31 August 2007

Miss Black Britain On Gang Violence

"Politicians need to invest time over a long period in trying to understand young people. Suggesting making computer games less violent or forcing people to give evidence if someone is shot aren't realistic policies to help people live more positive lives."

Shortage Of Midwives Predicted

Hard on the heels of the UNICEF report on breastfeeding, the Royal College of Midwives says that recruitment of midwives (up 4.5% up from 1997 to 2006) is not keeping pace with a rising birth-rate (up 12.5% in the same time).

The RCM warned that fewer midwives were being trained while the newly-qualified ones were struggling to find jobs because of poor NHS finances. Meanwhile, almost half of all midwives are set to retire within a decade.

Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary of the RCM, expressed "real concerns" about the Government's ability to improve maternity services.

"Planning, investment and resources are needed now if the Government's targets and ambitions for maternity services are not left hanging in tatters. Ultimately it will be women and their babies who suffer a poorer service, and midwives will be left under-resourced and over-stretched."

30 August 2007

Driving A Hybrid Car

"It's a very clever system. One minute, you're running on battery, the next minute, you're running on engine. And you can't feel the car changing, apart from the noise levels."

Breastfeeding In Coventry

UK breastfeeding rates are among the lowest in Europe.

UNICEF is releasing a report today that says 4 of every 10 maternity hospitals in the UK have not implemented breastfeeding guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence that was published a year ago.

This is on top of research on breastfeeding (June 2007) that: "knowledge of breastfeeding policy, such as government recommendations on the duration of exclusive breastfeeding, was poorer among family doctors and paediatricians than health visitors and midwives."

Breastfeeding protects babies from a range of illnesses and saves the NHS millions of pounds a year. It lowers a mother's risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, hip fractures and low bone density. Bottle-feeding puts babies at greater risk of gastrointestinal and respiratory infections and other illnesses.

Nice recommended that all maternity trusts should adopt the Unicef Baby Friendly programme, which focuses on giving mothers information so they can choose whether or not to breastfeed, and ensuring they have support to do so. It is intended to be non-judgmental and women who elect to bottle feed will be helped to do it safely and well.
We need events in Coventry, like The Big Feed this past May, more often to raise awareness.

29 August 2007

Supporting Coventry's High Streets

Try and spend a few quid in local shops every week. Every little helps!

Why Big Business Isn't The Answer

Jonathon Porritt, the head of the government's Sustainable Development Commission:

"Every time I hear someone - especially if they are in government - say that big business will be the principal agent of change in moving us into a sustainable world, I know this is just bullshit. In a capitalist market-based global economy, where costs are being systematically and legally dumped on to the environment, companies are legally bound to give preference to short-term shareholder interests over long-term environmental security."

27 August 2007

World Water Scarcity

The International Water Management Insitute now says that one third of the world's population already face some form of water scarcity.

It also highlights the importance, in the future, of adopting a vegetarian diet.

A kilogram of grain takes 500-4,000 liters of water to grow, whilst a kilogram of industrially produced meat requires 10,000 liters. If the world's population grows, and people's diets change from cereals to more meat ....

26 August 2007

Organic Cotton In Coventry

The Soil Association has a report out later this week that states annual spending on organically produced food, cosmetics and clothes has reached £2bn.

What's interesting is the growth in organic cotton sales.

You can find organic cotton products here in Coventry (tissues, toilet roll, clothing). That being said, if you're buying fairtrade cotton that isn't organic cotton, you're giving farmers a sustainable wage, but leaving them to keeping dealing with some of the most toxic pesticides on Earth.

Concern about the use of pesticides in the growth of cotton, and their effect on the health of farmers in developing countries, has prompted ethical shoppers to turn to clothes and bedding made from organic cotton. Even organic leather jackets and sheepskin rugs are now on the market.

The value of the organic cotton market in Britain is predicted to surge by 50 per cent this year to £60m. High-street chain New Look has launched three organic clothing collections this year and a third of its cotton jersey ranges will be made from organic cotton by next spring. Topshop gives space to People Tree, a leading organic fashion brand.

25 August 2007

Jeremy Paxman On Trust And Television

Jeremy Paxman gave the MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival this year. As you'd expect, he didn't pull his punches.

This needs saying, and it needs saying quite clearly. There is a problem. Potentially, it is a very big problem. It has the capacity to change utterly what we do, and in the process to betray the people we ought to be serving. Once people start believing we’re playing fast and loose with them routinely, we’ve had it.

I find it pretty hard to believe some of the television bosses when they say they had no idea what was going on. I know people who worked on ITV Play who told me the best part of a year before the scandal how bothered they were by what was happening. Whoever was responsible should be sacked.

