Daily Archives: July 8, 2011

Coldest June in 40 years despite the sun

kerryman.ie | Jul 6, 2011

By KEVIN HUGHES

DESPITE what seemed like incessant rain throughout the month of June, Kerry still experienced more than 25 percent sunshine than average for the month.

The sunshine did not translate into higher temperatures, though, as the county still experienced its coldest June since 1972. Indeed June 10 marked the coldest June day in Kerry for 20 years as temperatures dropped to a miserable 4.6 degrees centigrade.

That’s according to figures released by Met Éireann who compare their statistics with a 30 year average.

The figures reveal that Kerry did in fact experience 50 percent more rain than what is normal for June and with 1.2metres falling over the 30 days, the Kerry weather station at Valentia was home to the wettest area in Ireland. That’s despite the fact that temperatures were on average one degree Celsius colder than the norm.

Unsettled weather in June led to all stations nationally recording above average rainfall amounts for the time of year, especially in the south, while several stations joined Kerry in reporting their coldest June for almost four decades

Warmest day of the month was June 3 during the four day period of high pressure at the start of the month and this was the only day that Kerry’s maximum temperature rose above 20 degrees.

As a slow-moving Atlantic depression moved southwards towards Kerry, the majority of minimum temperatures were recorded between the June 9-12 when the country was affected by cool north-westerlies. Unsettled weather continued for the remainder of the month due to a series of Atlantic depressions.

Possible ‘Little Ice Age’ for Ireland could last 11 years as sun cools


Possible ‘Little Ice Age’ for Ireland could last 11 years as sun cools. Photo by Lena Strom

Ireland will have record breaking snowfall and freezing temperatures once again

IrishCentral | Jul 7, 2011

By BERNIE MALONE

According to British academics, Ireland and the UK should brace themselves for severe winters for the coming years, as solar activity is low. Last winter, the coldest in over 45 years, gave Ireland a taste of what’s to come.

A United Kingdom-based forecaster Exacta Weather has issued a severe winter weather warning for 2011 – 2012. James Madden, from Exacta, said they have been correct over the last two years. This year they predict record breaking snowfall and freezing temperatures once again.

Related

Ireland And UK Could Face Further Severe Winter Weather

Madden said that as well as the lower solar activity, the dust and ash particles released by the recent volcanic eruptions in Iceland and Chile would also contribute to cooling down of global temperatures.  He said, “Converted sulfur dioxide emissions from volcanic eruptions can also cause sunlight reflection in the atmosphere. “

He said the 2011-2012 winter “will be exceptionally cold and snowy with well below average temperatures.  I fully expect to see records broken with the highlands of Scotland being once again particularly hard hit.  It is therefore vital to start preparing now in terms of high energy bills and raising awareness amongst the most vulnerable and elderly people of society.”

Research published in the journal “Environmental Research Letters” shows that cold winters in the United Kingdom and Ireland are more common when the sun’s activity is low.

The researchers have measured temperatures during the recent winters. Their findings show that it has been markedly cooler than the long term average temperature. They used the Central England Temperature (CET) record, which dates back to mid-17th century to examine their findings.

Co-author Mike Lockwood, professor of space environment physics at the University of Reading, wrote about solar activity and its impact on the climate.

He wrote that, “Solar activity during the current sunspot minimum has fallen to levels unknown since the start of the 20th century. The Maunder minimum (about 1650–1700) was a prolonged episode of low solar activity which coincided with more severe winters in the United Kingdom and continental Europe. Motivated by recent relatively cold winters in the UK, we investigate the possible connection with solar activity,” according to reports on Irish Weather Online.

The report states, “The mean CET for December, January and February for the recent relatively cold winters of 2008/09 and 2009/10 were 3.50C and 2.53C respectively. Whereas the mean value for the previous 20 winters had been 5.04C. The cluster of lower winter temperatures in the UK during the last three years had raised questions about the probability of more similar, or even colder, winters occurring in the future.”

These new findings on solar activity can be added to the research from the National Solar Observatory (NSO) and Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) which states that a missing jet stream and fading spots along with slower activity near the poles show that the Sun is entering a rest period.

Currently we are in sunspot cycle, Cylce 24, and the next sunspot, which will last 11 years, is Cycle 25.

The results were announced at the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society. Dr. Frank Hill, associate director of the NSO’s Solar Synoptic Network, said, “This is highly unusual and unexpected. But the fact that three completely different views of the Sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation.”

He said, “this could be the last solar maximum we’ll see for a few decades. That would affect everything from space exploration to Earth’s climate.”

