Monthly Archives: January 2012

New Ice Age possible since “Global Warming” ended in 1997

Forget global warming – it’s Cycle 25 we need to worry about (and if NASA scientists are right the Thames will be freezing over again)

Met Office releases new figures which show no warming in 15 years

Daily Mail | Jan 28, 2012

By David Rose

The supposed ‘consensus’ on man-made global warming is facing an inconvenient challenge after the release of new temperature data showing the planet has not warmed for the past 15 years.

The figures suggest that we could even be heading for a mini ice age to rival the 70-year temperature drop that saw frost fairs held on the Thames in the 17th Century.

Based on readings from more than 30,000 measuring stations, the data was issued last week without fanfare by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. It confirms that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997.

Meanwhile, leading climate scientists yesterday told The Mail on Sunday that, after emitting unusually high levels of energy throughout the 20th Century, the sun is now heading towards a ‘grand minimum’ in its output, threatening cold summers, bitter winters and a shortening of the season available for growing food.

Solar output goes through 11-year cycles, with high numbers of sunspots seen at their peak.

We are now at what should be the peak of what scientists call ‘Cycle 24’ – which is why last week’s solar storm resulted in sightings of the aurora borealis further south than usual. But sunspot numbers are running at less than half those seen during cycle peaks in the 20th Century.

Analysis by experts at NASA and the University of Arizona – derived from magnetic-field measurements 120,000 miles beneath the sun’s surface – suggest that Cycle 25, whose peak is due in 2022, will be a great deal weaker still.

According to a paper issued last week by the Met Office, there is a  92 per cent chance that both Cycle 25 and those taking place in the following decades will be as weak as, or weaker than, the ‘Dalton minimum’ of 1790 to 1830. In this period, named after the meteorologist John Dalton, average temperatures in parts of Europe fell by 2C.

However, it is also possible that the new solar energy slump could be as deep as the ‘Maunder minimum’ (after astronomer Edward Maunder), between 1645 and 1715 in the coldest part of the ‘Little Ice Age’ when, as well as the Thames frost fairs, the canals of Holland froze solid.

Yet, in its paper, the Met Office claimed that the consequences now would be negligible – because the impact of the sun on climate is far less than man-made carbon dioxide. Although the sun’s output is likely to decrease until 2100, ‘This would only cause a reduction in global temperatures of 0.08C.’ Peter Stott, one of the authors, said: ‘Our findings suggest  a reduction of solar activity to levels not seen in hundreds of years would be insufficient to offset the dominant influence of greenhouse gases.’

These findings are fiercely disputed by other solar experts.

‘World temperatures may end up a lot cooler than now for 50 years or more,’ said Henrik Svensmark, director of the Center for Sun-Climate Research at Denmark’s National Space Institute. ‘It will take a long battle to convince some climate scientists that the sun is important. It may well be that the sun is going to demonstrate this on its own, without the need for their help.’

He pointed out that, in claiming the effect of the solar minimum would be small, the Met Office was relying on the same computer models that are being undermined by the current pause in global-warming.

CO2 levels have continued to rise without interruption and, in 2007, the Met Office claimed that global warming was about to ‘come roaring back’. It said that between 2004 and 2014 there would be an overall increase of 0.3C. In 2009, it predicted that at least three of the years 2009 to 2014 would break the previous temperature record set in 1998.

So far there is no sign of any of this happening. But yesterday a Met Office spokesman insisted its models were still valid.

‘The ten-year projection remains groundbreaking science. The period for the original projection is not over yet,’ he said.

Dr Nicola Scafetta, of Duke University in North Carolina, is the author of several papers that argue the Met Office climate models show there should have been ‘steady warming from 2000 until now’.

‘If temperatures continue to stay flat or start to cool again, the divergence between the models and recorded data will eventually become so great that the whole scientific community will question the current theories,’ he said.

