Daily Archives: November 30, 2008

Queen Elizabeth inspired by economic crisis to pursue the Good Life

Gordon Brown may have let it be known that he wants the Queen to be a “figurehead” during the economic crisis, but Her Majesty is quietly introducing new cost-cutting measures without any prompting from the Prime Minister.

Telegraph | Nov 29, 2008

By Richard Eden

Mark Flanagan, the Queen’s head chef, discloses to Mandrake that Her Majesty has made it clear that she wants as much as possible of the food served in the Royal palaces to be produced on her estates. “We hope to make more use of HM’s dairy herd at Windsor in 2009,” Flanagan told me at a dinner in honour of Anton Mosimann, one of the Queen’s favourite chefs, at Mosimann’s private dining club in Belgravia.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman informs me that the Jersey herd in the grounds of Windsor Castle is to start producing cream and butter next year. “We are in the early stages of these new plans and the cows already produce milk and cream cheese,” says the spokesman. “It is a case of using as much self-produced food as possible. We have apples from Sandringham, venison from Balmoral and vegetables from the home farm at Windsor. We try and use produce from the estates as far as possible. It is a question of utilising resources in the most efficient way.”

The decision to make greater use of the Windsor herd can also be seen as a reflection of the rising value of farm produce. The Queen used to have two herds of cattle at Windsor, but the pedigree Ayrshire herd was sold last year after a decision to turn the estate organic. “It was considered to be inefficient to have two small herds and so they kept the Jersey,” says the spokesman.

The Duke of Edinburgh was so concerned about the welfare of the 186 cows and two bulls that he visited the farmer who bought them, Phillip Reed, in Wales earlier this year to check on their progress.

Last week, it was disclosed that Brown was “increasingly looking to the head of state to lead the country through the bleak economic times”. The Queen’s diary of engagements has reportedly been discreetly tailored to ensure that she meets more people involved in the caring professions and those helping the victims of the downturn.

On a recent visit to the London School of Economics, the Queen described the financial crisis as “awful” and inquired that, since the meltdown was so huge, “why did nobody notice it?”

Police state Britain: This MP’s crime was to reveal truths Labour didn’t want you to know

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A police officer removes items from Damian Green’s constituency office in Bethersden, Kent, after his arrest

The tactics of Scotland Yard investigating a series of leaks that had no bearing on national security and served only to embarrass Labour were compared to those used in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

Telegraph | Nov 28, 2008

By Benedict Brogan, James Chapman and Stephen Wright

MPs demanded protection from a ‘police state’ last night after the heavy-handed arrest of a Tory frontbencher shocked Westminster.

Extraordinary details of four simultaneous raids on immigration spokesman Damian Green’s homes and offices raised urgent questions about the independence of Parliament.

The Oxford-educated father of two girls, who denies any wrongdoing, was fingerprinted and required to give a DNA sample before being released on bail after nine hours.

Police seized his mobile phone, his Black-Berry, bank statements, computers containing confidential details of constituents, and were only prevented from carrying off legal documents by his wife, a barrister. Officers even leafed through the couple’s love letters.

The tactics of Scotland Yard investigating a series of leaks that had no bearing on national security and served only to embarrass Labour were compared to those used in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

Last night the row between police and Parliament was turning into a political crisis for Gordon Brown, who faced accusations of standing by while the rights of MPs were being trampled.

Ministers struggled to dispel suspicions that they knew in advance about the plan to arrest Mr Green, amid MPs’ fears that the case marked another step towards the politicisation of the police.

The Tories issued a series of questions about the role of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said there were huge question marks over the claim that Mr Brown and Miss Smith had not been informed the arrest was about to take place.

He said: ‘It would be an astounding breakdown in the system of governance, and the linchpin doctrine of Ministerial responsibility, if Ministers were not, at the bare minimum, kept informed.’

MPs also demanded assurances from Speaker Michael Martin that he would defend their interests after it emerged that he authorised an unprecedented police search of Mr Green’s office on Commons property. One called on Mr Martin to quit.

Publicly the Prime Minister said only that his chief objective was to uphold the independence of the police.

But his supporters accused the Tories of ‘playing politics’ with a routine police matter, and even suggested the Yard had undisclosed reasons to seize Mr Green.