Super-rich party people like the Rothschilds say: Let’s go to Montenegro


The romantic glow of the harbour, fishing smacks and Old Town Montenegro mask a tax haven

Billionaire financier Nat Rothschild has planned a £1m 40th birthday bash in a tiny Adriatic hotspot

independent.co.uk | Jul 7, 2011

By Andy McSmith

This week, it was Monte Carlo. Next week, Montenegro. Nat Rothschild, who has one of the best financial brains in a family renowned for business acumen, will be 40 next Tuesday, and intends to make this a weekend to remember.

The financier is rumoured to be splashing out £1m on a birthday bash. That is small change for a man whose personal wealth is reckoned to be about a thousand times that amount. And the little state of Montenegro is understandably delighted to be chosen as the venue.

Montenegro is a staggeringly beautiful, mountain statelet onn the c oast of the Adriatic, only just more than half the size of Wales with a population of 660,000, slightly more than that of Glasgow. It has been an independent state only since 2006, when its people voted in a referendum to sever their union with Serbia. It is probably best known to the British public as the supposed setting of the film Casino Royale, though most of it was actually shot in the Czech Republic.

Uniquely for a sovereign state, Montenegro has no currency. All transactions are conducted in euros though it is not in the EU or the eurozone. This peculiarity has made it a magnet for Russian oligarchs, and for people who want to disguise the source of their wealth, such as Irish drug barons.

It is also open for those with legitimate business interests, including Nat Rothschild, who will be combining with pleasure by flying his guests in to see for themselves the attractions of the Bay of Kotor, one of Europe’s finest natural harbours, tucked between the mountains of Montenegro.

Mr Rothschild and his main business partner, the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, have sunk a lot of money in to the fresh concrete that has been laid on the water’s edge in Kotor Bay. The British media will obviously focus its attention on who is or is not a guest at the Rothschild bash, because the only social event of the summer to match this one was last week’s wedding of the billionaire Prince Albert of Monaco to the former Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock.

Related

Rothschild family archive gets a fittingly sumptuous new home

Eager to whet everyone’s curiosity, Porto Montenegro’s sales and marketing director, Colin Kingsmill, has told journalists that invitations have gone to “the ritziest, wealthiest, and most photogenic people on earth”.

It will be a glitzy occasion because Nat Rothschild has a lot of famous names in his contacts book. He was a contemporary of George Osborne at Oxford University, where they were both in the Bullingdon Club together, five years after David Cameron and Boris Johnson. It was Mr Rothschild who brought Mr Osborne and Peter Mandelson together on Oleg Deripaska’s yacht, in the summer of 2008, setting off an entertaining political furore when Mr Osborne revealed what Lord Mandelson had said in private about Gordon Brown.

When Rothschild threw a party in New York in 2008, the principal guest was Saif al-Gaddafi, son of the Libyan dictator, but no one expects him to join the party in Montenegro.

It can be assumed, though, that Nat Rothschild’s parents will be there. His father, Jacob, the fourth Baron Rothschild, is an investment banker and philanthropist, and his mother, Serena, is a racehorse owner who set a world record in 2004 by paying 4.6 million guineas (£4.7m) for the racehorse Magical Romance.

His social and business circles also include the oligarch Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea football club, the former head of BP, Tony Hayward, the American art dealer Larry Gagosian, Roland Rudd, co-founder of the Finsbury financial PR group, and many more.

While others of us may be nervously checking our bank statements and cutting down our overheads in these austere days, there are people in the world inhabited by Nat Rothschild with worries of a different order, including the shortage of parking spaces for exceptionally large yachts.

The marinas of southern France and Italy were designed a generation ago, when a yacht longer than about 100ft was pretty rare even in a millionaires’ playground. The Lady Ghislaine, the yacht off which the crooked tycoon Robert Maxwell fell to his death in 1991, was an exception, at 180ft, but Maxwell liked to have the biggest and best of everything, even if it meant paying for it with other people’s pensions.

These days, the Lady Ghislaine is nowhere near big enough to feature on the list of the top 100 privately owned yachts. A 240ft super-gin palace would get in at the bottom of that chart, while at No 1 there is Roman Abramovich’s Eclipse, which is three times the length of Maxwell’s.

As more of these superyachts came off the production lines, Europe’s billionaires were in danger of having to wander the Mediterranean with nowhere to dock until a group of entrepreneurs decided to create Porto Montenegro, in the Bay of Kotor, which, when it is complete in five or six years, will include a luxury hotel, a casino, 700 apartments, and 650 yacht berths.

After Nat Rothschild’s guests have quaffed his champagne and sung a chorus of “Happy Birthday” they will get a chance to look around. And that can only be good for business.

