August 2009

Swine flu could be good for pigs...

...and our morals.

This is a video of happy pigs. Pigs are highly intelligent and organised animals.

The Evening Standard writes that US exports of pork fell 20% in the first half of this year after the H1N1 virus outbreak in April led to import restrictions in China and Russia.

US farmers are losing $30 to $35 on every pig they sell this month and may not make money until May, dealers say. Producers have been unprofitable for 20 of the 22 months to July, and more than 5000 of them may have to exit the business. Swine flu will contribute to an 11% drop in global pork trade this year.

Many claim that the barbaric, intensive, industrial farming methods in which over half the world's pig meat is produced could well be responsible for swine flu. Huge industrial farms are perfect breeding grounds for dangerous pathogens and influenza viruses.

Twitter arithmetic

The significance of numbers

Frankie Howerd Frankie Howerd

As predicted the death toll of UK soldiers in Afghanistan has exceeded 200 in 8 years. This totemic figure will ensure that the media spotlight will shine brightly, for a while, on a number of issues given a trial run recently - equipment shortages is an obvious one. But let's wait and see for it's unlikely that anything related to strategy will be part of a wider public debate.

Tragic as the 200 deaths are they have to be seen alongside the 30,000 over 5 years in NHS hospitals from superbugs, reported in the Telegraph. Over the same period as the war in Afghanistan this would be 48,000 deaths. What a strange world it is, the deaths of soldiers only jars the national conscience when the figure has a certain resonance, yet deaths from superbugs appear to be running at over 100 per week. But the only hint of a debate, which soon turns into a bipolar rant, is when MEP Daniel Hannan makes his opinions of the concept of 'Big State' as related to health provision known on a US TV news programme.

Photographers fight back


The Register tells us that activists have set up a new national campaign group to protect photography, and protesters are getting ready to take to the streets in Chatham. They have set up a national website, facebook and twitter sites. They state:

Photography is under attack. Across the country it that seems anyone with a camera is being targeted as a potential terrorist, whether amateur or professional, whether landscape, architectural or street photographer.

The site gives a useful bust card you can download, which tells you your rights if stopped and searched.

Why Chatham? Well the latest victim was Alex Turner. He took a photo of a WPC in Chatham High Street who referred to his size - 5' 11" and about 12 stone - implying that she found it intimidating! And she is meant to protect us!

Turner claims he was handcuffed, held in a police van for around 20 minutes, and forced to provide ID before they would release him. He was then searched in public by plain clothes officers who failed to provide any ID before they did so.

Can we trust them with our data?

Another disaster waiting to happen

No we can'tNo we can't

The children's cartoon character Bob the builder gave us the line -”Can we fix it”? To which the children and not a few adults would reply “yes we can”! Well there's confidence for you!

It's now clear that at least 34 people have been illegally looking at information held on central government databases to which local authority workers have access; only 9 were sacked and none prosecuted. We learn this from a story at first doing the rounds of the IT specialist press, but now spreading out into the mainstream media.

The UK armed services, what next?

What do we want, what can we afford?

Built in Scotland? Built in Scotland?
The new top man in the army, General Sir David Julian Richards KCB,CBE,DSO,ADC, inherits a position founded on tradition. In his first interview as top man Gen Richards has also told us he thinks the UK military may be in Afghanistan for 40 years. Very often expats, like immigrants, have a memory of the country they left conditioned by: the date of leaving, the frequency of return visits and their willingness to absorb the changes taking place back home. In other words, unless careful, they are soon stuck with time-warped half truths. The tradition in soldering is that you spend a lot of time abroad; how up to date is Gen Richards? For a start perhaps someone should tell him that the UK is not, financially speaking, the country it once was; can the UK afford a 40 year campaign?

The UK broadsheets have in recent weeks carried a number of letters from retired military men letting the enemy have a broadside in the form of their opinion. So who was the enemy? Well often it was the other two services! This may have come as a bit of a shock to some but fear not, this is perfectly normal! Anyone who has taken an interest in the military will have spotted this, the equipment procurement process reinforces the prejudices.

We're all spivs now!

Saints reduced to sinners

Spivs at rest Spivs at rest
Picture the scene, Saint Polly Toynbee aided by Michael White and Martin Kettle tapping away at their keyboards within the citadel of the Guardian, building a better Britain . As always they are on the lookout for a cause to help, always knowing evil when they see it; the terrible world of capitalism for example, one should always been on guard against that.

So, advice for errant bankers, hedge fund managers, investors and various other spivs poured fourth from their labours, but all to no avail. For while they were at work the very forces they sought to negate were gnawing away at the seemingly solid foundations of the Guardian empire. We are told that the Guardian has lost £24m in bungled currency trading see HERE. It really is hard not to smile!

Heads or tails?

Are we confused?

The cuckoo The cuckoo

The recession, are you confused? At what state in the cyclical nature of things are we? Take the Royal Bank of Scotland, now part owned by the taxpayer, it's in the news right now.

The Times has a headline - 'RBS returns to profit but warns of grim times'

While the Telegraph tells us - 'RBS warns there will be no 'miracle cure' as it tumbles to £1bn loss'

So, same bank, different stories, same day. Is this the most complicated recession ever? If you read each article you will find both to be a bit of a numbers' soup. Having declared RBS to have made a loss or a profit the newspaper then goes onto 'prove' it.

MI5, nothing 2 hide, nothing 2 lose!

NO2ID, it's obvious really

Nothing 2 hide Nothing 2 hide

Anyone following the NO2ID campaign either as a member or supporter will both have grown used to, and been made weary by, comments by the confused such as “I've got nothing to hide”. This little mantra is trotted out as if it is the coup de grâce in the debate. It is, of course, nothing of the sort, it is meaningless. It is not an endorsement of ID cards and the supporting database.

The same people who trot out this remark would be justifiably horrified if their neighbours were sent copies of their health records. But of course this sort of thing 'never' happens. We can all sleep soundly while the state watches over us. Up to a point Lord Copper, up to a point!

For we now see that not only does the state lose our data if fails to protect it too.


Aunt Julia and the databases

Aunt Julia.Aunt Julia.

When Soham murderer, Ian Huntley applied for his caretaker job at Soham Village College his references were never checked. Also the company responsible for co-ordinating checks on staff for many Cambridgeshire schools never verified certain details such as former addresses or possible aliases.The director of Employment Personnel Management Ltd, said they relied on the "honesty of the applicant".

The police muddled up their searches and despite knowing Huntley used an alias failed to check/link the two names.