He believes that as the Met Office model attaches much greater significance to CO2 than to the sun, it was bound to conclude that there would not be cooling. ‘The real issue is whether the model itself is accurate,’ Dr Scafetta said. Meanwhile, one of America’s most eminent climate experts, Professor Judith Curry of the  Georgia Institute of Technology, said she found the Met Office’s confident prediction of a ‘negligible’ impact difficult to understand.

‘The responsible thing to do would be to accept the fact that the models may have severe shortcomings when it comes to the influence of the sun,’ said Professor Curry. As for the warming pause, she said that many scientists ‘are not surprised’.

She argued it is becoming evident that factors other than CO2 play an important role in rising or falling warmth, such as the 60-year water temperature cycles in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

‘They have insufficiently been appreciated in terms of global climate,’ said Prof Curry. When both oceans were cold in the past, such as from 1940 to 1970, the climate cooled. The Pacific cycle ‘flipped’ back from warm to cold mode in 2008 and the Atlantic is also thought likely to flip in the next few years .

Pal Brekke, senior adviser at the Norwegian Space Centre, said some scientists found the importance of water cycles difficult to accept, because doing so means admitting that the oceans – not CO2 – caused much of the global warming between 1970 and 1997.

The same goes for the impact of the sun – which was highly active for much of the 20th Century.

‘Nature is about to carry out a very interesting experiment,’ he said. ‘Ten or 15 years from now, we will be able to determine much better whether the warming of the late 20th Century really was caused by man-made CO2, or by natural variability.’

Meanwhile, since the end of last year, world temperatures have fallen by more than half a degree, as the cold ‘La Nina’ effect has re-emerged in the South Pacific.

‘We’re now well into the second decade of the pause,’ said Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. ‘If we don’t see convincing evidence of global warming by 2015, it will start to become clear whether the models are bunk. And, if they are, the implications for some scientists could be very serious.’

Agenda 21: Conspiracy theory or threat? Commissioners to decide | Jan 25, 2012

by Michael Barrett

The Gaston County Board of Commissioners will consider a resolution condemning Agenda 21 during its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Gaston County Courthouse, 325 N. Marietta St., Gastonia.

When Gaston County commissioners sound an alarm tonight for Americans to wake up and guard against a subversive, sinister threat of global political control, they know many people will scratch their heads.

Others, said Commission Chairman Donnie Loftis, may consider their warning about the “insidious nature of Agenda 21” to be an overreaction.

“I realize there will be folks who say, ‘You guys are drinking the Kool-Aid,” he said.

But Loftis believes the county’s resolution “to heighten awareness of Agenda 21’s impact on communities in the United States” is necessary to shed light on a nefarious United Nations initiative.

On the surface, Agenda 21 is a 1992 blueprint for communities worldwide to use in achieving “sustainable development.” Critics, however, allege it’s a ploy to strangle the American way of life by reducing private property rights, and instilling harsh zoning restrictions and socialist philosophies into local government planning.


“The point is, this is something people do need to know about because it’s happening in other parts of the country,” said Commissioner Tracy Philbeck, who referred to Agenda 21 as a “Marxist weapon.’”

“More people need to be aware of what could be implemented here if we’re not careful,” Philbeck said.

Commissioners are expected to vote on the resolution during their 6 p.m. meeting, as part of the consent agenda.

Roadmap for growth

The United Nations adopted Agenda 21 two decades ago as a global initiative to combat climate change. It endorses practices such as the preservation of green spaces, the availability of good transportation choices, and the prevention of urban sprawl.

President George H.W. Bush agreed to back the initiative in 1992, and President Bill Clinton signed an executive order in 1995 to create a council on sustainable development. But nothing about Agenda 21 is legally binding.

Today, a Google search on Agenda 21 will turn up any number of websites that broadcast the dangerous headway those philosophies are making into American society. Authors of that fear often come across as conspiracy theorists. But they warn that the nature of Agenda 21 as a dull topic is allowing it to fly under the radar and work its way into public policy, while raising minimal suspicion.

