A flock of birds chased off the Red Arrows at Rhyl Air Show last Sunday. Very good display all around!
Russia is playing a blinder over the Ukraine and will get just what it wants.
I don’t believe they have – or ever had – any intention of full scale invasion and/or annexation in the way they took the Crimea. The Ukrainian economy is in crisis and the ethnic mix will always make the country toxic to attempts at external control. Putin’s goals will be to make the EU and NATO look like chumps and keep the Ukraine destabilised.
Putin knows that the EU will drag its heels over helping the Ukraine. Having cut the Ukraine’s fuel supply, he just needs to wait another six weeks for winter to arrive and the tenuous political consensus in the country will break down in the face of the practical problem of survival. And NATO will not admit a new member who has not got a stable government!
Russia will then still have a big customer right next door (population 45 million), but if kept unstable, perhaps with a bubbling civil conflict – certainly without any single, credible government – the Ukraine will pose no threat to Russia, and will not be a drain on Russia’s economy.
Looks like Putin has again outwitted the West.
As soon as I heard Google’s Chromecast was available in the UK I had to have one.
I knew useful apps are in their infancy (although BBC iPlayer and YouTube both work very well), but I particularly wanted a Chromecast to stream (“cast”) videos, music and pictures I already own and store on my own computers, tablet and ‘phone – and consign the Xbox 360 to the skip!
But casting local content is not yet as easy as we might hope, given this is a Google technology. Trawling the web and experimenting has given me some useful insights, so I thought I would share these. If you know of any better ways to cast local content, I would love to hear.
So, ways to cast local content I have used are:
- Set up Chromecast with Chrome, click the Cast button in the Chrome toolbar (top right hand area) of your browser. WARNING: CAN SEEM SLUGGISH
- Click the Cast button in Chrome, click the little down arrow box in the pop-up, and select “Cast entire screen”
- Videostream (http://www.getvideostream.com/features.html) – good quality/speed, but restricted formats (e.g. won’t play AVI).
- LocalCast Media 2 – tried it, utter rubbish, uninstalled!
- Chrome browser itself (or casting the desktop) can play many media formats, including AVI, MP4, and MKV. Open new Chrome tab & press Ctrl+O to play their locally-stored videos from the browser, and then stream it to Chromecast via the Google Cast browser extension. WARNING: SLOW & JUDDERY
- LocalCast Media 2 – works OK, but one track at a time, painful!
- Dayframe app – seems OK initially, butwill not connect to DropBox and very difficult to get it to cast correct files; occasionally seems fixed on a single picture.
- LocalCast Media 2 – didn’t even try it (other problems too big to tollerate!)
SOLUTIONS NOT TRIED YET:
- TRY: running the Plex server as a player in a Chrome PC window (free), and then casting the tab using the Google Cast Extension.
- TRY: For WMV files, you need install windows media player firefox plugin in firefox, then, Chrome can play such files in Chrome. Yes install the plugin in Firefox browser, then the files can be played in CHrome….
- TRY: For some MPEG files, you need to download and install QuickTime. Then, you can play such files in Chrome.
Chopping down 150 year old Holmes Oak trees in North Wales because they are not native (whatever that means) may seem the harmless actions of some purists of mind in Natural Resources Wales (the environmental “regulator”).
But it is a step on a very dangerous road.
It led, a few days ago, to the killing (in a cynical and theatrical way) of Marius the baby giraffe, because Copenhagen Zoo say the EU don’t allow “in breeding”.
And a decade ago it led to the slaughter of Ruddy Ducks being endorsed by – of all people – the RSPB, as they breed with White Headed Ducks and spoil their genetic purity.
Sweden was caught having practiced eugenics on humans for decades – between 1935 and 1976 over 60,000 young Swedish women were forcibly sterilised, to improve the human gene pool.
We all know what happened in the 1930s, with the Nazis seeking to protect and improve the “blood purity” of the human species.
Weeding out some old trees may seem innocent enough, but who is to say who will end up being “weeded out” when this way of thinking is pursued to its logical end?
During the summer I had to have a plaster cast on a leg and went to hospital several times for it to be changed.
