if he doesn't want to replace Trident, isn't saying boo.

David Cameron's in favour of Trident.

In fact, he wants a fourth submarine. He feels that "replacing Trident with a submarine-based system does not hinder our efforts at all to achieve multilateral nuclear disarmament", that Britain has a "right" to replace its nuclear weapons, that replacing our nuclear weapons is comptible with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and that Tony Blair "can count on" the full support of the Tories.

The Liberal Democrats want to retain 100 warheads, have each Trident submarine carrying 24 warheads when on patrol, they want the current Trident nuclear system maintained and its operational life extended, and to put off a decision on any sucessor system.

The bomb dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 was estimated to have a yield of 12.5 kilotons. Each Trident warhead has a yield of 100 kilotons. The Hiroshima bomb killed between 60 000 and 70 000 immediately. You do the math on the implications of the Lib Dem policy.

If you're against the prospect of nuclear proliferation, if you're against the threat of nuclear war, support political parties that are truly opposed to nuclear weapons, since there is no opposition to look to in Westminster!

The "Oh Shit" Era of Environmental Awareness

If you haven't read it yet, this essay by Bill McKibben, author of "The End of Nature," is a good overview of levels of awareness in the climate change debate:

The worst thing about the "Oh shit" era is we don't know for sure exactly what will happen.

Most of the changes I've been listing -- nastier storms, rising sea levels -- are pretty much linear extrapolations. If you make it hotter, they'll just keep getting worse. But researchers suspect that the world also has some trapdoors -- mechanisms that don't work in straightforward fashion, but instead trigger a nasty chain reaction.

Melt enough of that Arctic ice, for instance, and you may alter the salinity of the North Atlantic enough to shut down the Gulf Stream. All of a sudden the rest of the world would be heating up, while northwestern Europe would be getting very cold.

"Climate is an angry beast," Wallace Broecker, dean of the planet's climate scientists, said a few years ago. "And we are poking at it with sticks."

18 February 2007

Tony Blair and Nuclear Energy

This quote was highlighted by Andrew Warren (director, Association for the Conservation of Energy) in a letter to the Times yesterday ...

"What is unbelievably depressing about the Government's response is that they see in the evidence about greenhouse gases, not an opportunity to promote environmental concern, but a chance to make the case for nuclear power ... before power stations of whatever type are built, it should be first ascertained whether it will not be more cost effective -- quite apart from environmental considerations -- to put money into energy conservation and less into new build."

The speaker in question? Tony Blair, Labour's Shadow Energy Secretary, during electricity privatisation in 1989, in the House of Commons.

The Downing Street Road Pricing Petition

A most interesting article in the Times yesterday:

They have been behind one of the most successful recent public mobilisation campaigns.

Since Peter Roberts of the Association of British Drivers (ABD) posted a petition to scrap the Government’s road-pricing policy on the No 10 website, it has amassed more than 1.5 million signatures.

But those behind the group, which claims to be the “voice of the driver”, are rather quiet about explaining their other operations. One is a scientist who insists on using a pseudonym and believes that global warming is a sham. Another doesn’t own a car and runs a PR firm whose clients include a number of public environmental bodies.

The association is against speed cameras and the current speed limits and calls global warming “the biggest con trick ever perpetrated on the human race”.
The comments added by Times readers (thumbs up on the redesign) at the end of the article are just as illuminating:

- "motorists are fed up with being used as cash-cows and/or British citizens who are fed up with the big brother state"

- "It's unclear whether this is an attack on huge public opposition to the proposed Denial of Mobilty Tax, or an attack on those who dare to question the new religion of climate change zealotry."

- "Propping up the climate change industry, whose cracks are there to see with a little digging, will discredit the paper in time."

- "passengers and drivers' common sense loses out to the revenue gathering of politics which ignores better science in favour of a majority view favouring questionable science."