Members of the Greater Gaston Tea Party have become the most outspoken local critics of Agenda 21 in the last two years. They allege that its principles of extreme environmentalism are already showing up in Gastonia’s adopted plans for growth and development.

Philbeck, a Tea Party member, said Agenda 21’s influence can be seen in the concept of using eminent domain not for hospitals or highways, but for things such as greenways — something he opposes. His increasing familiarity with the subject led him to suggest that commissioners formally denounce Agenda 21 in a resolution.

Philbeck was spurred into action after hearing Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich warn that Agenda 21 could be used to seize the private property of American citizens.

“You know it’s huge when a presidential candidate is talking about it in a debate,” Philbeck said.

Valid fear or unfounded fantasy?

Agenda 21’s detractors have critics of their own, who say Gingrich and others are playing on conservative phobias.

Eric Heberlig, an associate professor of political science at UNC Charlotte, said he’s not thoroughly familiar with Agenda 21. But the objections to its principles are typical of conservatives who believe climate change is overblown, he said.

“The environmental movement represents the bad guys,” he said. “So anything they are for is seen as being suspicious, or a threat in terms of what their opponents want to see in public policy.”

To Agenda 21 opponents, terms like “sustainable growth,” “livable cities” and “green environments” seem to represent a shadowy, menacing threat, Heberlig said.

“We’re reacting to symbols here,” he said. “If the hippie environmentalists are for it and the United Nations is for it, it must be a bad thing.”

Philbeck points to websites such as as evidence that conservative Republicans aren’t the only ones on alert.

“The folks who are pushing this thing want us to look fanatical,” he said. “That’s why I recommend people go and read Agenda 21 for themselves.”

Philbeck and Loftis said they aren’t against planning for growth and development in Gaston County, but doing so requires a delicate balance.

“It’s a fine line to balance growth without it being micromanaged by government,” Loftis said.

The resolution to be voted on Thursday decries Agenda 21 as “insidious” and having “underlying harmful implications, “destructive strategies” and “radical policies.” Its approval would put Gaston County on record and allow a copy to be sent to other county commissions across the state, and governors and agencies across the country.

“If there are not some checks and balances along the way, I think (Agenda 21) has the potential to involve a slow erosion of local control,” said Loftis. “We don’t want to give that authority away to someone away from here who has a bigger agenda.”

Victory for Jamie Oliver in the U.S. as McDonald’s is forced to stop using ‘pink slime’ in its burger recipe

Up close: Jamie shocked American audiences by showing them the raw ‘pink slime’ produced in the ammonium hydroxide process used by producers named Beef Products Inc (BPI)

TV chef was disgusted to discover ammonium hydroxide was being used by McDonald’s to convert fatty beef offcuts into a beef filler for burgers

‘Why would any sensible human being want to put ammonia-filled meat into their children’s mouths? asked Jamie Oliver

Daily Mail | Jan 27, 2012

By Jill Reilly

After years of trying to break America, Jamie Oliver has finally made his mark by persuading one of the biggest U.S fast food chains in the world to change their burger recipe.

McDonald’s have altered the ingredients after the Naked Chef forced them to remove a processed food type that he labelled ‘pink slime’.

The food activist was shocked when he learned that ammonium hydroxide was being used by McDonald’s to convert fatty beef offcuts into a beef filler for its burgers in the USA.

The filler product made headlines after he denounced it on his show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.

‘Basically, we’re taking a product that would be sold at the cheapest form for dogs and after this process we can give it to humans’ said the TV chef.

Jamie showed American audiences the raw ‘pink slime’ produced in the ammonium hydroxide process used by producers named Beef Products Inc (BPI).

‘Pink slime’ has never been used in McDonald’s beef patties in the UK and Ireland which source their meat from farmers within the two countries.

Now after months of campaigning on his hit US television show McDonald’s have admitted defeat and the fast food giant has abandoned the beef filler from its burger patties.

US Department of Agriculture microbiologist Geral Zirnstein agreed with Jamie that ammonium hydroxide agent should be banned.