It simply won’t wash for senior figures in the industry to blame our troubles on an influx of untrained young people: the ITV Alzheimer’s documentary and the trailer for the series about the Queen were made by a couple of the most venerable figures in the business.

The question we have to ask ourselves is, is there something rotten in the state of television, some systemic sickness, that renders it inherently dishonest?

Coventry South Newsletter

We've printed a 10 000 copy newsletter, and we'll be distributing it over the next fortnight throughout the wards of Wainbody and Cheylesmore, along with parts of Earlsdon.

It has articles on the Strident protest at Faslane, organic fruit/veg boxes and the recent floods in Britain. It also has an events diary of upcoming peace/environmental meetings in our city.

The idea is to focus on part of the Coventry South constituency in the lead-up to a national election in spring 2008 (unless Gordon Brown divorces Prudence, with Labour still £20 million in debt, a spring election is more likely than a snap autumn one).

We'll have a 2nd issue of the newsletter in November, and a 3rd in late Jan/early Feb.

We're calling it "Coventry Greenleaf" -- aping Brighton Green Party's newspaper. They began "their" Greenleaf as a ward-focused newsletter in 1994, and look where they are now (12 city councillors, and on the cusp of giving Britain its first Green MP in Caroline Lucas).

Great oaks from little acorns grow ...

20 August 2007

Nationwide Protests At End Of Climate Camp

Following the end of the climate change camp at Heathrow Airport, activists made protests nationwide on related issues:

- Eight protesters chained themselves together at British Airways' World Cargo Depot at Hatton Cross.
- Protesters superglued themselves to BP's headquarters
- Five protesters blocked the main gate to Sizewell A and B nuclear power stations, on the Suffolk coast
- Activists dressed as red herrings appeared at the offices of offsetting companies Carbon Neutral (London) and Climate Care (Oxford).
- Protests were held at the London offices of Bridgepoint Capital, a private equity firm which recently bought Bradford-Leeds airport and intends to expand it.

18 August 2007

Monbiot On Climate Camp Rumours

People can't defend the indefensible -- expanding aviation to ensure that Britian misses carbon reduction targets -- so the response is to smear.

Where did the story [on hoax bombs to cause alerts and assaults on the Heathrow fence] come from? It was, or so the byline claimed, written by Robert Mendick, the Evening Standard's chief reporter. One of the campers phoned Mr Mendick and asked him what was going on.

"I'm very constrained about what I can say for various reasons," Mr Mendick replied. "Suffice to say I understand what you're saying and I can't go into it. Er, and I would further say it's, er, not something I was actually massively involved with and, er, I'll leave it at that." "What do you mean?" "... I really can't go into it."

So what does he mean? Why is Mr Mendick unable to say where the claims in his story came from? How did he manage to write an article that he was not "massively involved with"? Is there a computer programme at the Evening Standard that composes reporters' articles on their behalf?

Update On Green Mayor Of Richmond

Back in mid-January, I posted about the election of Gayle McLaughlin as the mayor of Richmond. Richmond is in the Bay Area of the US, near San Francisco. She's the first Green mayor anywhere in the US in a town/city with a population over 100 000.

The San Francisco Chronicle has published another article on her progress.

It's interesting for Coventry, since Richmond is also a former industrial city trying to reinvent itself:

A Green Party member and former anti-war activist from Chicago might seem like an odd fit for Richmond, but the Green Party label is a little misleading. McLaughlin comes from working-class roots; her father was a carpenter, and the family lived in a blue-collar neighborhood. She understands the importance of manufacturing and industrial jobs for working-class families -- and, in a city with Richmond's environmental history, the health benefits that go with them.

Last year, before the mayoral election, McLaughlin helped persuade the council to rescind the longtime practice of allowing Chevron to self-inspect and self-permit its own projects. She describes Richmond as a city "which has suffered from decades of oil industry pollution" and promises that the city will carefully scrutinize Chevron's latest proposed refinery modifications, designed to allow the company to process the dirtier crude oil that's being dredged from the world's depleting oil reserves.

McLaughlin is still scrambling for funds, but she hopes to establish a Richmond Youth Corps program that would employ 1,000 at-risk kids year 'round to restore creeks, repair roads and help in libraries. She has already managed to boost the city's summer jobs program for youth from 290 positions last year to 350 this year.

And the new mayor is also seeking funds for a crime-prevention program that would send "peacekeeping teams" with mediation skills into crime-ridden neighborhoods. The teams would provide links on a case-by-case basis to substance abuse, mental health, vocational training and other government assistance programs.

16 August 2007

The Magnificent Revolutionary Cycling Cinema

One of the more intriguing things I've seen in a while, and they have 1950's usherettes!