- "The most controversial observation seems to be to make a point of Mr Abrams objection to the notion of human-influenced global warming. This article implies this is unique or radical - however this view is quite prevalent amongst Scientists and Climatologists ... in Science journals you find much debate and disagreement."
A number of problems:

- we don't have a God-given right to drive a car wherever and whenever we like (n.b. cars have only been around for 100 years), and anyone who challenges that isn't a Big Brother climate change religious zealot

- this idea that there is "disagreement" in peer-reviewed scientific journals about climate change, that climate change theories are "questionable science", is dangerous and wrong

- we have to keep up efforts to wrestle the debate away from people who -- no matter how many articles on the Antarctic ice shelves, or glaciers melting quicker than expected -- think it's all invented, sky-is-falling bunkum, the kind of people that hold their hands over their ears and shout louder and louder, "nah, nah, nah, can't hear you!"

17 February 2007

BBC Coventry and the Environment

At a time when parts per million of carbon dioxide are at an all-time high (390 ppm, rising at 2ppm per year, up from 1 ppm per year in the 1990s), the BBC is environmentally failing in a number of areas.

Jeremy Paxman recently took his employer to task in a full-page article in Ariel, the in-house BBC magazine, citing all-night lighting at BBC Television Centre, no BBC-wide policy on carbon offsets for reporters or four-year-long documentary efforts, and muddled recycling policies.

On the BBC's website, they cite that "In 2005, the BBC was ranked 53rd equal out of 145 companies in the Business in the Community Environment Index. That was up from 61st in 2004."

Well. That's all nice and good, but the other way of looking at it was that they weren't in the top 50 two years in a row.

Now, the Guardian says:
Carbon emissions went up to almost 0.25 tonnes per broadcast hour in 2005, compared with just over 0.15 tonnes the year before. According to the BBC's Corporate and Social Responsibilities Report 2006 - released this week - the total waste per BBC employee also rose, from almost 250kg per person to just under 300kg. However, recycling improved from 30% to around 37%. And more than 95% of the electricity used by the BBC comes from green power sources such as hydroelectric power stations and wind farms.

The report also reveals that lighting accounts for 10% to 15% of the BBC's overall energy bill. To cut that amount, one London BBC building is running a pilot scheme where lights now turn off automatically at 7pm rather than 11pm. The sensors have also been adjusted so that lights activated by movement go off after 15 minutes rather than half an hour.
If 15% of your bill is lighting, why only one pilot scheme in one building in one city?

Shouldn't initiatives like this have been built in as standard practice under the recent Charter Review?

I would think that, if we have questions about environmental matters at Bee-Bee-Cee Cov-En-Tree War-Ick-Sherrrrrrrrr, David Clargo might be the man to speak to.

16 February 2007

Don't Look Back In Anger

A long time from the 1997 landslide:

"David Cameron is no different from Tony Blair, and Gordon Brown is no different from David Cameron. They're all cut from the cloth and it annoys me that the biggest political icon from the last 30 years has been Margaret Thatcher, someone who tried to destroy the working class ... it freaks me out you know."

Mr Gallagher said a Unicef report ranking the UK bottom on child wellbeing across 21 industrialised countries "kind of makes me angry". He added: "When the Labour Party got in it was all about children and education and yet 10 years down the line there's people saying that kids are better off in Poland."

Mr Gallagher also criticised Mr Cameron for refusing to admit or deny using drugs while at school. "To say no comment is typical of him and his party copping out ... They wait to see what Tony Blair says ... and then they move in behind and switch it and change a little bit. It's like a song writer who's eternally ripping off someone else's song and just changing the odd line a little."

14 February 2007

Richard Watson - 1965-2007

The Guardian:

"Born and brought up in Burnley, Lancashire, he left school at 16 and worked as a sheet metal worker, spending time with the Territorial army, which turned him into an accomplished caver and climber.

After leaving the TA at 22, he attended a local Greenpeace meeting, and quickly found that his rope skills could be put to good use in keeping with his conscience.