‘Pink slime’ has never been used in McDonald’s beef patties in the UK and Ireland which source their meat from farmers within the two countries.

Now after months of campaigning on his hit US television show McDonald’s have admitted defeat and the fast food giant has abandoned the beef filler from its burger patties.

US Department of Agriculture microbiologist Geral Zirnstein agreed with Jamie that ammonium hydroxide agent should be banned.

He said: ‘I do not consider the stuff to be ground beef and I consider allowing it in ground beef to be a form of fraudulent labelling.’

The defiant chef is pleased at the decision by McDonald’s stop using the ammonium hydroxide processes meat.

He said: ‘Why would any sensible human being want to put ammonia-filled meat into their children’s mouths?

‘The great American public needs to urgently understand what their food industry is doing.’

McDonald’s denied its hand had been forced by Jamie’s campaign.

Todd Bacon, Senior Director of U.S. Quality Systems and Supply Chain with the fast food chain, said: ‘At McDonald’s food safety has been and will continue to be a top priority.

‘The decision to remove BPI products from the McDonald’s system was not related to any particular event but rather to support our effort to align our global beef raw material standards.

‘McDonald’s complies with all government requirements and food safety regulations.

‘Furthermore, we have our own food safety measures and standards in place throughout the entire supply chain to ensure that we serve safe, high quality food to every customer, every time they visit our restaurants.’

Two other chains Burger King and Taco Bell have earlier bowed to pressure and removed ammonium hydroxide processed ingredients from their products.

Nobody from Beef products Inc was available for comment.

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution: 70% of America’s Beef is Treated with Ammonia

TSA rail, subway spot-checks raise privacy issues

Riders make more than 10 billion trips a year on U.S. public transit services, according to the American Public Transportation Association. New York City police sometimes screen passenger bags at subway stops. TSA officers may coordinate with police on these operations.

CNN | Jan 28, 2012

By Thom Patterson

(CNN) — Rick Vetter and his teen son got a pretty good look at the legal line between privacy and security last month, as they wrapped up a day trip to Charlotte, North Carolina.

After watching the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons beat the Carolina Panthers, they were looking forward to a three-hour train ride back home to Raleigh when they arrived at the train station.

Walking up a ramp toward the platform, they noticed what appeared to be a uniformed Transportation Security Administration officer holding a leashed police dog.

“He just loosened the leash on the dog, and the dog came over to check me out,” Vetter said. Standing on the platform above Vetter were three other officers who appeared to be wearing bullet-proof vests.

As the guard dog smelled him, Vetter — who has two dogs of his own — told the officer that it probably was reacting to the smell of Vetter’s pets.

“The TSA officer said ‘OK’ or something like that. Then it was clear that the dog had done what he needed to do, and we went on up the ramp to get on the train.”

“I’m sure somebody who wasn’t comfortable with dogs would have found it a lot more disconcerting than I did, but I sort of didn’t worry about it,” said Vetter, an attorney for the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Vetters had encountered VIPR — special TSA Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response teams that are tasked with performing random, unpredictable baggage and security checks at passenger train, subway and bus stations as well as trucking weigh stations across the nation.

TSA officials like to point out that the acronym stands for Transportation Security Administration, not the Airport Security Administration. And that’s where VIPR comes in.

Born after 2004’s Madrid railway bombings, VIPR suffered some embarrassing coordination struggles, transit officials say.

The program has 15 teams and is expanding to get access to 12 new teams to spot-check thousands of transportation depots across the nation.

VIPR teams conducted 3,895 operations in “surface modes” nationwide in 2010, according to the Department of Homeland Security (PDF).

The expansion comes after intelligence from Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan compound revealed al Qaeda plans to target U.S. rail systems on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

At a time when TSA airport searches are unpopular among many air travelers, civil liberties groups say VIPR’s joint participation with local police in “warrantless” searches have been “flying under the radar” in violation of constitutional protections. Transit police say it helps them better guard against attacks like those that have hit Madrid, London and Moscow since 2004.

