30 November 2007

Weekly Canvassing In Earlsdon

Myself and Bryn Tittle, our candidate in Cheylesmore in 2007, have begun twice-weekly canvassing in Earlsdon. We've begun on Winifred Avenue, a small stretch of Albany Road, and Newcombe Road. This Sunday, we'll be out towards Tile Hill Lane and Hendre Close (next to the A45).

To begin with, we're making people aware of Coventry City Council's draft climate change strategy, and that people have until the end of December to make their views known on it.

We're also asking if there are any local issues or concerns that we can take up, or find answers to, with the council. So far, residents have had questions about street lighting, flytipping, the conduct of landlords, street sweeping, and glass recycling drop-off points.

If you have any questions (issues to take up, questions about party policy), you can contact myself on 07906 316726, sgredding2003@yahoo.co.uk, or Bryn on 07878 741114, bryntittle@yahoo.co.uk.

Fix Or Fortress?

Naomi Klein, in The Nation:

According to Venture Business Research, in 2006 North American and European companies developing green technology and those focused on "homeland security" and weaponry were neck and neck in the contest for new investment: green tech received $3.5 billion, and so did the guns and garrisons sector. But this year garrisons have suddenly leapt ahead. The greens have received $4.2 billion, while the garrisons have nearly doubled their money, collecting $6 billion in new investment funds. And 2007 isn't over yet.

There are two distinct business models that can respond to our climate and energy crisis.

We can develop policies and technologies to get us off this disastrous course.

Or we can develop policies and technologies to protect us from those we have enraged through resource wars and displaced through climate change, while simultaneously shielding ourselves from the worst of both war and weather ...

In short, we can choose to fix, or we can choose to fortress. Environmental activists and scientists have been yelling for the fix. The homeland security sector, on the other hand, believes the future lies in fortresses.

Harriet Harman's Campaign Finances

Newsnight is waiting on answers to a series of allegations against Harriet Harman.

They centre on if she has taken out a number of loans to fund her deputy leadership campaign -- loans that were not declared to the Electoral Commission.

Harman has a fundraiser planned for 5th December in Leicester Square in London, £30 a head, five months after her campaign ended. Donations are being sent to her office in the House of Commons, a no-no, if her staffer is being paid from the public purse.

What is odd about Harman is that she and her husband have six-figure salaries. Couldn't they have avoided all of this by donating to her campaign directly?

29 November 2007

"Ecomerge" At Portland State University

Ecomerge is a blog created by students at Portland State University in the US. They've linked to a post that I wrote, highlighting how Vaxjo, a city in Sweden, is trying to become carbon-neutral.
It's a great example of how we can share information through the Internet.

Portland itself, whilst I've only passed through it on the train (in 1995, from San Francisco to Vancouver), fascinates me. Their city council had a recent task force on peak oil's impact on Portland. Local activism focuses on things like old growth forest preservation, and then awareness can be channelled into campaigns for sustainable wood for housing developments. Heck, even their local paper criticises mayoral candidates for not having a strong enough position on cycling.

"Youth Resources Centre" In Cheylesmore

On Tuesday, the Coventry Telegraph had a story on the Youth Resources Centre in Parkside, Cheylesmore.

The centre hires out "camping equipment, minibuses, cameras, disco equipment, public address systems, musical instruments and games at affordable prices." The city council, however, is reviewing the service, to make it more "cost effective" to run.

This is the problem with having a Conservative-controlled council.

You can't make the public sector cost effective, since it's not supposed to be cost effective!

One, there are certain societal goals (education, health care, and public transit for everyone so no one has to pay, no one starving, playing our part in ending global misery) that aren't profitable. The private sector won't do these tasks without generous public subsidy.

Two, there are certain functions of the state (suspending the liberty of the individual, empowering and educating youth) that shouldn't be subject to the profit motive. It's why the Green Party is against privately-run jails, or why we're in favour of comprehensive education and the end to top-up tuition.

The Youth Resources Centre is something that needs to be expanded. It's an invaluable investment in keeping youth engaged in art, outdoor activities, or music in Coventry. It's not just another budget line item where the council needs to save money.

Labour's Donations Scandal

A string of Labour party members (Baroness Jay, Hilary Benn, Peter Watt, and Jon Mendelsohn) have admitted to knowing about donations, or attempted donations, through third parties, by David Abrahams. Not declaring such donations to be coming through third parties is illegal.

None of these people reported Abrahams' actions to the police.

None of these people reported Abrahams' actions to the Electoral Commission.

It's all a bit like "Eastenders" -- no one ever seems to report illegal activity on "Eastenders," they just try to sort it out themselves, there's nuffink the police can do, and they really really regret it when they do report on someone and a loved one goes to jail.

Mendelsohn is the chief fundraiser for Gordon Brown, and he knew about Abrahams' actions for 2 1/2 months until the story broke. Shouldn't Brown insist on his resignation?

He might have to soon, as Guido Fawkes has heard that:
The Labour party's High Value Donors Unit has a piece of American software that could provide very handy evidence for the police investigating the illegal fund raising scandal. "Raiser's Edge" is supposed to record all contacts with donors including what events they have attended and what telephone calls have taken place. It will reveal some of the people who knew about Abrahams besides Peter Watt, Jon Mendelsohn and Baroness Jay.

28 November 2007

The NHS And Climate Change

BBC News:

Of the public buildings such as schools and hospitals built or refurbished over 2005-06, only 9% met government targets for environmental sustainability.

Sunand Prasad, President, Royal Institute of British Architects: "Sustainability has not been a priority in any recent hospital build."

Neil MacKay, the climate change tsar for the NHS in England: "Sometimes I get blank looks when I say to people: 'Why aren't you interested in the consequences of climate change and the use of energy?' People will say: 'Well, we do', but when you unpack it and explore it they are doing things - but they are not really getting to the heart of things in an innovative, lateral-thinking kind of way."

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

The annual "16 Days against Gender Violence" takes place between the International Day Against Violence Against Women on the 25th of November, and International Human Rights Day.

open democracy has a series of interesting articles around it, including a multi-voiced international blog, 5050, that will include discussion of security masculinities and the state, rape and impunity, healthy bodies, coercion and control, and women as trade.

David Cameron And Nuclear Power

First Gordon Brown, then David Cameron.

Same questions as yesterday about nuclear power, David.

27 November 2007

Gordon Brown And Nuclear Power

Gordon Brown, in his speech to the CBI earlier this week, said:

We must - and will - take the right long term decisions to invest now for the next generation of sustainable and secure energy supplies. We have said that new nuclear power stations potentially have a role to play in tackling climate change and improving energy security. And having concluded the full public consultation we will announce our final decision early in the New Year ... We must leave behind the old policies of yesterday and plan for new long-term policies which will serve us better tomorrow.
The reality is that Gordon Brown is the leader following a short-term way of thinking. The Ecologist, in its November issue (page 39), has a sidebar on nuclear power. It reveals some interesting facts.

