Daily Archives: August 23, 2011

Warning as children shun books in favour of Facebook

Children who fail to read at a young age risk turning into illiterate adults, said the National Literacy Trust. Photo: GETTY

One in six children are failing to read books as they spend an increasing amount of time texting friends, sending emails and searching Facebook and Twitter, research suggests.

Children who fail to read at a young age risk turning into illiterate adults, said the National Literacy Trust.

Telegraph | Aug 22, 2011

By Graeme Paton

Schoolchildren are more likely to be exposed to mobile phones and computers than novels outside school, it was revealed.

Researchers also found that reading frequency declined sharply with age, with 14- to 16-year-olds being more than 10 times as likely to shun books altogether as those in primary education.

The findings, in a study by the National Literacy Trust, follows the publication of a major international league table last year that showed reading standards among children in Britain had slipped from 17th to 25th in the world.

Jonathan Douglas, the trust’s director, warned that people who failed to read books at a young age often suffered serious literacy problems in adulthood.

“We are worried that they will grow up to be the one-in-six adults who struggle with literacy to the extent that they read to the level expected of an 11-year-old or below,” he said. “Getting these children reading and helping them to love reading is the way to turn their lives around and give them new opportunities and aspirations.”

The trust surveyed more than 18,000 children aged eight to 17 across the UK.

It found that 13 per cent of children failed to read a single book in the last month.

The study said that “technology-based materials dominate as reading choices”, with text messages being named as the most popular form of reading material for children of all ages, followed by emails and social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Bebo.

Researchers said “reading frequency declines with age”, particularly when children leave primary school at 11.

In the last few years of primary education, children are almost six times more likely to be classed as prolific readers – finishing 10 books – than those in secondary schools, it was revealed.

Older pupils were also “considerably more likely to say that they have not read any book in the last month compared with their younger counterparts”.

The study said: “While this rather large discrepancy can at least partly be explained by [secondary] pupils choosing to read texts other than fiction/non-fiction books, the books they read are also more likely to be longer, to be more complex.”

The findings came after Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, called on all pupils to read 50 books a year as part of a national drive to improve literacy standards,

He said children should complete the equivalent of about a novel a week and that the academic demands placed on English schoolchildren had been “too low for too long”.

Ministers have already outlined plans to introduce a reading test for children in England at the age of six to identify those struggling to read at the start of primary school.

*The vast majority of parents are opposed to the use of lotteries to award school places, according to the British Social Attitudes survey.

Only eight per cent believe random ballots should be used as a tiebreaker during the admissions process, it emerged.

The findings – presented as part of the survey, which tracks the opinions of around 2,000 adults – comes despite continued Government support for lottery systems.

Ministers have banned “area-wide” lotteries in which places at all schools in a certain town or city are distributed using the process, but they have refused to stop the system being used by individual schools.

Britain’s wealthiest aristocrats cashing in on “Green” energy subsidies

Growing numbers of the nobility are being tempted to build giant wind farms on their estates by the promise of tens of millions of pounds being offered green energy developers.

The aristocrats cashing in on Britain’s wind farm subsidies

Telegraph | Aug 22, 2011

By Robert Mendick and Edward Malnick

They are among the nation’s wealthiest aristocrats, whose families have protected the British landscape for centuries. Until now that is.

For increasing numbers of the nobility – among them dukes and even a cousin of the Queen – are being tempted by tens of millions of pounds offered by developers to build giant wind farms on their estates.

An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph reveals how generous subsidies – that are added to consumer energy bills – are encouraging hereditary landowners to build turbines up to 410ft tall on their land.

With controversy over onshore wind farms growing, the role of the landed establishment in fuelling the ‘scramble for wind’ will alarm opponents.

They claim wind farms are blighting the countryside while failing to deliver a reliable supply of electricity despite the cost.

Latest figures show the amount of electricity generated by UK wind farms actually fell last year because of the lowest average wind speeds this century.

However, supporters say a network of wind farms will guarantee Britain cheap, sustainable energy in the future.

The turbines being hosted by the landed gentry are almost always many miles from the aristocrats’ own homes. The Duke of Gloucester, who lives in an apartment in Kensington Palace in London, is hoping to build a wind farm 85 miles away on his ancestral estate in Northamptonshire, which he moved out of in 1994. Each turbine could earn the Duke, who is the Queen’s cousin, up to £20,000 a year and possibly much more.

