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Fool on the Hill

December 11 2005

Anyone for a barbie?

A fuel supply depot in Hemel Hempstead explodes into a fireball at 6 in the morning, and seven hours later is still burning. BP immediately send tankers with fuel to the area. Not to add to the fire, but to ensure drivers aren't deprived of their right to drive whenever and wherever they wish. Located at a place called Leverstock Green [now known as Leverstock Black] surrounded by businesses and housing, this time bomb attracted no attention previously. Now those living close to other fuel stocks will be having second thoughts, as will the insurance companies. Read all about it at the BBC website!

With the smoke cloud drifting over Essex and London, the smell of burning fuel is likely to incite an overwhelming urge to have a BBQ among some, burning fuel and burning flesh going together. So there's probably thousands heading for Hemel Hempstead complete with their barbies, a supply of animal parts and their video cameras to record the event. They may get stuck in the jams that are happening as a result of the smoke, which could combine with the fog reported in the area, and a return to the smog of the sixties. Motorways shut off and all major roads into London disrupted for at least a couple of days.

This follows the day after celebrations by suits at the UN meeting to ratify the Kyoto protocols which will supposedly save the world from climate change, amidst much jubilation, celebration and even tears. Almost as if they had actually achieved something more than getting a load of signatures on a document, and with the US whingeing, blustering and protesting all the way, but not quite withdrawing totally, which is seen as some sort of victory. All the talk is of money to be made and jobs to be created, emmissions trading being the buzz word, rather than actually reducing them. This fire will substantially add to the carbon burden poor planet Earth is suffering, but no doubtless it's tradeable and someone will make money from it, so that's all right then.

And meanwhile, Tehran is suffocating under a smog of its own creation. Ringed by mountains, its car use has soared in recent years and now the weather has acted to hold it all down rather than blow it somewhere else, and the city is choking with no respite in sight. Makes a change for the pollution from cars to have such an immediate and local effect. They're not celebrating Kyoto in Tehran. Asthma sufferers there and in London and Essex will be having a tough time for the following days.

December 9 2005

BBC News right from here!

I feel priviledged as I now have a BBC News box, on the left, having been accepted by the BBC to carry their code and links to the latest stories. This is indeed an honour as the BBC is respected all over the planet for its unbiased and accurate news reporting, and has been known to piss off governments, including our own, which is always a good sign for a news broadcaster. Sky, on the other hand, pisses nobody off, except viewers who get tired of their American excusing stance, well, they are owned by Fox so what more to expect?

All the headlines are there to read, and if further detail is required, a click on that story takes you straight to the relevent page on the BBC site. Brilliant, I shall probably use it myself!

The war continues to unwind, and mire the coalition in accusations and controversy. It is now a minority who support it even in the US, and they will be reducing rapidly over the next few months. Moves are afoot to put Bush and Blair before the international court on war crimes charges, and both are looking increasingly shaky on the subject, their previous swaggering arrogance replaced with furtive evasion. Bush can only appear in front of cheering grunts begging to be sent off to die, and the more the merrier I say, self selecting DNA removal, sounds about right to me. Ten more got blown apart recently, which is ten less US fascist servants for the world to put up with. Texas, a favourite recruiting ground for the military machine, has Kinky Friedman going for Governor with the slogan 'Why the hell not', and I hear Austin is smothered with posters saying Keep Austin Wierd'. I'm still waiting for the real America to wake up and chuck these phonies out and return their country to the civilised nations club. If it happens, it'll be right here in the BBC box first!

The major news item is the US use of torture of suspects, and the CIA movement of them all over the world to their network of totture camps. Eastern European countries, ever willing to suck up to the big bully and maybe get some crumbs passed to them, are implicated, with US prison camps where, free from US legislation and therefore prosecution, the evil nazis of the CIA can torture anyone they've grabbed off the streets anywhere in the world until they invent stories to get them to stop. This is known as US Intelligence. The sort of intelligence you get when you cross a religious bigot with a longhorn. Odious Blair has said it was vital to distinguish between taking a suspect from one country to another and torture: why would they wish to take suspects from one country to another if they had nothing to hide and evade? It isn't EasyJet. The morally bancrupt shit defended cooperation with the US over the transfer of terrorism suspects and said "international conventions" had to be applied. Are those the international conventions which declared the war illegal? US Secretary of State Condo Leezza has admitted terror suspects are flown aboard for interrogation, but denied they were tortured. Like anyone would believe this nasty, devious lying auntie Tom. The devil is, apparently, all in the linguistics, it's a process known as rendition which is a "lawful weapon", so that's all right then. My onscreen dictionary defines rendition as

1. A performance of a musical composition or a dramatic role etc.
2. An explanation of something that is not immediately obvious or
3. The act of interpreting something as expressed in an artistic performance.

Must be 2, certainly not immediately obvious to anyone why they should fly people all over the planet in order to ask them some questions. They could phone them up, or email them, save some fuel.

Now Liberty with their splendid Director, Shami Chakrabarti, has written to the chief constables of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorset, Essex, Hampshire, Kent, the Metropolitan Police, the Ministry of Defence police, Sussex, Thames Valley and West Midlands forces. The human rights group is also threatening to sue the UK government if it fails to act.

