Daily Archives: September 21, 2009

Scientists see signs of global cooling

The extent of the ice now is 500,000 sq km greater than it was this time last year, which was in turn 500,000 sq km more than in September 2007.

belfasttelegraph.co.uk | Sep 21, 2009

by TERRI JACKSON

I notice some medical experts are alarmed that global warming may have an effect on health.

I am not a medical expert, but I am a scientist dealing in climate facts – not suppositions.

The four major global temperature-tracking outlets (Hadley UK, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, University of Alabama-Huntsville and Remote Sensing Systems, Santa Rosa) have released updated information showing 2007 global cooling, ranging from 0.65C to 0.75C, a value which is large enough to erase nearly all the global-warming recorded over the last 100 years. This occurred in a single year (click http://climaterealists.com/).

In addition, the alarm of some people over the Arctic ice-caps is misplaced.

In the Arctic, some 10 million square kilometres of sea ice melts each summer.

Each September, the Arctic starts to freeze again.

The extent of the ice now is 500,000 sq km greater than it was this time last year, which was in turn 500,000 sq km more than in September 2007.

By April next year, after months of darkness, it will be back up to 14m sq km or more.

As regards Antartica and Greenland, most of their ice sheets are growing, rather than shrinking.

Terri Jackson is the Director of the Independent Climate Research Group, Bangor

China calls for more babies as pension funds face bankruptcy

There are few babies to be seen on the streets of China’s commercial capital. The city is ageing so quickly that by 2020 more than a third of its 19m people will be 60 or over. The city’s pension fund faces bankruptcy.

Call for more babies as China turns to grey

London Times | Sep 20, 2009

Michael Sheridan in Shanghai

WHEN the head of family planning in Shanghai said young couples should have more babies because the city was growing old, it sounded like a statement of the obvious.

Yet within days there was a storm of comment on the internet and in state media as people asked whether this meant the government was preparing to relax its one-child policy.

There are signs officials are rethinking the ban, which has prevented 400m births since 1979, because on present trends China’s population will begin to decline by the middle of the century. By then, India will have overtaken it as the most populous nation.

Xie Lingli, the Shanghai family planning official, was forced to explain publicly that he had not deviated from the party line, which restricts most couples in Chinese cities to one child.

The rules allow couples who are both only-children to have two babies. Shanghai has introduced other exceptions, including more leeway for fishermen and farmers. It has also abolished a rule that couples who are allowed more than one child must wait four years between births.

“There’s a huge social demand for second children,” said Yang Henmin, an engineer in Shanghai. “In the end the government cannot control it any more than it can grasp the wind.”

The city’s family planners talk of “encouraging” more births in a change of tone that sounds distinctly like liberalisation by stealth.

“In the past we stressed birth control, not the chance to have a second child. Not many people know these exceptions to the regulations so we were just reminding them,” said Xie.

There are few babies to be seen on the streets of China’s commercial capital. The city is ageing so quickly that by 2020 more than a third of its 19m people will be 60 or over. The city’s pension fund faces bankruptcy.

It is a harbinger of change that will come as a shock to some commentators who portray China as a youthful country that is destined to rule the world. In fact, the one-child policy means China is “greying” fast. On present trends it will grow old before it has a chance to get rich.

Although China’s population has passed 1.3 billion and is still growing, it is expected to peak within three decades. By 2040, India will have 1.5 billion people versus 1.42 billion Chinese, according to Barbara Pillsbury, an expert on population control.

The Chinese media reported her forecast and the Shanghai debate shows that officials have begun to grasp the consequences of the policy.

By the middle of the century China will have more than 330m people over 60, of whom 100m will be over 80. In contrast, the US is predicted to have a younger population because of immigration and higher birth rates.

“We say that four, two, one — that’s four grandparents, two parents and one child — is the usual family structure in Shanghai,” said Tan Jie, a businessman, “so the burden of care is a heavy one.”

Then there is the gender imbalance. Pillsbury said that while the average live birth ratio is 105 boys to 100 girls, in China it is 119 to 100 — the result of abortions by couples desperate for a son.

In Mao Tse-tung’s time, the average Chinese woman had six children. Today she has 1.8. In the past, there were six younger people working to support each old person. In the one-child generation, said Pillsbury, there would be one couple to support each one.

“The figures are getting close to those in Japan and Sweden,” wrote the China Youth Daily, “so Shanghai’s intentions should be praised, but its methods are wrong.”

The newspaper warned that if other provinces did the same, the “strain on society” would be immense. “The government should not ask or encourage people to have another child; families should make the decision,” it said.

Its line seemed to suggest that a cautious debate about relaxing the policy has reached the upper echelons of the Communist party.