It comes as Sir Reginald Sheffield, David Cameron’s father-in-law, whose baronetcy was created in the mid 18th century, admitted last week he earns as much as £350,000 a year from eight turbines on his estate at Bagmoor in Lincolnshire.

In a letter last week to the Spectator magazine, Sir Reginald protested that he did not own the turbines on Bagmoor farm and that his estate received only a “modest income” amounting to “less than one tenth” of £3.5 million.

Calculations by an energy think tank suggested Sir Reginald could be receiving about £120,000.

The Duke of Roxburghe has angered locals – including the neighbouring Duke of Northumberland – after winning a lengthy planning and legal battle to build 48 turbines, each about 400ft high, on unspoilt moorland in the Scottish borders.

Construction work began about two months ago with the building of a road 10 miles long through previously pristine countryside to reach the wind farm site.

The Duke, who is worth about £100 million, will reportedly earn as much as £2.5 million a year from the deal although a spokesman, who declined to discuss the actual amount, said that figure was not accurate.

One industry expert said a more realistic figure was in the order of £720,000 a year.

In the course of the 25-year lifespan of the wind farm at Fallago Rig that could net the Duke anywhere between £18 million and £62.5 million.

The details of the deal struck with an energy company remain confidential although The Sunday Telegraph understands the Duke’s earnings are performance related – in other words the more the wind blows the more money he will make.

One industry expert estimated Fallago Rig could generate about £875 million income over the next quarter of a century for the Duke and his commercial partner North British Windpower.

Half that sum is in the form of a consumer subsidy, introduced by the last Labour government to encourage renewable energy projects, and which is added on to household electricity bills.

The turbines will not be visible from Floors Castle, the Duke’s ancestral home about 25 miles away.

The Duke of Beaufort, who is worth £120 million, is trying to build 19 turbines on land near Swansea – about 100 miles from his family seat at Badminton House in Gloucestershire.

The turbines could generate around £285,000 for the Somerset Trust, which runs his estate. A spokesman last week insisted the Duke of Beaufort would not gain personally from the wind farm.

Meanwhile Earl Spencer, brother of Diana, Princess of Wales, is planning 13 turbines on his Althorp estate, each of which will be more than 410ft high.

The Earl of Seafield, who owns over 100,000 acres making him Britain’s seventh largest landowner, has eight turbines on his land in Banffshire generating rental income in the region of £120,000 while the Earl of Moray receives, according to one industry expert, in excess of half a million pounds a year from 36 turbines near Stirling in Scotland.

Jeremy Dearden, the Lord of the Manor of Rochdale, a title that once belonged to Lord Byron, was given permission earlier this year for five turbines to be built on Todmorden Moor in Lancashire. Mr Dearden, who lives in New Zealand where he has a farm, stands to earn in the region of £75,000.

A spokesman for Coronation Power, the energy company which rents Mr Dearden’s land, said: “When the wind farm enters operation, we will pay the landowner an annual land rental fee based on a percentage of total revenue generated by the wind farm. This figure is based on industry standard fees.”

Dr John Constable, director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, a think tank critical of the subsidies for onshore wind farms, and who calculated wind farm income for The Sunday Telegraph, said: “Many of these landowners must know, deep down, that the subsidies are a national scandal, but easy money on this scale would tempt a saint.”

Sir Simon Jenkins, chairman of the National Trust but speaking in a personal capacity, said: “The level of subsidy available to landowners to put up these turbines is out of all proportion to the public benefit derived from them and the temptation to ruin what is usually outstanding landscapes is overwhelming. It is a crime against the landscape.”

According to local opposition groups, the Duke of Gloucester made farmland close to Barnwell Manor, his former home in Northamptonshire, available to the highest bidder, entering into an agreement with West Coast Energy, a company based in north Wales.

West Coast Energy failed to return calls last week while Buckingham Palace, which handles media inquiries for the Duke, said it was a matter for West Coast Energy.

Peter Stephens, 74, a retired engineer fighting the development, said: “The Duke lives in Kensington Palace and doesn’t care if it’s spoiling our view. These turbines will be in the wrong place. This has been a completely unchanged vista since the 16th century and he wants to ruin it.”

John Elliot, Barnwell’s estate manager, rejected claims that the Duke is absent from the site. Mr Elliot said: “He turns up regularly to the estate. He is a very proactive landowner.”

The landowners point out that wind turbines not only help to reduce carbon emissions but also benefit the local community while helping to maintain expensive, centuries-old estates.