He first caused consternation in boardrooms and government press offices in 1992, when he broke into the controlled zone at the Sellafield nuclear facility and hung off the THORP reprocessing plant, unfurling an anti-nuclear banner. Three years later, he climbed the inch-thick lightning conductor of a 200m coal stack outside Amsterdam to publicise concern at the effect of CO2 on the climate.

Richard became Greenpeace's full-time warehouse manager in 2001 ... He taught dozens of Greenpeace volunteers how to climb, inspiring love and respect despite the verbal lashings he was capable of unleashing to those who did not clear up after themselves."

EU Binding Targets on Waste

MEPs in Brussels have voted for binding targets to reduce the amount of waste produced in the EU.

The parliament proposed that production of waste should be stabilised at 2008 levels by 2012, and scaled back by 2020. MEPs also said 50% of municipal waste and 70% of industrial waste should be recycled by the same 2020 deadline.

One of the major decisions for waste in Coventry will be taken in 2007: what to do with the incinerator on London Road. Our view is that the incinerator is an obstacle to a drastic ramping-up of recycling. Why recycle more if you can burn it for profit in the incinerator? Why set up a social enterprise at arm's length from the council to recycle/reuse plastic, if you can keep saying "the nearest place is St Helens" and burn plastic (high caloric value, that plastic) in the incinerator?

We can't get locked into decades more of an incineration-first waste policy for Coventry.

12 February 2007

Trident Debate - 13th November, 8pm

Volunteers from the Coventry Peace House went to Faslane in Scotland on February 11th and 12th, as part of the ongoing campaign to stop the Trident nuclear deterrent.

Here is a story about their arrests.

Tomorrow night, 8pm, Methodist Central Hall, there will be a pro-con debate on renewing Trident, with one of the two anti-Trident speakers being Kate Hudson, chair of CND.

Our monthly meeting is at 730pm at the Grapevine centre, in Spon End, but I'm going to lobby to have a brief 15 minute meeting at Grapevine, then, we can hightail it over to Methodist Central Hall for the Trident speeches.

We'll continue the meeting after the speeches, if people agree with me, or reconvene the meeting later in the month.

Adult Education - Fees and Cutbacks

Adult education is in crisis.

Mike Baker, of BBC News highlights that

The number of adults in FE, aged over 19, fell last year by 16.9%. That represents almost 600,000 fewer adults on courses in FE Colleges. There was a further fall of almost 10% in the numbers on Adult and Community Learning. That is some 85,000 fewer people taking the variety of day and evening classes run by local councils. Taken together that is a staggering total of close to 700,000 adults who are no longer on courses at sub-degree level.

That is seven Wembley stadiums worth of adult learners. It dwarfs the tiny drop in applications to university this year.
It's due to a dramatic rise in course fees and a restriction in course choice. Part-time and full-time ESOL (English as a Second or Other Language) courses will now also come under attack with government plans to raise fees for those who are not in benefit or who are not refugees.

Does this make any sense at all, when the government goes on and on about community cohesion and integration?

08 February 2007

Coventry City Council Budget 2007-2008

The proposed revenue and capital budget can be found here. (It's 911K, so it may take a while to download).

The budget will be discussed at the next cabinet meeting (Tuesday 13th February, Council House).

The deputy leader, Tony O'Neill (Con-Woodlands), has been in charge of setting the budget. His counterpart, deputy Labour leader George Duggins (Lab-Longford) is preparing the alternative budget response.

One interesting bit (I've only found this today, and it's 88 pages to wade through):

An extensive round of public consultation to inform the Council’s budget setting has been led by the Deputy Leader of the Council, supported by the Chief Executive and other senior City Council officers ... The consultees included: Coventry Youth Council; the Trades Unions; the business community through the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce; community and voluntary sector organisations; a range of individual partner organisations, and the Coventry Partnership.
It suggests a very elite process. If you're a small business owner, how did the Chamber consult you? If you're a trade unionist, how did your leaders consult you? Where and when does each theme group of the Coventry Partnership meet?