- You need a certain purity of uranium ore to make nuclear power carbon neutral ... specifically, it has to be above 0.02%. Below this, "nuclear power uses more energy in the form of fossil fuel than it generates as electricity." So, how long will high quality uranium ore last us? Well, at our current rate of use, it will last us 42 years. But, if we really ramp up our global use of nuclear power (India is currently building 24 reactors, China 40, Russia 40, Japan 13), it'll last a much shorter time (perhaps 12 years).

- The UK, currently, has a stockpile of 100 000 tonnes of nuclear waste. Even without new plants, this will grow to 500 000 tonnes, and we will already have to pay £75 billion to clean up our nuclear waste.

Robert Kyriakides adds that:

Certainly, using nuclear energy is low carbon in the short term. But, when you add not just the carbon consequences of mining the uranium and processing it, and also the carbon consequences of building huge underground concrete storage bunkers for the waste and maintaining these for ten thousand years or so, you will find the low carbon alternative has morphed into a higher carbon one.
Two myths: one, that nuclear is carbon neutral (that's true only in the short term), and two, that you can have both nuclear and renewables. The renewables industry needs government pump-priming to seriously get off the ground. You can't keep massively subsidising the nuclear industry, whilst starving the renewables sector of funding.

Gordon Brown has to choose.

Where Is Labour's Money Coming From?

Nick Robinson, of BBC News, gets to the heart of why Labour accepted donations, through third parties, from David Abrahams. They simply didn't ask MPs from the North-East. Labour is desperate for donations, and they don't seem to be doing due diligence on where it's coming from.

Asked, "have you heard of Ray Ruddick?" they would have replied, "never heard of him - why, who is he?". Had the reply been anything like, "he's given us over £100k in the past few weeks and he lives on your patch - he says his address is Blakelaw..." the response would have been hysterical laughter. Blakelaw is, one angry Labour MP suggested to me, a well-known estate on which, "the only way anyone there would have that sort of money is if they were very lucky or they were drug dealers".

If the conversation had become more candid - for example, "actually the money's really coming from a bloke called David Abrahams," the reply would have been, "don't touch it with a bargepole". Mr Abrahams is - let's put it this way - a "controversial figure" who's used different names, different ages, been deselected as a parliamentary candidate and has been involved in rows about the planning system.
Harriet Harman has been drawn into this, by accepting £2000 from Abrahams, through Janet Kidd, for her deputy leadership campaign. Interestingly, a rival, Hilary Benn, turned down a similar donation for his campaign after he became aware that the donation had been channeled through a third party.

Gordon Brown has been in charge for the last four months, when £220 000 of Abrahams' money has come into the party:

Brown did, however, admit to reporters that he had met Abrahams, a wealthy property tycoon who was briefly a Labour parliamentary candidate, in the past but said he could not remember ever discussing the issue of donations.

"I am sure I may have met him but I have no recollection of any conversations about any of these issues," he said. "I had no knowledge until Saturday night, either of the donations or of the practice which had grown up where they were improperly declared to the Electoral Commission. No knowledge at all."

26 November 2007

Gordon Brown And Heathrow Expansion

Gordon Brown says to the CBI that there is a "clear business imperative" for increased capacity at Heathrow, and that Britain's prosperity "depends on it."

But a London Chamber of Commerce survey in 2006 revealed that:

78% of firms were against expansion at Heathrow and less than a sixth of firms would even consider leaving London if the airport did not expand ... Business journeys only account for 25% of all air trips using UK airports – a bit higher at Heathrow – and the proportion is expected to stay the same over the next 25 years. The expansion of Heathrow and the other airports is driven by leisure passengers.
What's more: "The economic costs of climate change will dwarf any profits business might make from a third runway" -- John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK.

You can't double the flights out of Heathrow and be serious about climate change. A third runway at Heathrow would put as much CO2 into the atmosphere as Kenya does each year.

If you have one sector (aviation) doubling its flights from Heathrow, and regional airports expanding-a-go-go across the country, that means to achieve a 65% or 80% cut by 2050, you need to have far more drastic cuts in every other section than aviation.

So, when Brown talks about Heathrow, what does he mean?

Labour And Political Donations

A year-and-a-half after the loans-for-honours scandal broke, I was amazed to listen to a 5 Live interview last night with David Abrahams.

He has given £222 000 to Labour in the six months since Gordon Brown became PM, but he gave the money to two intermediaries (a friend; his secretary), and they donated to Labour as if it was their own money. Donations made via third parties are illegal unless the person behind the donation is also declared or there is a "reasonable excuse." Abrahams' excuse seems to be that he didn't want any publicity. Well, that worked out well. The strange thing is that has been a member of Labour for 40 years, and is a former local councillor, so why the need for secrecy?

It's not just Abrahams who could have broken the law. It's whomever accepted his donation:

"The agent must ensure that, at the time when the donation is received by the party, the party is given all such details in respect of the donors as are required . . . to be given in respect of the donor of a recordable donation." It continues: "A person commits an offence if, without reasonable excuse, he fails to comply . . ." Under schedule 20, such an offence is punishable by up to a year in prison or an unlimited fine or, if a case is heard in a magistrates court, six months in jail or a fine up to £5,000.
This is Gordon Brown's promise for a new type of Labour politics? Did Labour investigate where this money was coming from?

In contrast to "grey party" political donations buying influence, access and seats in the Lords, the Green Party has had five donations which were £10 000 or larger since the 1st quarter of 2001. The largest of these was a bequest from a will (the late David Gillet, £132 000, August 2006).

You can search here for all political donations to all parties, thanks to computer boffins at the Electoral Commission.

24 November 2007

The BNP In Coventry

BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents (Monday 26 November, 830pm) will look at Germany's NDP, the far-right, which is "organizing local festivals, family outings and rock concerts. They run citizens' advice bureaus, women's groups and youth clubs ... energetic and ambitious new leaders proclaiming "revolutionary change" and getting onto local councils and into state parliaments."

With the BNP receiving 10% or more of the vote in Coventry's 2007 elections in 8 of our 18 wards (with their strongest wards being Binley and Willenhall, and Woodlands, with more than 15% of the vote), the programme might be worth a listen.

David Cameron And Solutions

Fix my boiler!

"I will," says David the plumber, "but not yet. First, I am going to set up a series of Boiler Review Groups. Some of these will be headed by really quite surprising people who have been harping on about boilers for years. They will look into the problem in depth, and then they will propose a series of solutions."

Developing Countries And Climate Change

The Guardian:

A group of countries (the EU, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and New Zealand) agreed in 2001 to pay $1.2bn (£600m) to help poor and vulnerable countries predict and plan for the effects of global warming, as well as fund flood defences, conservation and thousands of other projects.

But new figures show less than £90m of the promised money has been delivered. Britain has so far paid just £10m.

Andrew Pendleton, climate change policy analyst at Christian Aid, said: "This represents a broken promise on a massive scale and on quite a cynical scale as well. Promising funds for adaptation is exactly the kind of incentive the rich countries will offer at Bali to bring the developing world on board a new climate deal. This is the signal we are seeing on all fronts, that the developed countries are unwilling to fulfil their moral and legal commitments."

23 November 2007

A Few Things Here And There ...