Thursday’s raids, involving some 20 officers, were carried out on Mr Green’s homes in west London and Kent, and his Commons and constituency offices.

The MP was detained in Kent on suspicion of ‘conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office’ and taken to London by Yard detectives ten days after a Home Office official was arrested on suspicion of leaking sensitive documents.

Police are investigating Mr Green’s role in four leaks to the media over the past year  –  two of them to the Mail  –  that embarrassed the Home Office.

The operation was authorised by Met Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick, Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer.

The Crown Prosecution Service was also consulted.

Sources said Mr Green is suspected of actively seeking leaked information, not just receiving it.

Met Deputy Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, who has effectively being running the Met since Sir Ian Blair announced his resignation two months ago, was briefed by Mr Quick in advance.

Sir Ian, who officially stepped down yesterday, was not aware of the operation.

In the 30 minutes leading up to the raids, Sir Paul rang London Mayor Boris Johnson and Tory leader David Cameron.

He also notified Sir David Normington, the Home Office permanent secretary, who claimed he deliberately did not tell Home Secretary Jacqui Smith until after the arrest. The news was relayed to Mr Brown about an hour later.

By last night Mr Green’s ordeal had provoked outrage across the political spectrum, with all parties rallying to his defence.

Tory MPs threatened to disrupt Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech debate. Veteran former Labour MP Tony Benn said the arrest of an MP amounted to a contempt of Parliament. ‘Once the police can interfere with Parliament, we are into the police state,’ he said.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: ‘This is something you might expect from a tin-pot dictatorship, not in a modern democracy.’

Tory MPs contrasted the case with that of leaks of sensitive information to BBC business editor Robert Peston.

They raised suspicions that a ‘mole’ inside Downing Street or the Treasury had passed Mr Peston a string of market-moving banking ‘scoops’.

Former Tory leader Michael Howard pointed to Mr Brown’s reputation for obtaining Government leaks when he was an Opposition MP.

‘If this approach had been in place when Gordon Brown was in opposition, he’d have spent half his time under arrest,’ he said.

Miss Smith denied that ministers had been involved in any way in the arrest of Mr Green.

Glaciers in Norway Growing Again

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A glacial region in Norway (Source: NRK)

Scandinavian nation reverses trend, mirrors results in Alaska, elsewhere.

Daily Tech | Nov 27, 2008

Michael Asher (Blog)

After years of decline, glaciers in Norway are again growing, reports the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE). The actual magnitude of the growth, which appears to have begun over the last two years, has not yet been quantified, says NVE Senior Engineer Hallgeir Elvehøy.

The flow rate of many glaciers has also declined. Glacier flow ultimately acts to reduce accumulation, as the ice moves to lower, warmer elevations.

The original trend had been fairly rapid decline since the year 2000.

The developments were originally reported by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK).

DailyTech has previously reported on the growth in Alaskan glaciers, reversing a 250-year trend of loss. Some glaciers in Canada, California, and New Zealand are also growing, as the result of both colder temperatures and increased snowfall.

Ed Josberger, a glaciologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, says the growth is “a bit of an anomaly”, but not to be unexpected.

Despite the recent growth, most glaciers in the nation are still smaller than they were in 1982. However, Elvehøy says that the glaciers were even smaller during the ‘Medieval Warm Period’ of the Viking Era, prior to around the year 1350.

Not all Norwegian glaciers appear to be affected, most notably those in the Jotenheimen region of Southern Norway.

Minority Report comes to Britain: The CCTV that spots crimes BEFORE they happen

pre-crime_cameras

Two men appear to be meeting on a deserted street. Is a crime about to happen?

Daily Mail | Nov 28, 2008

By James Slack

CCTV cameras which can ‘predict’ if a crime is about to take place are being introduced on Britain’s streets.

The cameras can alert operators to suspicious behaviour, such as loitering and unusually slow walking. Anyone spotted could then have to explain their behaviour to a police officer.

The move has been compared to the Tom Cruise science-fiction film Minority Report, in which people are arrested before they commit planned offences.

It will also fuel fears that Britain is becoming a surveillance society. There are already 4.2million cameras trained on the public. The technology could be used alongside many of these to allow evermore advanced scrutiny of our movements.