"The Magnificent Revolutionary Cycling Cinema is the only UK bicycle-powered cinema, uniting art, education and sustainability by screening D.I.Y films, independents and small productions; demonstrating how to generate power locally and independently of fossil fuels; engaging people in idea of sustainability."

15 August 2007

Yazidi Bombings In Iraq

Over 250 people have died, with 350 injured, in the latest co-ordinated bombings in Iraq.

The bombings happened in the villages of Qataniya and Adnaniya, and involved a fuel tanker and three cars. The victims are members of the ancient Yazidi community, who are mainly Kurds, spread out in villages around Lalish and across northern Iraq. Internationally, the Yazidi community is believed to number between 100,000 and 400,000, often living in uneasy co-existence with their Muslim neighbours.

In April, a 17-year-old Yazidi girl who had married a Muslim and converted to Islam was stoned to death by her own community, a brutal murder that was caught by a witness on a mobile phone camera. In retaliation, Muslim gunmen murdered 23 Yazidi factory workers, and 800 Yazidi students fled from Mosul university fearing of reprisals.
It's the deadliest single attack during the Occupation, but it's already the 2nd story on the BBC News website.

250 dead, and 350 injured, in a country of 27 1/2 million people ... that's the same as a suicide bombing in the US that would kill 2730 people and wound 3500 more.

Are we going to be drenched in endless analysis about the reasons behind 14/8, about the detailed planning of the individual bombers, are we to learn in detail about the Kurdish autonomous region's upcoming referendum, about the Yazidi heritage? Are we even going to get a Greengrass film, with real-life locals playing parts in a dramatic reconstruction?

Of course we aren't. Iraqis are less important than Americans. We won't have any coverage of the bombings next week. None at all.

Post-Jail Support For Youth

Two articles: article 1, and article 2, today on spending more on youth offenders after they leave prison.

A nine-month resettlement package on release, including a dedicated resettlement support worker, education or training, specialist family support and volunteer mentoring where required would cost an average £8,074. The report says good support and resettlement leads to a 35% reduction in the frequency of offending and a 10% cut in the seriousness of offending - this would lead to a 45% reduction in time spent in custody. This reduces the average cost of crime and custody to £57,633, leading to a saving of £20,407 per offender.
Apart from the flurry of stats, it would simply lead to less re-offending and more stable families and communities.

13 August 2007

Keeping Up With Climate Camp News

Indymedia would be a good place to monitor developments.

Carbon Neutral Hotels

News from the Indie that only 4 per cent of British holidaymakers would choose to book a five-star hotel over a four-star establishment which is sustainably run.

Just like any other business, there are factors such as efficient lighting and heating, renewable energy, or community support and involvement. But, since they are hotels, you would also include home-grown vegetables, hire bikes, fair-trade sugar for your fair trade coffee, and a local and organic full English.

Yorkshire has a scheme to encourage hotels, B&Bs and cafes to source more regional produce called the "Deliciouslyorkshire Breakfast" where 5 ingredients or more have to be regionally sourced.

Driving Versus Walking

Lynsey Hanley writes in the Guardian today:

In the last 30 years - when all but 19% of households have become car owners - the amount of time we spend walking has decreased, from 67 hours per person per year to 47, while time spent driving has increased precipitously, from 91 to 151 hours per driver per year ... People who have always driven, and were driven around as children, have no idea what it's like to be a pedestrian. They don't care about the fumes they emit, because they can't smell or sense them inside their cars. They don't care about the noise they make, because all they can hear while locked inside their car is a low, comforting purr. They don't care about the fact that the one-way system and the inner ring road make getting into and around towns a dirty, stressful ordeal, because the first they know about it is when they emerge from the car park into the shopping centre.

12 August 2007

Climate Change Camp At Heathrow

Up to 1,800 extra officers, armed with section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, are being used by the Met to police the upcoming climate change camp at Heathrow Airport.

Shouldn't anti-terrorism legislation be used to prosecute terrorists, not direct action protesters?

Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 gives police powers to:

- Stop and search people and vehicles for anything that could be used in connection with terrorism
- Search people even if they do not have evidence to suspect them
- Hold people for up to a month without charge
- Search homes and remove protesters' outer clothes, such as hats, shoes and coats.

The police tactics have echoes of the 2003 anti-war demo at RAF Fairford where law lords eventually ruled police had acted unlawfully in detaining two coachloads of protesters, who were stopped and searched and then turned back even though they were on their way to an authorised demonstration. Police used section 44 of the act 995 times at the Fairford peace camp, even though there was no suggestion of terrorist overtones. The Guardian has established that at least two climate change campaigners have been arrested recently at Heathrow by officers using terrorism powers. Cristina Fraser, a student, was stopped when cycling near the airport with a friend and then charged under section 58 of the Terrorism Act. "I was arrested and held in a police cell for 30 hours. I was terrified. No one knew where I was. They knew I was not a terrorist," she said.
The climate change camp itself will be:

a tented sustainable town, set up wind and solar power systems, plumb compost toilets, schedule 100 workshops, provide catering and music, bars, shuttle buses - and then break off to hold a day of mass protest that will involve direct, and quite probably illegal, action ... the camp will [have] no leaders, no named groups, no constitutions, and no chairman, but where people organise themselves, with all decisions made by consensus.