The Spectator reports that the total number of students in grammar schools has risen by over 20% since Labour came to power (127 780 children in 1997 ... 150 750 in 2004 ... 156 800 in 2007). Research from the University of York has found that, of the 22,000 pupils entering grammar schools each year, just 2% receive free school meals - amounting to fewer than 500 children. I don't see how a 20% expansion squares with social democracy under Labour, let alone socialism.

Oxfam in partnering with Bangladeshi curry restaurants to put an extra £1 on each meal, to be donated to the relief effort for Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh. 903,000 homes have been damaged and 273,000 completely destroyed. There is no sanitation or fresh water in many areas, meaning that there is a serious risk of numerous cholera outbreaks.

Sexually-transmitted infections were up 2.2% in 2006. 73,000 adults are now living with HIV in the UK. A third of the people in Britain with HIV don't know they have the virus. Here are some contact points for getting yourself tested in Coventry, for both STIs and HIV.

30 animal rights activists in Hampshire have received letters from the CPS inviting them to provide passwords that will decrypt material held on seized computers. This is the first time that such a law has been used in Britain.
An activist, who wished to remain anonymous, said that even if others disagreed with animal rights activists the use of the law had grave implications for personal privacy. "Even if they hate our guts, my personal view is that this is a matter where there's great issues of public interest that should be being talked about," they said.

Buy Nothing Day - 24th November

The first "Buy Nothing Day" was organised by the magazine Adbusters, in Vancouver in September 1992, based on an idea by artist Ted Dave, as a day for society to examine the issue of over-consumption.

Since then, thousands of activists have held public events in over 65 nations, including the UK, as well as the US Canada, Israel, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Taiwan, the Netherlands, Norway and India.

If everyone on Earth were to consume at the same rate as the UK, we would need three planets to live on.

What other political parties, the "grey" parties of Labour, the Tories and Lib Dems, don't understand is that the very ideas of "economic success = growth" or that "more consumpton is good" is a problem.

Is Britain successful since we can go into a supermarket and choose between 15 kinds of toothpaste? Or 20 kinds of breakfast cereal?

Buying and consuming and buying and consuming is not the answer. We won't be able to make our society sustainable through endless growth.

"The economy of the future is based on relationships rather than possession." - John Perry Barlow

Lemar In Uganda

The Commonwealth heads of state are currently meeting in Uganda. In his role as a Christian Aid ambassador, Lemar (probably one of the only talents to emerge from these endless parades of reality TV Shows) made three films about Uganda's problems and solutions, on:

- climate change,
- HIV and Ugandan children, and on,
- conflict with the Lord's Resistance Army.

22 November 2007

Solar Power In Spain

"In five years, they hope to generate enough electricity for Seville and its 700 000 citizens."

Alistair Darling And Datagate: Day 3

From two missing CDs, we have a long-term problem, especially for young people affected:

Helen Lord, from Experian: "The children whose names, addresses and dates of birth have been lost are also at risk, especially those who are between 15 and 17 years old now. The fraudsters will wait until they turn 18 and start applying for loans, credit cards, mobile phone contracts and other credit products in their names. That could have a catastrophic effect on their ability to get on the housing ladder, rent a flat, obtain their first credit card, obtain a loan for their first car, even open a bank account."
Anatole Kaletsky, in the Times, points out that it's not really about "junior officals" but what ministers required from computer boffins at the Revenue and Customs.

A junior official at HMRC may have been directly culpable in the case of the missing discs, but true responsibility is clearly located farther up the hierarchy. The obvious problem lay in the way that HMRC computers were designed and managed, which would seem to pin the blame primarily on the computer boffins, many of them working for private consultants, rather than civil servants themselves.

Just as the FSA and the Bank of England were regulating Northern Rock within a system designed by Gordon Brown in 1998 to satisfy the criteria that he considered most important, computer consultants design systems to achieve objectives ultimately specified by ministers. The question therefore is how much importance ministers attached to security and how this was defined.
Gordon Brown has given the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, new authority to carry out “spot checks” on government departments. This is less than a month after the government told a House of Lords committee that "the current enforcement regime for data protection is fit for purpose." However, Thomas is demanding far wider powers:

A spokesman said: "We want powers to carry out full audit and inspection powers, not just in Government departments but in local government and private companies."

Mr Thomas also wants the power to mount criminal prosecutions when serious breaches of data protection laws occur. At present he can issue only an enforcement notice, which results in a prosecution if an organisation fails to comply. Most prosecutions take place in magistrates’ courts, where the maximum fine is £5,000, rather than in the Crown Court, where an unlimited fine can be imposed.

Mr Thomas said: "It is important that the law is changed to make security breaches of this magnitude a criminal offence. Making this a criminal offence would serve as a strong deterrent and would send a very strong signal that it is completely unacceptable to be cavalier with people’s personal information."
It's a significant demand.

Internet service providers, search engines, supermarkets and their clubcard points databases, and e-commerce companies are retaining an expanding mountain of data on all of us.

Tesco is selling access to [its] database to other big consumer groups, such as Sky, Orange and Gillette. "It contains details of every consumer in the UK at their home address across a range of demographic, socio-economic and lifestyle characteristics," says the marketing blurb of dunnhumby, the Tesco subsidiary in question. It has "added intelligent profiling and targeting" to its data through a software system called Zodiac. This profiling can rank your enthusiasm for promotions, your brand loyalty, whether you are a "creature of habit" and when you prefer to shop. As the blurb puts it: "The list is endless if you know what you are looking for."

28 Day Detention

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Ken MacDonald, as well as the former Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, have both come out against extending detention without charge past 28 days.

Sir Ken: "Our experience has been that 28 days has suited us quite nicely ... We have had very, very complex cases since this law was enacted and in only three have we had to go beyond the 14 days ... If, after 25 or 26 days you couldn't find a reasonable suspicion to justify a charging decision, it might be quite difficult for a prosecutor to persuade a court [to extend the detention without charge]."

For his part, Lord Goldsmith said that he would have resigned as Attorney General if the Commons had passed 90-day detention, and that Tony Blair had been "aware of my concerns."

Police Surgeries In Earlsdon

The next two police surgeries in Earlsdon (at Earlsdon Library) are Friday 23 November (from 7pm to 8pm) and Wednesday 28 November (from 11am to 12noon).

You can find out a bit more about their work at their Neighbourhood Policing webpage.

21 November 2007

Trauma Patients

BBC News:

More than half of trauma patients are not receiving good care. The National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death looked at the care given to 795 patients, many with head injuries from falls and crashes. It found medical staff in 200 hospitals in England, Wales and Northern Ireland often did not appreciate the severity and displayed little urgency.

NCEPOD said many of the problems identified in nearly 60% of patients treated across 200 hospitals were associated with staff being too inexperienced.

In particular, they found patients were not always given essential tests such as CT scans or assessed by hospital consultants, especially during the night.

"Our mortality rates are among the worst in the developed world, and yet trauma care remains a low priority for the government" -- Royal College of Surgeons spokesman

Alistair Darling And "Junior Officials"

So, the entire child benefit database was sent by a junior official from HMRC in Newcastle to the audit office in London through a courier, TNT, on 18 October.

If a junior official has access to 7.25 million bank accounts, how many junior officials are there? 100? 1000? How "junior" was the junior official? No one seems to want to say if the junior official in question has been fired.