Last night, civil rights campaign group Liberty was sceptical. A spokesman said: ‘Bringing expensive Hollywood sci-fi to our car parks will never be as effective as having police on the street leading the fight against crime.’

The cameras, trained on public places, such as car parks, are being tested by Portsmouth City Council.

Computers are programmed to analyse the movements of people or vehicles in the camera frame. If someone is seen lurking in a particular area, the computer will send out an alarm to a CCTV operator.

The operator will then check the image and – if concerned – ring the police. The aim is to stop crimes before they are committed. If a vehicle is moving too fast or slow – indicating joyriding or kerb-crawling, for example – a similar alert could be given.

Councillor Jason Fazackarley of Portsmouth Council said: ‘It’s the 21st century equivalent of a nightwatchman, but unlike a night-watchman it never blinks, it never takes a break and it never gets bored.’

But the danger is that the innocent could be forced to account for their movements despite doing nothing wrong. Nick Hewitson, managing director of Smart CCTV, which has created the technology, denied it was a further infringement on privacy.

He said the final decision on whether to send police to question a suspect would still rest with the CCTV operator.

Mr Hewitson added: ‘Although we are a long way off Minority Report, it is a step closer.

‘But what it cannot do is say whether a guy is waiting for his girlfriend or about to commit a crime. That is for the operator to make a subjective human decision on.’

The system has been run successfully in several U.S. cities, including New York. Government departments here are said to be interested in putting it to wider use.

Tory Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said: ‘We will look at this carefully… but there is no argument for CCTV that invades your privacy without being effective in the fight against crime.’

Green Party of Nepal asks Maoists to stop imposing Communist dictatorship

prachanda_communist_fist

Maoist guerilla chieftan Prachanda is seeking to rule over the Nepalese with his iron fist

Green Nepal Party calls to stop Maoist from imposing dictatorship

Media for Freedom | Nov 29, 2008

At a time when Maoists are heading towards the road to one party dictatorship, GNP calls the Maoist not to resort to utopian dreams.

In a press conference organized on 23 November, GNP said grabbing power with a call of ‘New Nepal,’ the Maoists are trying to take the country towards one party dictatorship. Trying to thrust a polity discarded by the world would be nothing but treason against the nation. This will only upset the political, economic, social foundations of the country. Nepal and her people will never accept it. The Maoists waged a decade-long violent struggle against the tiny poor country. This uncalled for war has not only demolished the valuable infrastructures donated by friendly countries but pushed the country back by a few decades. The policies and directives of the Maoist led government now are further vitiating the situation. The inherent motives of the Maoist to choose such a gigantic constituent assembly through proportional representation could be nothing but achieving their sinister objective by totally destroying the economic structure of the country and pushing it to total anarchy. In such a perilous situation, all the people forces of the country must come together to save her from impending disaster. It must be our one and only commitment. The people can no more take the Maoist familitism. Green Nepal Party, with very limited resources, has come out in the open to reeducate our people to save the people from disaster. At this terrible juncture, Green Nepal Party exhorts all forces to join hands with them to save the country from the impending doom. The GNP also humbly request Nepal’s donor, well wishers and friendly countries to come to Nepal’s rescue.

The problems the country is facing that need immediate resolution are enumerated in the following:

Increasing corruption: Not one action has been taken against corrupt officials. Rather it is being institutionalized under patronage of political parties. Sister organization of bigger political parties resort to loot and corruption with impunity but the government shields them.

The government under the Maoist leadership has added familism to existing Nepotism and favoritism.

The Maoist must restore the looted property of the people immediately to their rightful owners. Compensating the victims from national exchequer is not only against the rule but anti national also. It is nothing but rewarding the criminals.

The Maoist combatants cannot be integrated in the Nepali Army. They must be accommodated separately.

The sky rocketing prices are killing the poor people and the scarcity and adulteration are aggravating their miseries. Government must control all these at once.

A country rich in water resources suffers from acute shortage of potable drinking water. There is no irrigation. Paucity of power and load shedding, which are making the lives of the people miserable, are the glaring reflection of the inefficiency of the government.

The armed groups in different districts are creating unrest that must be stopped. The unauthorized activities of sister organizations of the Maoist must be stopped without delay. Else, the country will be embroiled in a civil war.