“China accounted for 40% of the world’s population in the Qianlong period of the Qing dynasty \, but today it accounts for 20%,” said Wang Xinhai, a social scientist. “So China should encourage people to have even three children,” he said.

Chinese officials are defensive about a widespread misconception that the one-child limit is imposed on every couple. In the countryside, people may have a second child if their first is a girl, or disabled. No restrictions apply to China’s minorities, including Tibetans and Uighur Muslims.

But Shanghai, which was the first modern city in China, is keeping up its pioneering role. Five other provinces have followed its lead by relaxing the rule requiring four years between births. A historic change of policy may be in the early stages of gestation.

The Kiwi attempt to crack Da Vinci Code

Michael Baigent

Michael Baigent is one of the world’s leading published experts on Freemasonry. Photo / AP

Baigent, a Freemason and editor of UK’s Freemasonry Today, is one of the world’s leading published experts on the esoteric subject. His 1989 history, The Temple and the Lodge, may not have been a bestseller but it broke new ground in exploring links between the Masons, the establishment of Washington DC, and the American War of Independence.

It claimed that commanders on both side were Masons, and they agreed that the English would “throw” certain battles because it was in no one’s interests to destroy the economic base of the American colonies in their entirety.

NZ Herald | Sep 20, 2009

By Jonathan Milne

Michael Baigent might feel a little as if he were in the middle of thriller, ever looking over his shoulder at the small, blond baby-faced man following behind him.

Worse, that thriller is written by the baby-faced man – and that man, Dan Brown, has made Baigent’s story his own.

Not in the sense of copyright breach, you understand. Brown was cleared of that in 2006 by one of England’s highest courts.

No, in the sense that Brown’s own take on Baigent’s book about Jesus of Nazareth’s bloodline turned into The Da Vinci Code – the biggest success story in adult publishing since – well, since the Bible. It has sold 81 million copies worldwide, and was made into a movie starring Tom Hanks.

This month, Random House in New Zealand ordered a print-run of 100,000 copies of Brown’s new novel, The Lost Symbol.

And the book chains are setting aside almost their entire Christmas contingency budgets to buy in more copies, should it – as they expect – go lunar.

The irony for Nelson-born Baigent, who unsuccessfully sued Brown for breach of intellectual property over the Code, is that the subject matter of the new book is Freemasonry.

And Baigent, a Freemason and editor of UK’s Freemasonry Today, is one of the world’s leading published experts on the esoteric subject. His 1989 history, The Temple and the Lodge, may not have been a bestseller but it broke new ground in exploring links between the Masons, the establishment of Washington DC, and the American War of Independence.

It claimed that commanders on both side were Masons, and they agreed that the English would “throw” certain battles because it was in no one’s interests to destroy the economic base of the American colonies in their entirety.

The Herald on Sunday was the only New Zealand paper to cover the Code trial at London’s Royal Courts of Justice, and it was to this paper that Auckland-educated Baigent spoke.

The £2.3 million ($6.3m) legal fees cost Baigent and his wife Jane all the royalties from his 2006 bestseller, The Jesus Papers – and their elegant five-storey terraced house in the cathedral town of Bath.

“The lawyers took it,” Baigent says this weekend. “They took everything. But that’s the way it goes: you win or you lose.”

Now they have a small place in the Home Counties.

Dan Brown, he says, knew The Temple and the Lodge well.

Indeed, this week’s book about Freemasonry was to have been published in 2006 as The Solomon Key – but for unspecified delays. Baigent says an early draft script based on the book went to Columbia Pictures three years ago, “exploring similar themes” to his book.

The reasons for the delay are unknown. But the published version this week steers well clear of the specific historical claims made by Baigent about the War of Independence.

Book reviewer Nicky Pellegrino writes today (Detours magazine) that Brown’s new book is “laced with every talisman, myth and symbol Brown could muster and dotted with his signature indigestible lumps of historical research”.

Baigent is to review the book for The Daily Beast in the US. Yesterday, he laughed off the book’s portrayal of a powerful and secretive Masonic Lodge. “I’ve never heard of wine being drunk from a human skull,” he says. “And if Freemasonry had been that powerful, I would never have lost the case.”

Low-Level Fluoride Linked to Sperm Damage in Animals

Fluoridealert.org | Sep 20, 2009

When given at high doses, fluoride has been found to damage virtually any tissue in the body, whether it be the thyroid, the brain, or the reproductive system. On this, there is now little debate. What is still disputed, however, is whether low levels of fluoride can also cause harm. Towards this end, it will be important for researchers conducting animal studies in the future to put greater focus on low-level effects than has heretofore been the case. In 2007, two research teams did this, in separate investigations of how fluoride ingestion may affect sperm function.