If an ID card scheme goes ahead, how many "junior officials" will have access to all the information about everyone in the country?

The UK has the world's largest DNA database, with 4 million profiles. Anyone arrested for an imprisonable offence can have a sample taken without consent. It also holds samples taken from crime scenes by police. How many "junior officials" have access to that?

The NHS wants to create an "Electronic Patients Record System" with all records online in a database. How many "junior officials" will have access to that?


Who thought transporting such information physically was the best way to do it? We're told that a junior official was responsible — but why do junior officials have, or indeed need, access to the entire, downloaded database? And why did the junior official think that a courier was the best way to transport such a vast database of such valuable, personal information? Is data security at HMRC really so bad that sending physical CDs was considered more secure than electronic transmission? What risk assessment did they use to come to that conclusion? Is there even a risk-assessment procedure in place?
Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, was on Radio 4 this morning:

It's almost certain that they’ve broke the [data protection] legislation … Any aggregated system of collecting information must be proof against criminals, it must be proof against idiots, it must be proof against those who do not follow ordinary rules or procedure … You don’t assume security is ok, you take active steps to monitor what’s going on … We have to have the powers and resources to do our job properly. I haven’t got the power as the Information Commissioner to inspect the processing of any organisation without the consent of that organisation. I’ve told the government, and I’ve told Parliament, we need to have the power -- as our European counterparts have -- to inspect what’s actually going on inside organisations without their consent.

20 November 2007

Alistair Darling And Bank Details

My wife and I were watching "Watchdog" last night on BBC One. One of their stories was about the Inland Revenue losing a CD with confidential details for 15 500 people on it. We looked at each other and rolled our eyes.

Today, I'm in a local pub, and I'm having a pint, and I look up at Sky News on the telly.

It's one thing for Alistair Darling to lose millions of records.

It's another for Darling:

- to be in the midst of the Northern Rock crisis
- to lose millions of records, including bank details
- to lose millions of records, including bank details, when they were unencrypted files on discs sent by normal mail.

The HMRC has set up a Child Benefit Helpline on 0845 302 1444 for customers.

The chief advice, from listening to an interview on Radio 5 Live, seems to be to change your banking password immediately, especially if it's your child's name, your maiden name, i.e. something that could be in the lost records. The more drastic option would be to request a new bank account number.

BBC News:

A rather scarier scenario has been put forward by the technology analysts Gartner. They warn that if the information is in the hands of criminals, they could try to take over peoples' bank accounts to remove the money in them. "The data lost - bank account numbers, names and addresses - represents a gold mine for the thieves and is much more valuable to them than credit card numbers or taxpayer id numbers," said Gartner analyst Avivah Litan. "In fact, in the black market, bank account numbers sell for the highest price, or between $30 and $400 (£15 to £200), which is significantly more than the fifty cents to five dollars that criminals pay for credit cards," she said.

Heroin Shooting Galleries

The Independent reports today that trial schemes -- which enable heroin users to obtain drugs and inject them under supervision -- have dramatically cut crime rates and stopped addicts buying their supplies on the streets. A poll on BBC Online in November 2006 found that 50.8% of people were in favour of heroin being prescribed to addicts on the NHS (11450 surveyed).
Long-term heroin users are among the hardest addicts to treat. They lead chaotic lives, often robbing and stealing to fund their habits. According to official figures, 10 per cent of drug addicts commit 75 per cent of the acquisitive crimes in the Britain. But the number of offences committed by the heroin addicts taking part in the shooting gallery scheme fell from an average of 40 each per month before they were admitted to "about half a dozen a month" after six months of intensive therapy. Instead of buying street heroin every day, the 150 volunteers are now buying it only four or five times a month on average – while a third of them have completely stopped "scoring" the drug on the streets.

Professor Strang, head of the National Addiction Centre at the Maudsley Hospital: "This is genuinely exciting news. These are people with a juggernaut-sized heroin problem and I really didn't know whether we could turn it around. We have succeeded with people who looked as if their problem was unturnable, and we have done it in six months."
The Green Party is in favour of treating heroin addiction as a health issue, not as a crime problem. We also favour taking some drugs (specifically cannabis, speed, and E) out of the hands of criminal mafia.

Mafia compete against each other, making drug supplies more and more potent to keep their customers. Legalisation would break that cycle. If currently illegal drugs were legalised, they could be regulated in the same way other damaging substances -- tobacco and alcohol -- are. Users could also purchase from places where they would be sure drugs had not been tainted with other substances.

"Ultimately, we need a new paradigm for drug policy development, one based around health and wellbeing rather than macho posturing and knee-jerk, short-term responses to the failures of the current criminal justice-based policy."

Low-Interest Renewable Energy Loans

Polly Toynbee, in the Guardian today, wonders how commited Brown will be to direct intervention in markets (e.g. guaranteeing electricity prices for secure investment in solar technologies) to usher in his "Marshall Plan" for a "fourth technological revolution" on the environment.

Brown's Marshall Plan comment was interesting. Here's how the Marshall Plan worked.

- Europe decided which country should get what (based on what each country declared it needed).
- An American-created bureaucracy (the ECA) arranged for the transfer of goods from American suppliers.
- The US supplier was paid in dollars credited against Marshall Plan funds.
- The European recipient was not given the food, feed, fertiliser, fuel or raw materials as a gift, but had to pay for them in local currency. The local current was deposited by the government in a counterpart fund.
This money, in turn, could be used by the ERP countries for further investment projects. Most of the participating ERP countries were aware from the start that they would never have to return the counterpart fund money to the U.S., and it was eventually absorbed into their national budgets and disappeared. Germany, however, was left in doubt - would it have to repay its debts? This uncertainty was to have a very positive effect ... [Germany] insisted from the beginning that the money could only be given out as loans subject to interest - a revolving system which ensured that the funds would grow rather than shrink ... The money Germany owed the U.S. was paid back in installments (the last check was handed over in June, 1971) and interestingly enough, did not come from the ERP pot, but from the federal budget. The Special Fund, now supervised by the federal economics ministry, kept growing: in 1971, it was over DM 10 billion. Today it has reached more than DM 23 billion. And thanks to the revolving loan system, by the end of 1995, the Fund had made low-interest loans amounting to around DM 140 billion.
Gordon Brown has a choice. It's a biggie. Does he choose to intervene in a top-down way, or in a rolling, Germany-Marshall-Plan, bottom-up way?

He could spend £40 billion on perfectly worthwhile sustainable development projects over the next few years.

Or he could take £40 billion, and set up a fund to offer low-interest loans not just for 2008-2012, but for 2008 until 2038.

A six-panel array of domestic solar PV (high efficiency, 1kW) costs just under £10 000. The current grant available is only £2500. £40 billion divided by 4 million homes receiving a 1kW array leads to a £10000 low-interest loan (£13400 to be paid back, on a 3% loan over 10 years, that works out to £25 a week repayment).

Brown needs to realise that, more than ever more, there are millions of households out there who want to make a difference, and are probably willing to put £25 a week aside.

UK Youth Parliament - Fares Fair

The UK Youth Parliament is campaigning for all under 18s in full-time education to be allocated a national concession card to use public transport.