For the activists, climate change is absolutely top of the agenda. Muzammal Hussain, 35, in 2004 founded the London Islamic Network for the Environment. He is going to visit the camp primarily, he says, to educate himself and attend workshops. "I think I may attract curiosity as a Muslim at the camp, but environmentalism is crucial to Islamic teaching," he says. "The Koran says that we are guardians of the Earth and have a responsibility to look after it. Many imams have traditionally not quite grasped this, though that is changing."

Dom Marsh, 24, believes the camp will be an opportunity to demonstrate practical solutions to climate change. He is the office coordinator of the Permaculture Association (Britain). From the point of view of the camp, that means promoting non-polluting compost toilets, using bikes and recycling waste water.

"I hope the camp will be a good example of how non-hierarchical organisations can achieve change and a model for living in harmony with nature," he says.

Biosecurity at Pirbright Laboratories

I'm a bit spooked after reading this.

It's from from a plumber who was infected with Legionnaire's at the Institute for Animal Health, one of the two laboratory facilities suspected in the foot and mouth outbreak.

It's amazing that six years after September 11th that there isn't greater security:

As a plumber, Ravate is not an expert in bio-safety but was amazed by the freedom he was given inside such a sensitive site. He says he was never given an induction, or asked to shower, wear protective clothing or even clean his hands before leaving the building. "We were allowed to walk around willy-nilly. We were left to it unaccompanied with no overalls, no masks and no gloves ... They [security guards] would say, ‘What time are you lads leaving? Just leave the doors open and we’ll lock it up afterwards’. We would just stroll out and give our badges back. “We were allowed to walk everywhere. There was nothing to prevent us going into the different isolation units.”

10 August 2007

August Green Party Meeting

Our next meeting will be this coming Tuesday, at the Coventry Peace House, on Stoney Stanton Road, just north of the canal. It will begin at 730pm. Members, non-members, well-wishers, friendly supporters and 'jus folks are welcome. We'll be discussing the upcoming 10 000 copy newsletter across Coventry South, as well as the September autumn conference for the Green Party, in Liverpool. For more information, call 07906 316 726, or email, sgredding2003@yahoo.co.uk.

The Threat To Bee Populations

Another article, now in the Times, about the sharp reduction in bee populations in Britain.

In the US, it has been referred to as "Colony Collapse Disorder" -- with at least a quarter of America’s 2.5 million honeybee colonies wiped out already.

Honeybees pollinate about 80 per cent of flowering crops, which in turn furnish one third of the human diet. The economic contribution that bees make to agriculture and horticulture in this country has been estimated at £1 billion, yet the looming threat to the bee population has been all but ignored. While money is poured into other forms of agricultural defence and support, the Government spends just £180,000 on bee research, a figure that has shrunk continuously over recent years. Put another way: for every £1 the bee contributes to the British economy, we spend less than two hundredths of one penny on exploring ways to keep it alive.

09 August 2007

Coventry's Lord Mayor And His Jaguar

Tony O'Neill, the council cabinet member for Finance, considered yesterday what car the Lord Mayor should lease for the 2007-2008 year.

Should it be a car that emits 214 g/km of CO2 (a Jaguar XJ 2.7TDVi LWB Sovereign in indigo blue, from their "VIP Leasing Scheme"), or should it be something that emits half as much CO2, like a hybrid Toyota Prius?

Of course they chose the Jag. After all, the Conservatives are the party of the environment, vote Blue, go Green.

Since the Lord Mayor is a symbolic post, there should have been a symbolic choice. Why was it more important to have an "executive" car than an environmental one? Their logic is that this type of Jaguar is the "most environmental" one in its class ... that's like saying someone who weights 450 pounds is thin ... when you compare them with 500 pounders.

02 August 2007

Germaine Greer On Housing

31st July, The Guardian:

Because of the utter failure of high-rise accommodation in Britain, anyone who suggests, as I did in a recent BBC TV programme, that we will have to stop building out from our towns and cities and start building up, will be reviled as cruel and unimaginative. What would be cruel and unimaginative would be to build hundreds of thousands of "affordable" houses round thousands of cul-de-sacs barely big enough to accommodate the cars that will be parked there every night and all weekend, with no infrastructure, no schools, no shops, no health care facilties, no sports grounds - and poor drainage.