VIPR teams join local authorities for many of their operations aimed at searching passenger bags. Authorities say officers include plainclothes and uniformed team members — some of them armed — who arrive without telling passengers in advance.

Officers in the joint operations then randomly ask travelers for permission to search their bags for explosives. To prevent accusations of profiling, searchers choose a random number — eight for example — and then search the bags of every eighth passenger before they board.

Also, VIPR observers may be in the vicinity, keeping an eye out for suspicious behavior, police say.

Local and federal authorities insist the searches are not mandatory.

Full Story

New iPhone and iPad app rewards couch potatoes for watching lots of TV

Down time: It would take about three weeks of heavy TV watching to earn a $5 gift card

Viggle listens to what’s on TV and gives approximately two points per minute watched  

App collects demographic information such as age, gender, ZIP code, and email address

New iPhone and iPad app rewards couch potatoes for watching TV – with gift certificates to Burger King and Starbucks

Daily Mail | Jan 24, 2012

Want to earn stuff by merely watching TV? There’s an app for that.

A new app slated to be released today for iPhones and iPads rewards viewers for watching shows – the more shows the better.

When you tap the screen, Viggle’s software for iPhones and iPads listens to what’s on, recognizes what you’re watching and gives you credit at roughly two points per minute.

It even works for shows you’ve saved on a digital video recorder.

Rack up 7,500 points, and you’ll be rewarded with a $5 gift card from retailers such as Burger King, Starbucks, Apple’s iTunes, Best Buy and CVS, which you can redeem directly from your device.


HULU Commercials are Brutally Honest (video)

But the company plans to offer bonus points for checking into certain shows such as American Idol and 1,500 points for signing up.

You can also get extra points for watching an ad on your device. The beta version awarded 100 points for watching a 15-second ad from Verizon Wireless.

The venture was launched by American Idol backer Robert Sillerman, whose former company, CKX, owns the popular show.

‘Viggle is the first loyalty program for TV,’ said Chris Stephenson, president of the company behind Viggle, Function (X) Inc. ‘We’re basically allowing people to get rewards for doing something they’re doing already and that they love to do.’

The idea behind Viggle is that by giving people an added reason to watch TV, the size of the audience will increase, thereby allowing makers of shows to earn more money from advertisers.

Advertisers such as Burger King, Pepsi and Gatorade have also agreed to pay to have point-hungry users watch their ads on a mobile device.

In exchange, users earn points, which Viggle converts into real value by buying gift cards at a slight discount from retailers.

If the company gets the point-count economy right, it can end up making more money from advertisers and networks than it gives away in rewards.

The app will also give the company valuable insight into who is watching what, as redeeming rewards requires putting in your age, gender, email address and ZIP code.

‘It really shows what social TV is going to evolve into,’ said Michael Gartenberg, a technology analyst at research firm Gartner. ‘For folks behind the scenes, this is a great way of seeing who really is watching.’

The company hopes that user activity will grow by word of mouth, especially by offering a 200-point bonus to people who successfully get their friends to try out the service.

The app makes its debut in Apple Inc.’s app store on Wednesday. Versions for Android devices and computers are in the works.

The company has put in some safeguards. You must watch a show at least ten minutes to earn bonus points.

And you can’t watch the same ad over and over again to earn more points; there’s a one-ad-view-per-person rule.

Function (X) has brought in $100million in investment capital, and its stock trades on the Pink Sheets, a platform that allows people to buy shares but doesn’t require the company release its financial results.

Function (X) currently has a market value of about $1billion.