The VIP guests

* Nat Rothschild’s guest list has not been made public, but according to Montengran sources, it is so glitzy and ritzy that Tony Blair’s name was the dullest on the page. Mr Blair will not be joining the guests, though no one will be surprised to see Lord Mandelson there.

* Among the mega-rich believed to have been invited there is Oleg Deripaska, Russian owner of the world’s largest aluminium firm, Roman Abramovich, Peter Munk, Hungarian born head of the world’s largest gold mining corporation, the South African mining tycoon Mick Davis and Ivan Glasenberg, boss of Glencore, one of the world’s largest commodity companies.

* Another likely guest is Tony Hayward, who went into business with Nat Rothschild after losing his position at the head of BP over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The commodity trading company they founded together is valued at over £1 billion.

* But George Osborne, who has enjoyed Nat Rothschild’s hospitality before, may think it too big a political risk to be spotted enjoying the high life in Montenegro just now.

Montenegro for beginners

* In the time of Christ, Montenegro was an outpost of the Roman Empire. Later, it was ruled by the Serbs, then by the Turks. Its people are Orthodox Christian Slavs, closely related to the Serbs.

* The country’s national hero, the Montenegran Shakespeare, is Petar II Petrovic Njegos, who was a Christian Orthodox bishop and the secular ruler of the country until his early death in 1851.

* In 1878, Montenegro was recognised by the Turks as an independent state. After the 1914-18 war, it was included in Yugoslavia. The best-known 20th century Montenegran was Milovan Djilas, a communist who stood out alone not only against Stalin but against the corruption and repression under Yugoslav’s dictator, Tito. It was the last state to leave the Yugoslav Federation.

* After the break-up of Yugoslavia, Montenegro decided that it would be too expensive to create its own currency, and adopted the Deutschmark. In 2001, all the DMs in the country were gathered up, the large number of counterfeits were discarded, and the rest returned to Germany, who in return sent Montenegro an initial consignment of €30m, mostly in coins.

Europe paves way for GM crop bans


Anti-GM campaigners outside parliament. Photograph: Martin Argles for the Observer

European commission vote on Tuesday opens door to countries individually banning GM crops

guardian.co.uk | Jul 6, 2011

Outi Alapekkala for for EurActiv

The European Parliament on Tuesday backed plans to let member states choose whether to ban the cultivation of genetically-modified (GM) crops on their territory, giving a detailed list of grounds on which such bans could be imposed.

The House voted to amend European Commission proposals for an EU regulation that would allow member states to restrict or ban the cultivation on their territory of GM crops, which have been given safety approval at EU level.

The Commission’s initial proposal suggested that member states could restrict or ban their cultivation on all but health or environmental grounds, which were to be assessed solely by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

But the proposals have sparked a wave of criticism, with businesses fearing they could lead to fragmentation of the internal market, bringing legal uncertainty for farmers. Some of the EU executive’s proposals have also been deemed incompatible with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

The Parliament’s report seeks to provide member states with “a solid legal basis” for banning GM crop cultivation, and to give them better legal protection in the event of challenges from trading partners opposed to bans.

The report – adopted with 548 votes in favour, 84 against and 31 abstentions – lists a number of reasons to allow member states to impose bans. These include:

• Environmental grounds: Such as pesticide resistance, the invasiveness of certain crops, threats to biodiversity or a lack of data on potential negative consequences for the environment.

• Socio-economic considerations: Such as the practicality and cost of measures to avoid an unintentional presence of GMOs in other products, fragmentation of territory, changes in agricultural practices linked to intellectual property regimes, or social policy objectives such as the conservation of diversity or distinctive agricultural practices.

• Grounds relating to land use and agricultural practices.

Health Commissioner John Dalli noted that specifying the grounds on which the cultivation could be restricted would indeed enhance the EU executive proposal. “I can therefore support this approach,” he said.

Dalli also welcomed the Parliament’s restriction criteria for being largely inspired by the indicative list that the Commission had already developed.

But he insisted that the environmental considerations put forward for banning GMOs should be clearly distinct from those that have already been assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

In addition, he stressed that “any grounds need to be substantiated and in line with the reality of the territory in question”.

In another move, the Parliament voted to change the legal basis of the Commission proposal from Article 114 (on the approximation of national law to establish the internal market) of the EU Treaty to Article 192, which is related to the environment.

The Parliament’s rapporteur, French MEP Corinne Lepage (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe), said that basing the proposal on Article 192 would give member states more say on the matter.