The two studies examined the effect of water fluoride concentrations ranging from 1 to 10 ppm. Since rats and mice are significantly more tolerant to fluoride than humans, 1 to 10 ppm represents a notably low level of fluoride for these animals. It has been estimated, for example, that rats are 5 times less sensitive to fluoride than humans (Turner 1996), and thus a 4.5 ppm concentration would be roughly equivalent to 1 ppm for humans, while 10 ppm fluoride would be roughly equivalent to 2 ppm. It is striking, therefore, that these 2 studies found damaging effects of fluoride on sperm at these levels.

In the study by Reddy et al, 4.5 ppm (the lowest level tested) was associated with a reduction in sperm count and viability, as well as a reduction in testicular enzyme activity.

In the study by Dvorakova-Hortova et al, 10 ppm was associated with an impairment in “sperm capacitation” – the complex series of events which enable sperm “to obtain full fertilizing capacity.” The authors did not find the same effect from fluoride at 1 ppm. However, when 1 ppm fluoride was combined with aluminum, a similar effect was observed. (It is unclear whether this latter result was an effect of the aluminum itself, or an interactive effect of the aluminum and fluoride.)

As noted by Reddy, “extrapolation of rat data to human beings is always difficult” and, indeed, it is doubtful that the effects observed in these studies would be seen at the same relative levels in humans. Nevertheless, the two studies taken together, do raise added concern about fluoride’s effects on the reproductive system — especially when considering an earlier study conducted by the then-FDA scientist, Stan Freni, who found a correlation between water fluoride levels exceeding 3 ppm and decreased birth rates in the US. As noted by the NRC (2006) review, “the relationship between fertility and fluoride requires additional study.” These 2 studies add further weight to NRC’s conclusion.

REFERENCES:

6a) Reddy PS, et al. (2007). Suppression of male reproduction in rats after exposure to sodium fluoride during early stages of development.Naturwissenschaften 94(7):607-11.

6b) Dvorakova-Hortová K, et al. (2007). The influence of fluorides on mouse sperm capacitation. Animal Reproductive Science Aug 6; [Epub ahead of print]

Early bad behaviour sees children branded troublemakers, report warns

Children who behave badly in their first few weeks of school risk being forever branded troublemakers even if their behaviour improves, a report has warned.

Telegraph | Sep 20, 2009

By Aislinn Laing

Teachers, parents and other children are slow to forget bad behaviour, regardless of how many “good” things a child does subsequently, it added.

“Reputations can start to solidify within the first term,” said Maggie MacLure, professor of education at Manchester Metropolitan University and co-author of the study, Classroom behaviour: why it’s hard to be good, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

“Teachers will have decided in a broad way what kind of child this is. Is it a good child? Things that contribute to reputation are often very public. A lot of what happens is in whole class settings – so if children are disciplined others see it happen.”

Teachers will also judge a child based on their views of their home background, she said, and one teacher’s view of a child can quickly spread.

“If children go on to another class, their reputation could transfer with them just because one teacher writes a little note saying ‘This child has difficulty concentrating’ or ‘This child won’t sit still’,” she said.

Siobhan Freegard, founder of the website Netmums, knows of many children who struggled to shake their reputation and said “summer babies” born in July and August particularly struggle as they are sometimes a whole year younger than their contemporaries and so tend to act up out because they lack of maturity.

“One little boy in my older son’s class found it really hard to sit still and control himself,” she said. “Then, when they were 10, somebody snapped someone else’s pencil and all the children said he did it. Soon all the parents were talking about it, but it turned out he wasn’t even in the class at the time.”

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said some children struggle to make the transition from home to school. He advised teachers to forge a strong link with parents to turn their offspring from “troublemakers to contributors to the class”.

The research was conducted in the reception classes of four schools in Greater Manchester. They included a faith school with mainly white children and a high proportion on free meals, an inner-city school with a large ethnic minority population, a suburban school favoured by middle-class parents and one in a socially deprived area.

Professor Liz Jones, co-author of the report, said: “Some cherished principles of early years education may have some unintended consequences. The principle of strong home-school links, for instance, may contribute to certain families being identified as sources of their children’s problematic behaviour.”

The study follows a recent poll which found that one in three teachers believed they could spot troublemakers simply by their first names.

Boys called Connor, Callum and Jack and girls named Courtney and Chardonnay were most likely to be disruptive.

Barack Obama: world leaders ‘see me as a conservative’

President Barack Obama may be regarded as a Communist trying to nationalise health care by his fiercest detractors at home, but other world leaders see him as a conservative, he declared on Sunday.

Telegraph | Sep 20, 2009

By Alex Spillius in Washington

arrogant_obamaAsked about the antipathy aroused by his stimulus bill, health reform plans, and takeover of ailing banks, the president revealed that the stinging domestic criticism has bemused other politicians whose politics are ostensibly to the Right of his.