24 hour shifts, suicide nets, toxic exposure and explosions: Inside the Chinese iPad factories

Unpleasant sight: Nets to prevent workers from jumping to their deaths are pictured outside one of the Foxconn factory buildings in the township of Longhua, in southern Guangdong province

‘Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow’

– Banner in Chengdu plant

  •     ‘Working excessive overtime without a single day off during the week’
  •     ‘Living together in crowded dorms and exposure to dangerous chemicals’
  •     Two explosions in 2011 in China ‘due to aluminum dust’ killed four workers
  •     Almost 140 injured after using toxin in factory, reports New York Times

‘Forced to stand for 24 hours, suicide nets, toxin exposure and explosions’: Inside the Chinese factories making iPads for Apple

Daily Mail | Jan 27, 2012

By Mark Duell

Working excessive overtime without a single day off during the week, living together in crowded dormitories and standing so long that their legs swell and they can hardly walk after a 24-hour shift.

These are the lives some employees claim they live at Apple’s manufacturing centres in China, where the firm’s suppliers allegedly wrongly dispose of hazardous waste and produce improper records.

Almost 140 workers at a supplier in China were injured two years ago using a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens – and two explosions last year killed four people while injuring more than 75.

The California tech giant had allegedly been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant in southwest China before the explosions at those plants, reported the New York Times.

‘If Apple was warned and didn’t act, that’s reprehensible,’ Massachusetts Institute of Technology work safety expert Nicholas Ashford told the New York Times.

‘But what’s morally repugnant in one country is accepted business practices in another, and companies take advantage of that,’ the former U.S. Labor Department advisor added.

Banners in the Chengdu plant gave a warning to the 120,000 staff: ‘Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow’. Workers who arrived late often had to write confession letters.

The newspaper’s report comes hot on the heels of Apple announcing whopping $13billion profits on $46billion sales in its last quarter – but the firm still wants its overseas factories to produce more.

Apple executives claim it has improved factories in recent years and issues a supplier code of conduct on labour and safety – but problems still exist, according to employment advocacy groups.

More than half of the suppliers audited by Apple have broken at least one part of its conduct code each year since 2007 and have even broken the law in some cases, according to company reports.

A Foxconn employee jumped or fell from a block of flats after losing an iPhone prototype in 2009 – and 18 other workers apparently tried to commit suicide in two years, reported the New York Times.

Suicide nets were installed to prevent workers from jumping to their deaths and Foxconn began providing better mental health treatment for its staff.

Li Mingqi worked for Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn Technology until last spring and helped manage the Chengdu plant which had the explosion. He is now suing Foxconn over his dismissal.

‘Apple never cared about anything other than increasing product quality and decreasing production cost,’ Mr Li told the New York Times. ‘Workers’ welfare has nothing to do with their interests.’

The fatal Chengdu explosion came from an aluminium dust build up three weeks after the iPad came out. Despite Apple’s probe, seven months on there was a further, non-fatal, explosion in Shanghai.

A former Apple executive claimed that the company has had knowledge of labour abuses in some factories for four years – ‘and they’re still going on because the system works for us’.

Suppliers are only allowed the smallest margins on what they produce for Apple, and executives at the Cupertino company always ask them for details on part costs, worker numbers and salary sizes.

But workers at a factory of Apple partner Wintek went on strike after rumours that employees were exposed to toxins because they evaporated three times faster than alcohol when rubbing screens.

Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs, who died last October, said two years ago that Apple is a worldwide leader in ‘understanding the working conditions in our supply chain’.

He said many of the factories have restaurants, cinemas, hospitals and swimming pools. While staff say they appreciate these facilities, the working conditions are still seen as relentless.

Foxconn said conditions are ‘anything but harsh’, just one in 20 workers assembly line workers must stand to do their jobs and the firm has a ‘very good safety record’, reported the New York Times.

But the Mail on Sunday visited a Foxconn factory making iPods in Shenzhen, China, in 2006, and our reports on long hours, crowded accommodation and punishments shocked Apple executives.

‘We’re trying really hard to make things better,’ one former Apple executive told the New York Times. ‘But most people would still be really disturbed if they saw where their iPhone comes from.’