The Plaster Room is usually a fairly subdued place, but on one occasion it was quite distressingly different. There was the general bustle of activity, the noise of harmless circular saws and – on this unusual day – several very young children being treated for arm or leg injuries.
It was not so much the children’s screaming as their terrified pleading for their mothers’ protection – seemingly unsuccessfully – that was so upsetting.
The children were being hurt and scared without anything they could do about it. The adults all knew they would come to no harm, but young children could not understand that. The terror of their utter helplessness would move anyone to tears.
And my thoughts have since turned to others, like lambs or calves in abattoirs. They, too, are hurt, terrified and utterly helpless. And, as we know, for them there is no happy ending.
I do not know why decent people will not stop inflicting pain and appalling distress upon other sentient creatures just because they like to eat them.
Mercy for the helpless seems too much to ask, despite British people having full knowledge of what they do and the dire consequences for other beings.
So that day in the hospital Plaster Room made my mind up for me: we need to grow as much meat in labs as soon as we can, so we will stop inflicting terror and pain on the utterly helpless.
It is worth repeating that in Britain we have scientifically proven standards we regard as appropriate for animal welfare whilst the majority of people regard religious faith as unproven. So protection of animals from suffering should not be secondary to religious beliefs.
The number of animals being slaughtered without first being stunned is between 25% – 40% of all meat produced in the UK, around 10 – possibly 2O – times the total possible market for such meat. The Government should ensure animals are dealt with humanely, rather than producers using a cultural/religious pretext to increase their own profits.
A petition has been launched to try to address this, with a target of 25,000 signatures: http://tinyurl.com/ntm2lx3
“The fact that Halal butchers are immune from the law against slaughtering animals without pre stunning them, is blatantly wrong. It is unacceptable, that in a civilised society, innocent animals can be tortured to death in this way. Therefore, we the undersigned demand that the vulgar and cruel practise of Halal Slaughter be banned in the United Kingdom.”
People often tell Stephen Frythat he shouldn’t call himself an atheist, he should call himself an agnostic because he can‘t know there isn’t a God, and therefore he must be agnostic. Bertrand Russell answered this one brilliantly many years ago.
Bertrand Russell said
“Many things are beyond the realm of absolute knowledge in any sense, but let me put it to you that there is a teapot orbiting Venus in such a manner that we will never be able to see it. It is obscured from our vision. Now, if someone were to tell me that there were such a teapot, I could not demonstrate to them that they were wrong, but I would be perfectly within the limits of orthodox practice and sense and, I would say, philosophical rectitude, if I were to base my life, perfectly happy, in the belief and certain ‘knowledge, as certain as .knowledge as can be, that, there is no teapot revolving Venus. And that is why I call myself an atheist.“
Sorry, I couldn’t resist quoting Stephen Fry quoting Bertrand Russell in an interview with the Radio Times, 24-30/08/13, Sort of a “Re-Tweet”!
Interesting article on food security, but which failed to reach the obvious conclusion. To be more “food secure” in an increasingly unstable world, the single most effective measure would for us to move to a vegetarian diet.
In “What Future Our Food” (see latest edition of Unite the Union’s magazine), agricultural scientist Dr Clutterbuck points out that leaving our food security to the market is not working, and we are becoming ever less self sufficient.
But Dr Clutterbuck’s article – and his website – misses that most fundamental thing we could do to achieve his laudable goals, that food production should be “Environmentally friendly, Socially just and Economically beneficial.” Go veggie!
Research shows that vegetarian diets are well suited to protect the environment, to reduce pollution, and to minimize global climate changes.
Livestock farming has a massively detrimental effect on the world and it is unnecessary. These are some of the most important factors.
1. Self sufficiency:
It may always be better to produce what you are good at and trade this with others, better at producing other foods. But as a nation we should always be able to meet at least our own people’s minimum food needs, which we cannot.
2. Food insecurity:
We are incredibly vulnerable. Remember the “food price spike” of 2008, where some food prices here rose by 40% or more? This was caused by our dependence upon imports. On the global markets, the 12 months to March 2008 saw the wheat price rise 130%, soya by 87% and rice jump by 74%.