But Commissioner Dalli said he still thought that the Article 114 was best suited to the proposal.

The Parliament’s report maintains a common EU authorisation framework for GMOs, but the House wants the risk assessment conducted at EU level by EFSA to be improved by taking into account long-term environmental effects or effects on non-target organisms before a new GMO variety can be authorised.

The Parliament also insisted that member states must take measures to prevent contamination of conventional or organic farming by GM crops, and ensure that those responsible for such incidents can be held financially liable.

13 civilians, mostly women and children, killed in Nato air strike in Afghanistan


The deaths triggered protests blocking the main highway to Kabul nearby, with civilian casualties in Western military operations extremely sensitive in war-torn Afghanistan, where the Taliban have waged a decade-long insurgency. Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Up to 13 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed in a Nato air strike on Thursday in the eastern Afghan province of Khost, provincial Police Chief Mohamad Zazai said.

Telegraph | Jul 7, 2011

The coalition said those killed were family members of insurgents who also died in the strike that was called in after Afghan-led forces came under fire.

The deaths triggered protests blocking the main highway to Kabul nearby, with civilian casualties in Western military operations extremely sensitive in war-torn Afghanistan, where the Taliban have waged a decade-long insurgency.

“Unfortunately eight women, four children, and one man were killed in a Nato air strike on a residential house in Dowamanda district early this morning,” Mr Zazai said, adding that four Taliban-linked Haqqani militants were also killed.

“The body of a Haqqani commander and three fighters have also been recovered from the vicinity of the house. A delegation has been sent to investigate the incident,” he said.

A spokesman for the provincial governor confirmed that civilians had been killed in the incident but gave no further details.

Nato’s International Security Assistance Force said those killed were family members of the Haqqani network, which is a target of the alliance force. It did not say how many civilians were among the dead.

A spokesman for the coalition said Afghan-led forces had gone in search of the insurgents when they came under attack by rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire.

“Responding to the insurgent attack, the security forces returned fire and called in an air weapons team. The subsequent air strike killed several insurgents and unintentionally a number of associated family members,” he said.

The air strike came a day after provincial authorities in southern Ghazni province said two civilians were killed and one other injured in another military incident. Nato said it was looking into the allegations.

Eight Afghan policemen were meanwhile killed Thursday when their vehicle struck a mine in Jawzjan province in northern Afghanistan, police in the province said.

Police also said that six Afghan policemen and a civilian were killed in another landmine blast in the restive southern province of Uruzgan late Wednesday.

The Taliban were not available to comment on the attacks but roadside bombs are one of their most widely used weapons against the Western-backed Afghan government.

Civilians are the biggest casualties in the near 10-year war in Afghanistan, where 150,000 foreign forces are stationed.

Last year was the bloodiest yet for civilians, with the United Nations recording 2,777 fatalities.

In May this year alone, a total of 368 civilians were killed, 301 of them in insurgent attacks, according to figures released by the UN mission in Afghanistan, making it the deadliest month for civilians since at least 2007.

The UN has blamed insurgents for more than three-quarters of the civilian deaths last year, but the issue inflames anger among ordinary Afghans toward foreign forces, as they blame NATO’S presence for the increased danger.

The latest civilian deaths are a reminder of the depth of the task facing the Afghan government as it takes increasing responsibility for security following the announcement of the first wave of foreign troop withdrawals.

The United States has announced that 33,000 “surge” forces will leave the war by the end of next summer, while Britain has said another 500 troops will return next year. France and Belgium have also announced limited withdrawals.

Civilian casualties are a huge bone of contention between foreign forces and President Hamid Karzai who issued a “last warning” to the military in early June to avoid “arbitrary and unnecessary” operations that kill civilians.

Those comments came after he said 14 people died in an air strike in southern Helmand province. Nato said nine civilians were killed in the strike.

In another high-profile case this year, two Nato helicopters killed nine Afghan boys as they collected firewood in northeastern Afghanistan, leading to a rare apology from the US commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus.

Families of military suicide victims call for widened condolence policy

washingtonpost.com | July 7, 2011

By Steve Vogel

Marine Sgt. Thomas R. Bagosy returned from a combat tour in Afghanistan in November 2009 suffering from a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder. Six months later, when officials at Camp Lejeune, N.C., tried to hospitalize him for treatment, Bagosy shot himself in the head during a standoff with military police.

The White House this week reversed its policy against extending official condolences to the families of military personnel who kill themselves, but the change applies only to those who commit suicide in officially designated combat zones.

In cases such as the one involving Bagosy, 25, who died in the United States, but after clear indication of mental disorder related to his war experiences, survivors still will be left without the comfort of a presidential letter.