Tibetan Temples Forced to Display Communist Leader Portraits

A woman passes in front of a poster featuring Communist Party leaders of China including Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao in Shanghai, China. Kevin Lee/Bloomberg

NTD TV | Jan 27, 2012

January 22nd, 2012, the eve of Chinese New Year. Chinese officials in the Tibet Autonomous Region held a ceremony to unveil a portrait of four Communist leaders: Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. They go on to state that they will send these portraits, as well as Communist flags, to villages, homes, and temples in the region.

It’s estimated that one million of these items have already been sent.

Chair of the Chinese Social Democratic Party, Liu Yinquan, believes the Chinese Communist Party is trying to use its symbols to replace those of traditional Tibetan Buddhism.

[Liu Yinquan, Chair of Chinese Social Democratic Party]:

“The Communist regime uses its single party rule and its party culture and symbols to slowly eliminate the Buddhist faith. This is in accordance with the religious policy that the Communist Party has always had. The Chinese Communist Party, on the surface, its constitution allows religious freedom, but it is actually changing religion, using religion to strengthen its single party rule, turning religion into a tool for its united front.”

In December 2011, authorities in Tibet introduced the “Nine Must-Haves” policy. It dictates nine items that all temples must display or carry portraits of Communist leaders, the Communist flag and a copy of the state-run People’s Daily.

[Liu Yinquan, Chair of Chinese Social Democratic Party]:
“Every situation has its specified ornaments, a temple is a place to worship the Buddha. So it should have the Buddhist scriptures, a Buddha statue, it has to have these things that are related to Buddhism. If you bring these other things in, it will make it all messed up.”

On the Lunar New Year itself, and just one day after the portrait ceremony, Chinese forces opened fire on Tibetan protesters in a Tibetan region of Sichuan. Recent clashes have left dozens of people wounded, with reports of several deaths.

The Chinese regime will close Tibet from February 20th until March 30th. That’s during the Tibetan New Year and the anniversary of the 2008 Tibetan riots, both sensitive dates for the regime.

Rothschild: Siberian sauna with Russian oligarch and Lord Mandelson was purely for pleasure

Millionaire financier Rothschild defends Mandelson’s invite on Siberian sight-seeing tour

Daily Mail | Jan 24, 2012

By Vanessa Allen


Financier Nat Rothschild, has denied claims he took Lord Mandelson to Siberia to clinch a £500million deal

Millionaire financier Nat Rothschild invited Peter Mandelson to Siberia for a sightseeing break, not to ‘bless’ a £500million deal, he said yesterday.

The 2005 invitation to the then EU trade chief was made because Mr Rothschild knew he had no weekend plans, he told the High Court.

The hedge fund manager was giving evidence at the start of his libel case against the Daily Mail over a 2010 article which said he invited Lord Mandelson in an effort to impress Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Lawyers for Mr Rothschild, 40, who is financial adviser to Mr Deripaska, said the article painted him as a ‘puppet-master’ involved in ‘dubious games’ with the former New Labour spin doctor and Russia’s richest man.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Mr Rothschild, said it was ‘fanciful’ to suggest the trip was engineered to allow discussions between the newly appointed European trade commissioner and Mr Deripaska.


Nathaniel Rothschild says sauna with Lord Mandelson was purely pleasure, not business

Lord Mandelson’s relationship with the oligarch came under the spotlight in 2008, when he was Business Secretary.

He faced criticism over a potential conflict of interest surrounding a summer visit to the billionaire’s yacht in Corfu, along with then Shadow Chancellor George Osborne.

The 2010 Mail article raised questions about Lord Mandelson’s presence at a January 2005 dinner in Moscow, which was said to have resulted in a £500millon deal between Mr Deripaska and U.S. aluminium executives.

Mr Tomlinson said Lord Mandelson was not a guest at the dinner, but had visited the table briefly while he waited for his host, a Russian minister, to arrive at the restaurant.

He told the High Court that the deal was done before the dinner without any involvement from the former New Labour architect.

Mr Tomlinson said Lord Mandelson and Mr Deripaska were both at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a week earlier and could have discussed the EU’s position on aluminium tariffs then, if there had been any need for them to do so.