3. Over-dependence on meat:
UK food insecurity is made worse by our over-dependence upon meat. 40% of all proteins used for animal feed in the UK are from soya, 90% of which is imported from Brazil and Argentina. If soya supplies from these two countries were restricted (and we were at war with one quite recently) it is hard to see how we could feed our farmed animals, and therefore ourselves.
4. Greenhouse gases:
Livestock farming produces more emissions than all the world’s transport systems.
5. Farming made better:
Stock-free farmers are not at the mercy of feed price fluctuations, animal disease ceases to be a problem. Stock-free farms can often be self sufficient, with better margins and not so reliant upon jumping through hoops for subsidies.
6. Water conservation:
It takes thousands of times the amount of water to produce a kilo of beef than to grow the same quantity of grains, vegetables or pulses.
7. Water quality:
Manure, antibiotics and hormones all find their way from livestock farms into our water system, while fish farms release chemicals and parasites that threaten wildlife.
8. Rainforest destruction:
Livestock production is responsible for 70% of Amazon deforestation.
9. Oceans destruction:
Industrial fishing practices are destroying fragile eco-systems and wiping out whole populations of sea creatures.
Over one third of the world’s cereals are used as animal feed (this could rise to 50% by 2050) which is incredibly inefficient. The UN Environment Programme calculated that the calories lost by feeding grain to livestock could feed more than 3.5 billion people.
11. Eat the good stuff:
Animals and fish consume at least half – sometimes up to 90% – of all the energy input to produce their own flesh. So we could produce massive amounts more food simply by taking cereals, vegetables and fruit straight to our own plates! And there is now such a range of vegetarian products – which can either mimic or replace meat – that all tastes can be served.
12. Wholesome ingredients:
Recent food scandals (with unknown and untraceable meats being found in things like burgers and ready meals) show that appearances can be deceptive; if ingredients are UK produced and vegetarian, then UK consumers need not fear the consequences of being duped.
13. Better animal welfare:
Factory and intensive farming and fishing are very poor for animal welfare. With increasing pressure to produce more for less, cruel practices increase. It almost goes with saying that it is far better for animals if they are not involved in meat production!
You can join in the discussion with Dr Clutterbuck at: https://sites.google.com/site/ukfoodsupply/services
Sources: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Unite Works magazine, Vegan society, Vegetarian Society, www.sustainablefood.com.
William Hague’s “If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear” is simplistic nonsense, as well he knows.
To accept it as true, you need to believe the state:
- is incapable of error
- will never draw the wrong conclusion
- employs no-one with the wrong motives, and
- is and forever will be benign.
You just cannot swallow all that! I am not talking fanciful stuff about despots in other countries:
- Miscarriages of justice are not rare
- The Metropolitan Police branded protesters occupying parts of the City of Londong in 2011-12 as terrorists.
- This week the our Government apologised and paid compensation to people tortured in the Malayan Mau Mau uprising
- And remember how Thatcher criminalized whole communities during the mining industrial dispute.
Hague is trying to engender an acceptance that everyone should be under suspicion at all times and an nil expectation of privacy – something taken to extremes in places like the former East Germany and Franco Spain, which is surely not how we want to live our lives in 21st Century Britain?
Interest-free loans to cover deposits, so more people can get mortgages, is the wrong choice by the Chancellor for the country’s economy.
As the National Housing Federation said yesterday (20th March), investing £3.5 billion this will cost in cheap housing could deliver up to 175,000 homes.
Private sector completions have stayed fairly consistent over a long period, albeit with a small dip last year, so the market has found its level. But completions of low cost or social housing (the term “affordable” is pretty meaningless!) are almost non-existent.
Spending huge amounts to help people get mortgages – putting more of our money into the banks’ coffers – will stimulate demand, without increasing supply: so house prices are likely to go up, which does not help the economy.
An active construction industry is good for the economy as a whole, as money spent on materials, direct labour, contractors and services spins off and multiplies in the economy as whole. And we all know a lot more low cost housing is needed.
It is not rocket science: if there are billions of pounds available for the housing sector, the right choice would have been to build more housing!