Their argument is that it would:

- make buses and trains more accessible to young people
- allow access to leisure facilities
- create a cleaner environment as a consequence of cutting down car use
- create the same freedom that pensioners enjoy, as like pensioners, young people in full time education do not have an income and are reliant on public transport.

If you support it, you can sign their petition at: http://www.ukyp.org.uk/faresfair

You can also watch a YouTube video promoting the campaign.

19 November 2007

Upcoming Radio/TV

- Monday 19th November, 7pm to 730pm, BBC 2 - "The Trillion Dollar Revolutionary" -- a profile of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela

- Monday 19th November, 8pm to 9pm, Channel 4 -- "Dispatches: Mark Thomas on Coca-Cola" -- Mark Thomas investigates the way in which Coca-Cola and its suppliers operate and the extent to which they uphold moral and ethical obligations. Thomas travels to South America, India and the US which undermines Coca-Cola's image as a force for good, and has caused a backlash from consumers around the globe.

- Tuesday 20th November, 11am to 1130am, BBC Radio 4 -- "Energising the West" -- Miriam O'Reilly explores how the West Country has become a testbed for alternative energy technologies, from harnessing the natural power of the elements to successfully recycling wood and animal waste to produce electricity.

Labour, Transport And Climate Change

Gordon Brown is to give his "first major speech" on climate change today. I suggest that the problem in meeting Labour's promised cuts of 60% in emissions by 2050 is Ruth Kelly.

Ruth Kelly is Brown's Transport Secretary, she appeared on Andrew Marr's Sunday AM, and the transcript is enlightening.

1) She wants the expansion of Heathrow to go ahead (its third runway with an extra 300 000 flights per year). She squares the circle by saying that we need EU-wide caps on overall aviation. That is, other weaker economies will have to cut back, so we can fly and fly and fly and fly. It's the same trick that Gordon Brown will try. There might be EU-wide targets of 20% of energy being renewable by 2020, but Britain under Brown will push for Britain's share to be, say, 15%, and five other countries can balance us out by having 21% by 2020. The other countries will benefit from industrial jobs linked to renewable energy development, and Britain will lose out.

2) Kelly made a great play out of 1300 new carriages for the rail system, but she sketches out a future where it is not a government priority to replicate the Eurostar high-speed line for London to Bristol, or London to Scotland. Locally, more carriages and more seats on trains mean fewer toilets, fewer buffet services, and a fare hike on off-peak fares that are not saver tickets.

3) Andrew Marr doesn't call her on it, but it's clear that Kelly continues to oppose EU plans to have a target of 120g of carbon emissions per kilometre by 2012.

RUTH KELLY: One of the things I want to show is how the Transport Department as a whole can make real significant contributions to reducing CO2. But within that we shouldn't be telling people what form of transport they take, we should be providing the options ...
RUTH KELLY: ... investing in technology, trading in carbon and let the individuals make their choices. And that means just take cars for example. There's a really good example, that, you know, if we really invest in technology and we set a framework whereby 2020, or 2030 or 2050, car manufacturers know exactly what's expected of them. By 2050 we might have a situation in which cars are carbon free.
4) Elsewhere, Kelly's department is spending over £5 billion to widen the M1 (more car driving, more emissions). In contrast, £5 billion could pay for the government's contribution to 12 light rail schemes the size of Nottingham's 2nd phase of their tram network.

When NET Phase Two is complete, Greater Nottingham’s tram network will cover over 19 miles. 20 million trips are expected to be made by passengers using the NET system every year, of which 30% are expected to be ex-car users. NET Line One was opened in March 2004 and has shown strong patronage with 8.4m and 9.7m passengers respectively in its first two years of operation. The City Council says that a recent passenger survey revealed 98% satisfaction with the service and 80% support for the planned new lines south and west of the city.

17 November 2007

A Game We Like To Call .... Who is?

Who is ... Helen Ghosh?

The government department spearheading the fight against climate change is planning an emergency package of at least £300m of cuts covering key environmental services, the Guardian has learned.

Frontline agencies tackling recycling, nature protection, energy saving, carbon emissions and safeguarding the environment are all being targeted in the package which is being drawn up by Helen Ghosh, the top civil servant at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Who is ... David Addington?

Perhaps the most powerful lawyer in the Bush administration ... David Addington, who was Vice President Dick Cheney's counsel from 2001 to 2005, and since then his chief of staff, does not talk to the press. His voice, however, has been enormously influential behind closed doors, where, with Cheney's backing, he has helped shape the administration's strategy in the war on terror, and in particular its aggressively expansive conception of executive power.
Who is ... Herb Nahapiet?

Nahapiet is MD of Kalyx (which used to be UKDS, which is still a subdivision of Sodexho) who run "Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre" -- a key part of the inhumane system of migration controls that lock up refugees and migrants just because they try to make a life here.

16 November 2007


WATCH (Working Actively To Change Hillfields) is having its AGM today (330pm, St Peter's Community Centre, Hillfields, Coventry, CV1 5LY).

WATCH's services are essential for Coventry, whether it is their employment project (with help for the long-term unemployed, migrant workers, and refugees/asylum seekers), the Hillz FM community radio station, youth training projects, or ongoing support for community groups in Hillfields.

WATCH, however, has been caught in a funding bind. The city council stopped all of its funding to WATCH (£120 000 a year, 25% of the centre's funding) at the end of March 2007. Andy Matchet shows up to Respect agenda photo-ops at WATCH. Tony O'Neill and Kevin Foster have been interviewed on the Hillz FM and say they're friends of WATCH. Then, this comes down the pipe. Why is work that provides services to youth, the unemployed, and refugee communities undeserving of funding? WATCH would have to be recreated if it were to go under the waves, so why not fund it in the first place?

It would be welcome if the city council would decide which 20 organisations in the city require core funding for their operations, and then provide multi-year funding to said organisations. As a city, we could then avoid the year-by-year funding instability that plagues non-profit groups.

Ironically for a Conservative-controlled council, David Cameron was calling for support for groups such as WATCH in August of this year:

The social enterprise is the great institutional innovation of our times. At the moment, however, we are not making nearly enough use of the potential of the voluntary sector. Only about 5% of public services are provided by independent operators, who report a range of financial and bureaucratic obstacles to effective contracting with government ... Smaller, locally based voluntary organisations, which are often the most effective at combating entrenched deprivation, are losing out to the large national operations. The government is funnelling the majority of its third sector funding to the big players, which in turn allows them to generate the publicity which ensures they also receive the lion's share of voluntary giving as well.


I've been baking bread like a demon. We visited friends in Berlin in the summer of 2005, and they were into making sourdough broetchen for breakfast. The real catalyst in the last month was myself buying a book about making bread in WH Smith. Why buy bread when you can make you own?

I've started with small loaves of organic spelt bread.

Spelt is old-school. It has been found in Stone Age excavations and was mentioned three times in the Book of Ezekiel in the old Testament.

Spelt is different in a number of ways:

Spelt is the forerunner of modern wheat with a unique nutty wheaty flavour. Think of the taste difference between a bland Golden Delicious Apple and a tasty Russet Apple. Then imagine an equivalent difference in flour and you will want to sample the intense wheaty flavour of Spelt.