“I can’t tell you how many foreign leaders, who are heads of centre-right governments, say to me ‘I don’t understand why people would call you socialist, in my country you would be considered a conservative’,” Mr Obama told CNN.

He refrained from naming names, but his leading centre-Right allies are Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, who visited Washington last week, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor.

Mr Obama acknowledged that “yelling at politicians is as American as apple pie”, but appealed for greater civility in the nation’s political discourse. “It’s important to remind ourselves we are all Americans who love this country,” he said.

In angry scenes at town hall meetings and street protests, Mr Obama has been vilified as a communist, socialist or even a Nazi and a sinister supporter of euthanasia.

Jimmy Carter, the former president, and black Congressmen have said that racism has fuelled the hostility towards the first African American president.

But Mr Obama said the objections were rooted in opposition to “big government”, not the colour of his skin, although he was sure that some people “don’t like me because of race”.

Mr Obama gave an unprecedented five interviews to separate Sunday talk shows designed primarily to build public support for health care reform, his top domestic priority. On Monday night he becomes the first president to appear on David Letterman’s late-night chat show.

The appearances sparked accusations of overkill from opponents, but the president’s aides are convinced he remains by far the best salesman of the health care reforms.

Congress is about to embark on several weeks of hard bargaining over the details of the final bill, with Republicans hopeful they narrowly defeat the effort and deliver a major blow to Mr Obama.

China is hiring, and young Americans are going

china jobs

American Mikala Reasbeck works at a recruiting office in Beijing, China. In China, she said, “the jobs are so easy to find. And there are so many.” Ng Han Guan / AP

Many find it easier to get work as their friends are idled at home

MSNBC | Sep 20, 2009

BEIJING – When the best job Mikala Reasbeck could find after college in Boston was counting pills part-time in a drugstore for $7 an hour, she took the drastic step of jumping on a plane to Beijing in February to look for work.

A week after she started looking, the 23-year-old from Wheeling, West Virginia, had a full-time job teaching English.

“I applied for jobs all over the U.S. There just weren’t any,” said Reasbeck, who speaks no Chinese but had volunteered at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In China, she said, “the jobs are so easy to find. And there are so many.”

Young foreigners like Reasbeck are coming to China to look for work in its unfamiliar but less bleak economy, driven by the worst job markets in decades in the United States, Europe and some Asian countries.

Many do basic work such as teaching English, a service in demand from Chinese businesspeople and students. But a growing number are arriving with skills and experience in computers, finance and other fields.

“China is really the land of opportunity now, compared to their home countries,” said Chris Watkins, manager for China and Hong Kong of MRI China Group, a headhunting firm. “This includes college graduates as well as maybe more established businesspeople, entrepreneurs and executives from companies around the world.”

Watkins said the number of resumes his company receives from abroad has tripled over the past 18 months.

China’s job market has been propped up by Beijing’s 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) stimulus, which helped to boost growth to 7.9 percent from a year earlier in the quarter that ended June 30, up from 6.1 percent the previous quarter. The government says millions of jobs will be created this year, though as many as 12 million job-seekers still will be unable to find work.

Andrew Carr, a 23-year-old Cornell University graduate, saw China as a safer alternative after classmates’ offers of Wall Street jobs were withdrawn due to the economic turmoil.

Passing up opportunities in New York, San Francisco and Boston, Carr started work in August at bangyibang.com, a Web site in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen that lets the public or companies advertise and pay for help in carrying out business research, getting into schools, finding people and other tasks.

“I noticed the turn the economy was taking, and decided it would be best to go directly to China,” said Carr, who studied Chinese for eight years.

Most of his classmates stayed in the United States and have taken some unusual jobs — one as a fishing guide in Alaska.

China can be more accessible to job hunters than economies where getting work permits is harder, such as Russia and some European Union countries.

Employers need government permission to hire foreigners, but authorities promise an answer within 15 working days, compared with a wait of months or longer that might be required in some other countries. An employer has to explain why it needs to hire a foreigner instead of a Chinese national, but the government says it gives special consideration to people with technical or management skills.

Rules were tightened ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, apparently to keep out possible protesters. That forced some foreign workers to leave as their visas expired.

Some 217,000 foreigners held work permits at the end of 2008, up from 210,000 a year earlier, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Thousands more use temporary business visas and go abroad regularly to renew them.

Reasbeck said it took her two months to find the drugstore job after she graduated from Boston’s Emerson College with a degree in writing, literature and publishing. She said she applied to as many as 50 employers nationwide.

Today, on top of her teaching job, she works part-time recruiting other native English-speaking teachers. She makes 14,000 to 16,000 yuan ($2,000 to $2,300) a month.

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