Consulting the three leading members of 30 organisations doesn't amount to consulting what we want as a city of 300 000 people.

07 February 2007

The US Defence Budget

The spooky thing about the US budget announced by George Bush ($2.9 trillion, which includes a defence budget of $481 billion, plus additional funding for Iraq and Afghanistan of $165 billion), is that the US military's top officers want even more of a slice of the pie.

Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the departing US Army chief of staff, says defense spending is 3.8% of GDP, a figure projected to drop over the next five years, to near the lowest levels since World War II, even though the U.S. is involved in a protracted war.

Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen: "At 3.8 percent, it just isn't enough for the strategic appetite, and the strategic appetite is tied directly to the world we're living in."

But even at those levels, the service chiefs argue that the war's wear and tear on their equipment, along with the strategic planning that calls on them to check such global threats as a rapidly modernizing China, a nuclear-armed North Korea and an increasingly belligerent Iran, has begun to outstrip their ability to fund the Army brigades, Air Force wings and Navy strike groups needed to meet all contingencies.
It's a tough time, having an empire and the ability to project power anywhere on earth with 12 aircraft carrier groups.

You need to subsidise Lockheed Martin ($6.1 billion for the Joint Strike Fighter, $4.6 billion for 20 F-22A fighter jets), not to mention Northrop Grumman, Textron, Boeing (aerial refuelling contract's coming up for renewal) and European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co, and all the other hungry corporate kids.

You have to increase soldiers in the Army from the current 482,400 to 547,400 by 2012 and the Marines from 175,000 to 202,000 by 2011.

You need 170 Predator vehicles, $14.2 billion for Navy shipbuilding, and the CIA wants to expand by 50%.

It's leaving entire regions permanently dependent on US military spending (14000 procurement contracts and 14% of the regional GDP for the San Diego region alone).

Keep all these numbers in mind when Bush is only spending $1 billion for renewable power supplies or new power transmission technologies ... or $348 million to complete construction of a facility to destroy chemical weapons and provide security upgrades for storage of Russian nuclear warheads.

Lone Parents in Coventry -- Childcare

John Hutton, the Work and Pensions minister, is considering changing the benefit system for single parents.

Single parents can currently receive Income Support without having to seek work until their youngest child is 16.

Hutton wants to cut it to 12.

- It would affect parents caring for disabled children (a quarter of single parents claiming income support)
- In countries like Sweden and Denmark,who have up to 80% of lone parents in work, they have a state-run, well-funded, system of childcare, to support lone parents

It's another issue that could cause a backbench rebellion, just when authority is draining away from Tony Blair.
Labour MP Lynne Jones, who played a prominent role in the backbench rebellion when 47 MPs voted against cuts in lone parent benefits in the late 1990s, told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme: "It does dismay me that we are still pandering to this stereotype of the lazy, work-shy, lone parent who doesn't do a very good job of bringing up her children anyway."

Clare Tickell, of children's charity NCH, said many parents wanted to work but struggled because of a lack of support. "Encouraging lone parents to work is a step towards tackling child poverty but they need a package of flexible support to help them juggle the demands of family life and employment," she said.
In that same vein, Chris Pond, chief executive of One Parent Families, gave this speech, archived on the Daycare Trust website:

We’ve long supported Daycare Trust in their campaign for a Children’s Centre in every neighbourhood, which we believe could transform the lives of lone parents and their families.

Children’s Centres could help lone parents to study, enable access to work, provide a contact point for local business and training organisations, provide support services, health services and help to support children’s learning.

Lone parents want somewhere that is safe, local, high quality and affordable, providing services that are both flexible and reliable. Flexible, because a main reason that lone parents fear moving into work is that they believe employers will be inflexible to their family needs – and they're right much of the time!

So they need to trust that childcare will be responsive to their needs at work.