Spelt contains more protein, fat and fibre than wheat. It also contains special carbohydrates called mucopolysaccharides, which play a decisive role in stimulating the body’s immune system, helping to increase its resistance to infection. Due to Spelt’s high water solubility the grain’s vital substances can, like liquid nutrients, be absorbed quickly by the body.

250g organic spelt flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp fairtrade sugar (I've used brown)
1 tsp yeast
175ml warm water
3 tbsp organic olive oil

What to do:

1. Mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast together. Carefully measure the water, and add it in. Start kneading the dough for 15 seconds, then, while it's still craggy, add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Keep kneading until you have a smooth pliable dough (you might need to add a bit of extra flour, use your discretion).

2. Leave it in a bowl (covered with a cloth) to rise. Wait until it has doubled in size (usually 45 min to an hour).

3. Take the dough, add any ingredients you want to (chopped apricots, sultanas, crushed walnuts) and knead it on a lightly floured surface for a number of minutes.

3. Shape it into a cooking tin (greased), and leave it covered to rise for a 2nd time (for 25 minutes).

4. Bake it in an oven at 225C for 35-40 minutes (cover the bread with foil for the last 15 minutes to prevent overbrowning).

You can find some more spelt recipes here.

15 November 2007

Brown's Britain -- Labour Remains Pro-War

David Miliband said, in September at the Labour party conference, that, "While there are military victories, there never is a military solution."

This week, however, Miliband told the BBC that a Brown-led Labour government, given the choice again, would still have decided to go to war in Iraq.

And Miliband is encouraging other EU countries to build up their "defence capabilities" for the use of "hard military power."

Gordon Brown refuses to rule out military action against Iran.

Finally, there is Gordon Brown's approval for Menwith Hill, the intelligence listening station in Yorkshire, to be used as part of the US missile defence system.

This was announced back in July, when the government made 46 announcements in the last two days before Parliament broke up for the summer.

The US/UK line is that the system will shoot down intercontinental missiles fired by Iran/North Korea. But the sites are being installed in Poland and the Czech Republic. In June, Vladimir Putin:

called Bush's bluff by offering sites for the missile defence programme in Azerbaijan and southern Russia, which are much closer to Iran. Bush turned him down and restated his decision to build the facilities in eastern Europe, making it clear that their real purpose is to shoot down Russian missiles. Russia has around 5,700 active nuclear warheads. The silos in Poland will contain just 10 interceptor missiles. The most likely strategic purpose of the missile defence programme is to mop up any Russian or Chinese missiles that had not been destroyed during a pre-emptive US attack. Far from making the world a safer place, its purpose is to make the annihilation of another country a safer proposition.
So, we have aggression against Russia, against Iran, and the continued occupation of Iraq. And Miliband urging EU governments to build up their military forces and intervene around the world. Plus new aircraft carrier building, and the retention of Trident, with its £76 billion pricetag.

In what way is this different than Blair's endless military adventures?

14 November 2007

"Down To Earth" Included In Guardian Guide

Coventry Telegraph:

Down to Earth, in Earlsdon High Street, is the only Coventry business to appear in the Guardian guide to Britain's finest independent shops and suppliers.

Suzanne Bristow, who set up the shop seven years ago, said she was delighted that her hard work had been recognised. Suzanne opened Coventry's first organic shop in February 2001 after starting out running an organic box scheme from her back room. She delivers boxes of seasonal, locally-grown organic vegetables and fruit to customers as often as they like, and the service has proved popular around the city.
You can visit their website here.

Brown's Britain -- Personal Debt And Saving

In Gordon Brown's final budget, he emphasised that Britain had "rising employment and rising investment; continuing low inflation; low interest and mortgage rates; built on the foundation of the longest period of economic stability and sustained growth in our country's history."

Alliance and Leicester have found that:

Homeowners are responding to the five interest rate rises since August 2006 by cutting back on saving and by borrowing less. It finds that those with mortgages are increasingly lagging behind the average. In January 2006, the average sum of savings of a mortgaged household was 64 per cent of that of homes with no mortgage to pay, but it is now down to 48 per cent.
Gordon Brown's constant emphasis on how we've never had it so good obscures the fact that a minority of households are financially unstable in three to four combined ways, and half of us are not financially stable for the long-term, i.e. retirement.

Financial exclusion affects up to 8 million of the most vulnerable households in the UK.

- Half of households have negligible savings; half are not making provision for a decent income in retirement.
- Only one in three households with incomes under £20k have life insurance.
- Only 12% have income protection insurance
- In some of the most deprived areas, close to half the households do not have home contents insurance.

At the same time, personal debt has reached record levels at over £1.3 trillion, while the huge increase in property prices pushes mortgages to levels which exclude lower income consumers.

Mick McAteer, Director, Financial Inclusion Centre
If we have had 60 straight quarters of "growth," we need to start thinking about why "growth" is wrong, that is, why "growth" is not being redistributed to society.

13 November 2007

Brown's Britain -- The Elderly

- Should a person retiring in Britain receive 30% of the average UK wage -- whilst, the European average is 60%?

Donald Duval, chief actuary at Aon Consulting UK: "It is a difference of philosophy and a different view of the role of the state. In most of Europe, it is believed that the state's obligation is to ensure that people have a reasonable standard of living, relative to what they had when they were working. In the UK, the role of the state is to ensure that people do not starve. If people want to have more than the basic level, they need to save for themselves."

The UK state pension scheme is heavily reliant on funding from immigrants, as 50% more foreigners move here than to other countries. Mr Duval said that this boosts the working-age population, offsets some of the side-effects of an ageing population and leads to increased contributions to UK payouts.

"Migrant workers have helped boost the pension pot in the UK but this is not a sustainable measure and is a smokescreen hiding deeper issues facing the pension system," he said.

- Should pensioners struggle with fuel poverty, year upon year upon year?

"The Government now needs to ensure that all pensioners in private housing can access schemes to insulate their homes, tackle fuel poverty and help our older generation to lead the way in changing lifestyles."
- We need to have regular exercise, from age 40/50 onwards, so that people can enjoy their extra years in retirement:

A gentleman in his late 70s crawls through a plastic tunnel on his hands and knees and then prepares to roll down a small slope onto a mat.

"He must keep his arms straight above his head as he rolls. This helps strengthen his back muscles ... Good balance is important for reducing falls in older people and a small amount of impact, we have found, makes the bones stay stronger."
- To be blunt, should poorer pensioners die younger than rich pensioners?

The average physical health of a 70-year-old high earner was similar to the physical health of a low earner around eight years younger. In mid-life, this gap was only 4.5 years. Among high earners, retirement appeared to improve their mental health and wellbeing. But no similar improvement was seen in the lower occupational groups.

Tarani Chandola, from University College London, said: "There has always been an assumption that the health gap gets narrower with age as people retire. Retirement does not level the playing field. These health inequalities actually increase. This is not a time to get complacent."