They did not need to do so at the dinner, he said, nor during the subsequent 24-hour visit to Mr Deripaska’s holiday home in a Siberian ski resort.

In written evidence to the court, Mr Rothschild said he invited Lord Mandelson on the trip because ‘he had no plans for the weekend and did not know people in Brussels’.

Mr Tomlinson said: ‘The case now put forward by the newspaper is that Mr Rothschild took Lord Mandelson on a trip to Siberia in order to impress Mr Deripaska when he knew, or ought to have known, that if anyone had found out about it, Lord Mandelson would have been compromised.

‘It is also said there were grounds for believing that Lord Mandelson discussed aluminium tariffs with Mr Deripaska on that trip and the claimant encouraged the inappropriate relationship. Our case is that there is no truth in any of that.’

Swiss-based Mr Rothschild said he was ‘incredibly upset and distressed’ by the article, adding: ‘It had absolutely no bearing to the truth whatsoever. It was fiction.’

He is seeking ‘very substantial damages’ from Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the Daily Mail. The hearing continues.

Thursday was coldest day of the year globally since 2002 | Jan 24, 2012

Bitter cold winter weather broke some records last week in Merritt and around the world.

The thermometer’s Jan. 18 reading of a high of -21 degrees in Merritt was the coldest Jan. 18 since Environment Canada began recording temperatures in 1968. An arctic front plunged the Nicola Valley and much of the province into a deep freeze last week, with Environment Canada issuing extreme wind chill alerts that brought temperatures down between -35 and -45.

The following day, Jan. 19, the AMSU satellite of 251.858K recorded the coldest day of the year globally since 2002, based on the daily global average temperature.

Things warmed up considerably in the valley by the weekend with temperatures hovering just below and above zero.

Environment Canada forecasts mild temperatures throughout the week and this weekend with highs and lows between -5 and 7 degrees.

Hongkong shivered through coldest Lunar New Year holiday in 16 years

Fortune favors the brave in big chill | Jan 26, 2012

by Kenneth Foo

Hongkongers shivered through the coldest Lunar New Year holiday in 16 years, with the mercury plunging to seven degrees Celsius in urban areas yesterday and going under three degrees in Ngong Ping on Lantau.

The third day of the Year of the Water Dragon brought frost to high places in the Northern New Territories and a chilling 5.6 degrees outdoors for residents.

The Hong Kong Observatory said it was the coldest Lunar New Year holiday since 1996 and that the cold snap will continue for a few days, though it will be slightly warmer at the weekend.

Hong Kong Union Hospital said 13 people were admitted to its accident and emergency ward with hypothermia over the past two days.

The Home Affairs Department opened temporary shelters throughout the territory last night.

But the cold snap failed to stop thousands of worshippers from flocking to Che Kung temple in Sha Tin in search of luck, fortune and blessings.

Businessman Ronnie Loh Kim-sum was one of them, taking his wife and three children along.

“Year after year, I come to pray for my family’s health as no amount of money or power can buy you good health,” said Loh.

Teacher Amy Ko Kin-yam said she prayed for the recovery of her father, who suffered a stroke last year and is bedridden.

Most worshippers stuck to plan – drawing fortune sticks carrying inscribed numbers, a traditional Taoist practice that is said to predict one’s fortune in the year ahead.

Property agent Lee Soon-fai was told he would have a
“sudden windfall” shortly after his 36th birthday this year.

On Tuesday, Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat drew, on behalf of the people of Hong Kong, “average” stick number 29.

A fortune stick reader said Hong Kong faces problems in the year ahead, but if they are resolved, the rewards can be great.

Renowned fortune-teller James Lee Shing-chak said the stick indicates Hong Kong will see a lot of falsehood and gossip this year.

Meanwhile, many vendors at the Che Kung Festival Fair said the many patches of drizzle and biting cold hit profits, forcing business down by 20 to 30 percent and sending many of them home early.