“I’m angry at this — I really am,” Bagosy’s father, Robert, who also served in the Marine Corps, said Thursday. “Honestly, this is like a slap in the face. A condolence letter means a lot. It’s not going to bring my son back, but it matters.”

Related

Suicide: For some South Florida veterans, it’s the biggest threat

The previous White House policy, inherited from past administrations, was to send presidential letters of condolence to families of service members who die in combat zones, with a “specific exemption for suicide,” said Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council. “The key point here is we have put suicide on equal footing with other deaths.”

Presidential condolence letters are not routine when members of the military die away from war zones, no matter the cause. The policy review, officials said, was focused only on how to handle suicides that occurred in war zones.

The military long has struggled with how to handle suicide. While Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has supported changing the White House policy to extend condolences in cases of suicide, some in the military have been opposed, in part because of worries that it might lead to more suicides.

In a statement announcing the policy change on Wednesday, President Obama said: “This decision was made after a difficult and exhaustive review of the former policy, and I did not make it lightly. This issue is emotional, painful, and complicated, but these Americans served our nation bravely. They didn’t die because they were weak.”

About two-thirds of military suicides take place outside combat zones, and many of these suicides are related to PTSD or other combat-related stresses. Advocates for military families argue that the treatment of the next of kin should not depend on where the suicide occurred.

“It doesn’t matter how they died, it’s how they lived and how they served,” said Kim Ruocco, national director of suicide education and outreach for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, an organization providing support for military families. “This is a common story; why does it matter where he died?”

Her husband, Maj. John Ruocco, a Marine Cobra helicopter pilot who flew 75 combat missions during a deployment to Iraq, killed himself in 2005, three months after returning home to Camp Pendleton, Calif. “He came back from war and was completely different,” she said.

Full Story

European suicide rates pushed higher by financial crisis

Reuters | Jul 7, 2011

By Kate Kelland

LONDON | (Reuters) – Suicides rates rose sharply in Europe in 2007 to 2009 as the financial crisis drove unemployment up and squeezed incomes, with the worst hit countries like Greece and Ireland seeing the most dramatic increases, researchers said on Friday.

But rates of road deaths in the region fell during the same period, possibly because higher numbers of jobless people led to lower car use, according to an initial analysis of data from 10 European Union (EU) countries.

“Even though we’re starting to see signs of a financial recovery, what we’re now also seeing is a human crisis. There’s likely to be a long tail of human suffering following the downturn,” said David Stuckler, a sociologist at Britain’s Cambridge University, who worked on the analysis.

Stuckler, Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Sanjay Basu of the University of California San Francisco published their initial analysis in the Lancet journal and said the data “reveal the rapidity of the health consequences of financial crises.”

Stuckler said in a telephone interview the researchers did not yet have enough data to make a worthwhile estimate of how many deaths in total could be linked to the financial crisis, but that is something they plan to do in future work.

“In particular, we want to understand better why some individuals, communities, and entire societies are especially vulnerable, yet some seem more resilient to economic shocks,” the researchers wrote.

Stuckler said he feared the social and health costs of the recent global economic downturn would turn out to be high.

“We can already see that the countries facing the most severe financial reversals of fortune, such as Greece and Ireland, had greater rises in suicides,” he said.

“And suicides are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of mental health problems. Suicide itself is a relatively rare event, but wherever you see a rise in suicides there is also a rise in failed suicide attempts and in new cases of depression.”

Analyzing data available so far, Stuckler and colleagues found that suicide rates were up 17 percent in Greece and 13 percent in Ireland. Unemployment increased by 2.6 percentage points — a 35 percent relative increase — between 2007 and 2009 across the EU as a whole, they said.

“The steady downward trend in suicide rates, seen…before 2007, reversed at once,” the researchers wrote.

In 2008 the increase in suicide rates in new EU members states studied — those like Hungary and Lithuania, which joined after 2004 — was less than 1 percent, but in the older members it increased by almost 7 percent.

And in both, suicides increased further in 2009.

Among the 10 countries studied — Austria, Britain, Finland, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia and Romania — only Austria had fewer suicides in 2009 than in 2007, with the rate down 5 percent. In all of the other countries, the increase was at least 5 percent.

In Britain suicide rates rose from a recent low of 6.14 per 100,000 people aged under 65 in 2007, to 6.75 in 2008 — an increase of 10 percent, and remained similarly high in 2009.

Stuckler said that overall, the higher death rates from suicides appeared to be balanced out by the lower fatalities on the roads, which fell substantially, especially in new EU member countries where they were initially very high.