12 November 2007

Coventry Unions Challenge Post Office Closure

Coventry Telegraph:

Neil Robinson, secretary of the city branch of the Communication Workers' Union, said officials had asked for a meeting with Post Office bosses to confront them over the issue of transferring services from the Hertford Street Crown office to WH Smith's West Orchards store. The union will argue that the move would put the new post office too close to the other major city centre post office in the Co-op, on Corporation Street.

Robinson: "The two offices would, we estimate, be only around 50 yards apart and we think there may be a legal issue here. Our officers at headquarters are looking into it and will take legal advice if they think there is a case."

The CWU will also be coordinating petitions raised by the union, Coventry Pensioners' Association, Coventry City Council and Dave Nellist, leader of the council's Socialist group, to present to Post Office Ltd, and asking people to sign postcards outside the Hertford Street branch.

"Sicko" At The Warwick Arts Centre

Michael Moore's latest documentary, Sicko, will be shown from the 16th to the 22nd November at the Warwick Arts Centre.

One review remarks that the film sees a slightly different Michael Moore:

He still wears the baseball cap, but he's onscreen less, not so cocky, not going for so many laughs. He simply tells one story after another about Americans who are sick, dying or dead because we have an undemocratic, profit-gouging health care system.
It's also a very relevant film for Britain, with increasing influence from huge US firms who want to run GP practices, bid for contracts from primary care trusts to providing data analysis and research, or even be invited to act as middlemen, negotiating with hospitals on the trusts' behalf to reduce costs, "ushering in the prospect that some patients may find their care plan managed not by a doctor but by an American insurance company."

08 November 2007

Newsnight/Radio 5 Live Debate On Immigration

Newsnight and Radio 5 Live will be putting questions to politicians, and taking texts, emails and live calls, in a unique simulcast on the subject of immigration tonight (1030pm, BBC 2; 909/693 MW for Radio 5 Live, or on digital). You could also listen online.

In a poll for the programme, 72% believed that the government is doing a "poor" job in its handling of immigration, while nearly 62% thought that Britain would lose its unique identity if immigration continues at its present rate.

The government -- to improve the linked issues of immigration and integration -- needs to fund ESOL. Cutbacks on ESOL have hit people who are:

the most socially excluded, from countries where there is war and/or extreme poverty and so they have little or no educational background. The branch also warned of the false economy of privatising ESOL or ignoring social consequences of cutbacks: Please can councillors and politicians start to seriously address this issue before more money has to be spent on translators in schools, health care and other public services, and before we start having to pay out for the gaps in social integration which will start cracking open as the ESOL and other Adult Education cuts start to impact.
The government is also playing with the idea of charging refused asylum seekers and undocumented migrants for NHS primary health care. A review is expected to be published in December 2007. This could prevent vulnerable people, including pregnant women and children, from accessing vital treatment.

What the government should consider is the proposals from the "Strangers Into Citizens" campaign:

In the year of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade, it is a grave matter that close to half a million people living in Britain today do not enjoy the protection of the law. These people are termed "illegal", even though they are hardworking, taxpaying, law-abiding people who want only to bring up their families in peace and security. Unbending employers take advantage of their lack of protection to pay them poverty wages, undercutting other workers -- making a mockery of minimum wage legislation. Others are not exploited, yet cannot report crimes, open bank accounts or go to doctors.

They have learned our language, and are familiar to us. Their children study in our schools. They work in our factories and our shops and our offices.Yet where British people who know them see them as fellow citizens, the law of our land sees them not at all. While our economy profits from the contributions of these migrants, we do not accord to them basic rights.

Funding For Coventry Refugee Centre

Some good news!

The Coventry Refugee Centre has been awarded nearly £500,000, to help migrants better integrate into the community, by the Big Lottery Fund. Tim Brooke, the centre's chairman, said it meant it could take "a major step forward" in providing courses in IT, English language and other training. The centre says it will also use the money to provide migrants with job seeker skills and "way of life" knowledge.

07 November 2007

Labour's Health Failures - Hip Fractures

The first national clinical audit of patients who have fallen and fractured bones (their hip, wrist, arm, pelvis or spine) has revealed that inadequate service exists across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The full report can be found here.

- 31% of operations for hip fractures were delayed beyond the 48 hours target ... 11% were delayed beyond 96 hours (4 days)
- 11% of patients means 6000 people a year are experiencing this kind of delay for hip fractures, a delay associated with increased death from complications
- 78% of patients returning home from A&E after all fragility fractures were not referred for exercise training to reduce future falls

Hip fractures are associated with up to 14,000 deaths per year.

With women being four times as likely as men to develop osteoporosis, it's clear that the NHS is failing elderly women.

In fact, when you look at the Queen's Speech yesterday:

Paul Cann, spokesman for Help the Aged: "Gordon Brown's government appears to place the requirements of our pensioner population at the bottom of the priority list ... with the reality of an ageing population, it's a misguided decision ... Nothing was said about how the Government intends to tackle pensioner poverty, nor how to deal with the rising scourge of fuel poverty. Ministers have not made a commitment this year to introduce a Single Equality Bill to combat age discrimination. Older people have tolerated ageism for too long."

06 November 2007

The Queen's Speech - How It Could Be

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons.

My Government will continue to pursue economic policies which entrench local sustainbility and, through doing so, ensure our long-term quality of life and prosperity.

My Government will take forward proposals, both with legislation and significant investment, to promote truly renewable sources of energy if our dependence on oil is to be reduced.

My Government will reform our biosecurity infrastructure, so that we avoid further outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease.

My Government believes that, with 1 in 3 children in the UK growing up in poverty, raising the ceiling for inheritance tax is grossly unjust. A Bill will be introduce to levy inheritance tax in a fairer, more progressive way - paid by beneficiaries rather than the estates themselves.

Legislation will be brought forward to help reduce casualties on the roads.

Legislation will be brought forward to offer greater support for cycling infrastructure, instruction for children in safer cycling, and feasibility studies for bicycle-rental programmes, such as across the Channel in Paris.

Legislation will be introduced to introduce an offence of corporate manslaughter.

It is clear that the Supermarkets Code of Practice is not working, and as such, a Bill will be brought forward to support farmers who have suffered in the supermarkets's pursuit for cheap produce.

My Government will continue to reform the waste disposal system in a way that ensures more reuse, recycling and reduction of waste. My Government will mainstream successful pilot projects aimed at the reuse of white goods. My Government will introduce a tax on incineration, to be set at a level equal to that for landfill. Legislation to restrict hidden subsidies for incinerators, and to end the use of PFI money for incinerator-based projects, will also be introduced.

My Government will address growing indebtedness in society. 50% of credit card applications are being declined, and £5.4 billion was owed on credit cards in September, the highest figure in six months. Measures will be brought forward to introduce locally-run community banks, greater support for affordable lending through credit unions, and increased funding for community advice services to help people see their way through to financial stability.

A Bill will be introduced to shift international aid policies to address water shortages worldwide.

Further legislation will be introduced for the complete decriminalisation of sex work, so that the focus of official efforts can be on protecting the most basic human rights of prostitutes, life and health. My Government recognises that criminalisation of actions associated with prostitution leaaves sex workers vulnerable to violent clients, and encourages police and other authorities to treat them as criminals even when they are in fact victims of serious crimes.