05 February 2007

Bird Flu in Suffolk - Surveillance Failure

New Scientist magazine asks why there was, in its words, a "surveillance failure" on the Bernard Matthews farm in Suffolk.

The H5N1 virus that caused bird flu in poultry at a Bernard Matthews farm in Suffolk in eastern England was probably carried to the area by wild ducks. But the British laboratory responsible for monitoring wild birds for avian flu detected almost none of the virus in samples taken from wild waterfowl in Britain in December 2006 and January 2007. This could be because its sampling technique has not changed since April 2006, when New Scientist revealed the methods used could be causing many samples to degrade before they could be tested. It could also be because the surveillance is targeting the wrong birds.
Farmers Weekly magazine says that farmers are questioning why portable incinerators were not used to dispose of the 160 000 turkeys.

Farmers Weekly has contacted a company which sells and hires out airburners, which has confirmed that it could have moved in equipment to incinerate the stock if asked to by DEFRA. Justin Kingwell of Kingwell Holdings said that he had access to at least eight airburners and each one could have processed the carcasses at a rate of five tonnes per hour.

“These machines were used during the foot-and-mouth crisis of 2001, so we know that they work, and the ash that is produced is inert so can be buried on site," he said.“Would it not have been better to incinerate the stock at the site of infection?” he said.

But DEFRA said that rendering has been chosen as the preferred method of disposal as it was the safest way to ensure that the virus was destroyed. The plant in question had been picked as it was much larger than normal incineration plants and therefore had the capacity to deal with the number of birds in question.
Finally, we're being told that the real avian flu problem is not here, it's in East and SE Asia. But there, the stocks of Tamiflu in Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines are expiring by the end of 2007. So they face choices:

a) use up their stockpile on fighting normal seasonal flu (possibility of building immunity within the population to Tamiflu)
b) let it expire and spend millions of dollars to restock, rather than spending money on TB or AIDS
c) let it expire and don't restock (spin the wheel and hope a pandemic doesn't strike).

04 February 2007

Bird Flu and Turkeys

It's not just Suffolk and the 150 000 turkeys.

Nigeria and Japan have recently reported a series of cases of the lethal H5N1 virus. Russia, South Korea, China, Egypt, and Vietnam have also revealed outbreaks in birds and in humans in the past two months.

Jo Revill, the Observer's health editor, has a good article today:

The great fear is that the [H5N1] virus will jump into a person and mutate, changing its genetic make-up so that it becomes transmissible between species, and then between humans. This could happen in one event, or it could happen gradually. Flu viruses are masters of disguise and can mutate thousands of times until they find a form which gives them a kind of pathogenic immortality.

Every time the virus enters a human being, it's a roll of the dice as to whether it will become a very contagious form. These particles are easily destroyed by heat or even stomach juices, but unfortunately are adept at unlocking the cells lining the respiratory tract, and then trashing them. The body mounts a massive immune response that in some cases is deadly. That's what has caused 162 deaths so far across the globe.

During any pandemic, around 25 per cent to 30 per cent of the population would be infected, but the vast majority of people would simply suffer a nasty dose of flu and survive - and then carry immunity to the disease.

The problems are, one, in Britain alone, that's 15 million people with flu (mass societal disruption), and two, until the actual flu pandemic occurs, scientists won't be able to fashion a vaccine specific to whatever mutated strain of H5N1 is fuelling it. Tamiflu is the current drug recommended for first-responders, but recent Egyptian cases indicate that tamiflu-resistant strains are already developing.

03 February 2007

Eco-Fair at Earlsdon Methodist Church

It's being promoted by the Coventry branch of the World Development Movement, and it will be on the 24th of February, from 9.30am - 4pm.

There will be demonstrations on composting, recycling, wildlife conservation, saving water, and energy consumption.

Local suppliers of solar water heating and low energy lighting products will be present.

It will be at Earlsdon Methodist Church Hall (corner of Albany Road and Earlsdon Ave South).