Sir Alastair Gordon-Cumming, a seventh baronet, who runs the Altyre estate near Inverness, who has been given planning consent for 29 turbines on his land, said the wind farm was the “most exciting thing to happen to the estate” for more than 70 years.

According to industry experts, the wind farm will generate income of about £18.5 million a year, half of it as subsidy. A spokeswoman for the Altyre estate refused to say how much money the estate would receive from the deal but industry experts estimate earnings of more than £400,000 a year, based on a going rate of £15,000 rental income per turbine.

The spokeswoman added: “This wind farm will be built on a huge swathe of hill land which is otherwise redundant, has no value, no income potential, and suddenly by being able to put a wind farm on it … that will enable him to sustain and maintain the estate for the benefit of the wider community.”

Gaddafi family secrets could now haunt their aristocratic British friends in high places

‘Fleeting conversation’: Lord Mandelson met with Seif Gaddafi at a party thrown by Jacob Rothschild (pictured with the Business Secretary) in Corfu

Tyrant’s son and secrets that could now haunt his British friends

Daily Mail | Aug 22, 2011

Britain’s political elite could face acute embarrassment if Colonel Gaddafi’s favourite son and heir ends up in the The Hague on war crimes charges.

Saif al-Islam, 39, faces trial for killing, injuring, arresting and imprisoning  hundreds of civilians during the protests.

Any court appearance will almost inevitably lead to further revelations over the lengths the British establishment – including  Prince Andrew – went to in cosying up to the oil-rich state.

In an echo of the final days of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, prosecutors are sure to be asked to wade through thousands of Libyan government files detailing its decades of murky dealings.

Saif was a key player in Libya’s campaign to end its pariah status and renounce nuclear weapons. He became close to leading  figures in the British government after Tony Blair signed the notorious ‘Deal in the Desert’. The March 2004 accord saw British firms such as BP and Shell sign massive contracts with the Libyans.


Libya: Saif Gaddafi – the Hampstead socialite turned despot

Mr Blair’s visit led to negotiations over a prisoner transfer agreement which  ultimately paved the way for the release of the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al Megrahi.

Saif, a former playboy who still owns a £10million house in London, last year described Mr Blair as a ‘personal family friend’ who he said had visited Libya ‘many, many times’ since leaving Downing Street four years ago.

He even claimed that Mr Blair had become an adviser to his family, an allegation which the former PM denied.

Lord Mandelson’s relationship with Saif could also come under the spotlight.

The pair met days before it emerged that Megrahi was to be freed. They were both guests of billionaire financiers Jacob and Nat Rothschild at their Corfu villa in the summer of 2009.

Lord Mandelson, then Business Secretary, even admitted discussing Megrahi’s case with Saif though he insists there was no negotiation. Gaddafi’s son accompanied Megrahi on a flight from Glasgow to Tripoli after the release of the bomber.

In a damning transcript of a conversation obtained by a Sunday newspaper between the pair, Saif told the freed bomber that his name had been ‘on the table in all commercial, oil and gas agreements we supervised during this period’.
Weeks later Saif and Lord Mandelson attended a shooting party at the Rothschilds’ chateau-style mansion in Buckinghamshire.

Should Saif take the witness box in The Hague, he could even try to include Prince Andrew in his ‘web of friends’.

The Duke of York was accused of holding secret ‘detailed discussions’ over the release of the Lockerbie bomber with Saif in 2009. The alleged royal intervention in the controversial affair came while the prince was on an official Foreign Office-sponsored trip to Algeria to open Britain’s new embassy in the country.

Libyan government officials said Saif made a special visit to Algiers to discuss the developments with the prince, who was Britain’s special representative on trade and investment. Buckingham Palace denied any meetings or discussions had taken place.

The links to Britain go back as  far as the 1970s and 1980s when Libya supported terrorist  organisations, including the IRA, in violent campaigns against Western democracies.

During his time in London, Saif studied at the London School of Economics from 2003 to 2008, gaining both a Master of Science degree and a doctorate.

But even his ties with the prestigious university were mired in controversy. The LSE was heavily criticised last year for agreeing to train hundreds of Libya’s future elite. A £2.2million contract was signed with Libya’s Economic Development Board in 2007 for LSE staff to train Libyan civil servants and professionals.

It also accepted an offer of £1.5million in instalments from Saif in 2009 after he was awarded a PhD the previous year. His thesis is now being investigated following claims of plagiarism.

A total of £300,000 was received, which the university later agreed to pay back to the Libyan people in the form of scholarships.

Saif’s financial dealings in Britain might also be exposed in more detail at The Hague.

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