Finally, legislation will be brought forward to extend the single transferable vote in local elections in Scotland to the rest of the United Kingdom.

The Duke of Edinburgh and I look forward to opening the new Channel Tunnel Rail Link at St. Pancras International Station later today.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons: I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.

Upcoming Events In Coventry

Tuesday 6th November -- "Let's Celebrate Diversity and Unite Against Racism" -- at the Indian Community Centre, Cross Road, 7pm - 10pm -- An evening of debate, discussion and poetry by speakers and artists from Coventry's multi-racial community to celebrate diversity and to promoteunited action against racism. For more information contact Margery Jones on 024 7646 4900

Tuesday 6th, Wednesday 7th, Friday 9th November -- "Bethlehem's 'House of Peace' at Rachel's Tomb" -- Ann Farr, a member of Pax Christi, an International Peace Movement, will show photographs and talk about her visit, at the beginning of October, to a new peace project in an area of confrontation in Palestine. This new initiative is to support the courage and hope of the people and to help transform the place of conflict into one that is a sign of peace and community building in the "little town of Bethlehem."

- On Tuesday, 7pm, at the Coventry Peace House, 311 Stoney Stanton Road.
- On Wednesday, 730pm, Earlsdon Methodist Church, Earlsdon Ave South at Albany Road (6pm refreshments, 630pm worship).
- On Friday, 1230pm to 130pm, Herbert Art Gallery.

Contact: Ann Farr on 024 7667 9398, or email annfarr@phonecoop.coop for more information.

Thursday 8th November -- Cathy Scott of the Coventry Vegetarian and Vegan Society, will be giving a talk to Coventry Friends of the Earth on the impact our diets have on the environment. The talk will begin at 7.30 pm and will be held in The Foyer on the Lower Holyhead Road.

Thursday 8 November -- "foleshillfields fusion" -- St Peter's Community Centre, Charles Street 7.30pm - 9.30pm (doors open at 7pm). A rich and extraordinary mix of live sounds originating from South America, West Africa, South Asia, Eastern Europe, the West Indies - and North Coventry! Get in touch if you want to perform ... Free Entry. (Donations for the foleshillfields vision project's work linking communities here and in the developing world gratefully accepted!) Delicious food available - including Vegetarian and Halal. For more details call Mark on 0772 519 3776

Thursday 8 November -- Coventry Association of International Friendship invite you to a public meeting at 730pm to discuss "The European Union - Where Do We Stand Now?" The two speakers will be: Michael Cashman, MEP and Doug Nicholls, the General Secretary of the Community and Youth Workers Union. The talk will look at the EU in the 21st century and consider how far it can contribute to peace. City Councillor Dave Chater will chair the meeting. For further information contact John Moore, Coventry Association of International Friendship on024 7625 7853.

05 November 2007

Vote Blue, Go Green: Air Ashcroft

Following on the heels of out-of-town supermarket parking and rejecting pay-as-you-throw, it's yet another example of why you can't trust the Tories on the environment.

Shadow cabinet ministers and aides have flown 184,000 miles on the Ashcroft jet over the last five years with Andrew Mitchell, the shadow international development secretary, flying 65,453 miles and shadow foreign secretary William Hague flying 49,670 miles. [David Cameron] has flown just over 3,700 miles on the Ashcroft jet ... [but] Cameron's carbon footprint is much higher if another 68 internal flights, including a short helicopter ride from Birmingham to Warwick, are taken into account.

Analysis conducted for the Guardian reveals that Tory globetrotting has racked up 1,289 tonnes of carbon emissions ... [Michael Ashcroft's] Falcon burns about 3,000 US gallons of fuel to cover its maximum range of 4-5,000 miles. A Boeing 777 uses about 30,000 US gallons to cover the same distance. But the Boeing can carry 300 people, which significantly reduces its carbon footprint per passenger kilometre, the usual yardstick for emissions. If the Falcon flew with three passengers, then each would be responsible for 10 times as much pollution as those in the Boeing.


So much for the "forward strategy of freedom" proclaimed by President Bush in 2003 to spread democracy throughout the greater Middle East and elsewhere":

Gen Musharraf appears to have calculated that the threat of western ire was less immediate than the political challenge to his authority within the country. The head of the US Central Command, Admiral William Fallon, was in Pakistan on Friday, reportedly to warn him not to impose the emergency, but the declaration was made while the admiral was still in town.
The British government seems to have been forewarned Musharraf was going to act, and that he "satisfied" our objections by saying elections were still to be held on time. Of course, now, elections are being postponed, for at least a year for perhaps two years, according to Benazir Bhutto.

It's a bit transparent, really. Musharraf is using the emergency decree to arrest judges, lawyers, opposition politicians, and he sends 200 police with assault rifles to arrest 50 people at the offices of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. If it's about jihadi instability, why is he cracking down on the democratic opposition?

Bronwen Maddox, in the Times:

What Musharraf means by “a state of emergency” is still unclear. It looks like martial law, with soldiers in control of the main institutions. The implication is that he does not intend to recognise the constraints of the courts of Constitution ... If the turmoil continues, all kinds of would-be leaders may reckon that their time has come. Musharraf has put great faith in the loyalty of Kiyani, the recent head of the ISI intelligence agency, making him his heir-apparent as head of the Army. But it would be entirely consistent with Pakistan’s past if a former loyalist, in an army uniform, now thought he could do a better job.

01 November 2007

Pilot Of Enola Gay Dies

"I'm not proud that I killed 80,000 people, but ... I sleep clearly every night."

Gordon Brown And Car Emission Targets

The government is opposing EU plans to have a target of 120g of carbon emissions per kilometre by 2012. Instead, Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, wants a target of 100g/km by 2020 or even 2025.

Why is the EU pushing for a binding 120g/km target? Perhaps it is because car manufacturers haven't met their voluntary target -- 140g/km by 2008. The industry average is currently 161g/km.

So, the car manufacturers aren't meeting their voluntary target, but the government wants to give them an extra 8 to 13 years leeway. Air pollution - of which car emissions are a major contributor - is responsible for 24,000 premature deaths in the UK every year. In a week when Gordon Brown gives a speech saying there should be "no more toleration of second best for Britain", that's exactly what he's delivering.

Oil Prices And UN Development Goals

Oil prices have rised from $22 per barrel in 2003 to $96 in Asian trading on Thursday morning.

What the UN Development Programme is finding is that the high oil price is threatening the Millennium Development Goals.

Between 2002 and 2005, the households interviewed suffered some dramatic price increases, paying ... 171 percent more for cooking fuels, 120 percent more for transportation, 67 percent more for electricity and 55 percent more for lighting fuels. While the urban poor tend to be worse off since they do not have the alternative of collecting fuel wood or biomass, the rural poor are no better off, since they are more vulnerable to higher prices for lighting fuels, especially in unelectrified villages.
In the short term, industrial countries will be disrupted, with perhaps more petrol protests as in 2000 , but the UK will be better able to absorb/withstand oil price rises, whilst other countries, especially the poorest of the global poor, will struggle. In the long-term, well, we need to wake up to the threat of peak oil.