Human rights groups in Scotland have warned airport staff they could face prosecution if they have anything to do with US flights allegedly taking terror suspects to be tortured. There certainly seems to be a sense of the balance of power shifting, and those who lied and launched the war are now increasingly wading in the shit of their own making.

December 2 2005

Burn it up

There are some quite distinguished researchers who are going through incredible contortions to try and prove that marijuana has to be a problem [and handsomely funded by the vested interests who wish to keep it illegal]. So far they've had little success, which hasn't stopped several newspapers of the rabid right-wing kind jumping on their findings with lurid headlines indicating that 'new research links cannabis with road accidents', which is anything but the truth, but it's been picked up by the luvvies of TV and repeated as a brief, but conclusive view based on facts, which it isn't. But this won't stop the obsessive straights who just aren't willing to accept that they've been wrong all along, and the hippies and freaks have been right. In fact recent research indicates that cannabis also acts in a beneficial manner with irritable bowel disease as well as improving brain function and brain cell growth thereby decreasing depression [on top of all the proven benefits in a range of disorders including glaucoma and MS], but try telling that to the no-brains who seem to have set themselves a life task to rubbish the sacred weed, which was around [and used] when our ancestors first descended from the trees and took the first faltering steps towards worrying about their pensions.

Emerging scientific research indicates that cannabis actually has far less impact on the psychomotor skills needed for driving than alcohol does, and is seldom a causal factor in automobile accidents. A pair of international studies released in the spring of 2001 bolsters this argument.

The first, conducted by Britain's Transport Research Laboratory, found that volunteers performed better on a driving simulator under the influence of pot than they did after consuming alcohol. According to the study, marijuana only adversely impacted subjects' ability to maintain a constant speed and control while driving around a figure-eight loop. Reaction time and all other measures of driving performance remained unaffected. Researchers also noted that the subjects who had smoked marijuana - unlike alcohol users - were aware of their impairment and attempted to compensate for it by driving more cautiously.

Similar results were also reported in March by a South Australian team at the Department of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology at the University of Adelaide. Their epidemiological review of automobile accidents found that alcohol "overwhelmingly plays the greatest role in road crashes ... [and] conversely, ... marijuana has a negligible impact on culpability." The study was a follow up to a 1998 analysis of 2,500 injured drivers that previously determined cannabis to have "no significant effect" on drivers' culpability in motor vehicle accidents.

In fact, most marijuana and driving experiments give pot a relatively clean bill of health, particularly when compared to alcohol. A review of two-decades worth of driving simulator and on-road studies by Alison Smiley for Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health concluded that although marijuana temporarily impairs driving behavior, "this impairment is mitigated in that subjects under marijuana treatment appear to perceive that they are indeed impaired [and] where they can compensate, they do."

With respect to comparisons between the effects of alcohol versus marijuana, the author asserted, "In contrast to the compensatory behavior exhibited by subjects under marijuana treatment, subjects who have received alcohol tend to drive in a more risky manner." Smiley's assessment concludes, "The more cautious behavior of subjects who have received marijuana decreases the impact of the drug on performance, whereas the opposite holds true for alcohol."

Transportation data says likewise. An examination of motor vehicle injuries by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute concluded that alcohol is "the major drug associated with injury," and found no evidence to support the accusation that illicit drugs are a major factor in auto crashes. An earlier analysis published by the U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration of 1,882 drivers killed in motor vehicle accidents also determined that alcohol, not pot, was the "dominant problem" in drug-related traffic accidents.

A recent study sponsored by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) involving analysis of nearly 2000 fatal accident cases, found 6.7% of drivers positive for marijuana. In more than two-thirds of those, alcohol was also present and was the primary contributor to the fatal outcome.

But drivers are allowed a certain amount of alcohol in their blood despite all the evidence, and with 24 hour drinking, the crashes are likely to increase. Alcohol has also been found to increase cancer growth.

December 1 2005

Born to burn

George Clooney's latest film, Syriana, a political thriller about the intrigues and corruption of the global oil industry that opens December 9, is interesting considering his political record and tough questioning about the war which got him called unpatriotic at the time. Working in concert with the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council, Clooney and the filmmakers of Syriana have an interesting website based on the film, which examines the US addiction to oil. It's called Participate and is well worth a visit for any Americans interested in resisting the planet-destructive nature of American capitalism. There's even a calculator to figure out your car's environmental impact, and you can offset it by buying a Terrapass which makes money available for renewable energy projects. Just enter your car's year, make, and model to receive a personalized profile of the environmental impact of your driving.

November 30 2005

Bad news for the UK

Just heard on the radio that scientists who've been measuring the speed of the Gulf Stream, [about to publish in Nature tomorrow] which is the conveyer of energy from the tropics up to the north Atlantic which thus keeps the UK warmer than it ought to be, have found that it has slowed by a third since 1992, that's thirteen years! The theory has been broached for some time that the melt of cold fresh water at the poles and northern glaciers would cool and slow the warmer salt water, but this confirms it. Time to start thinking of warm clothing, although it could even mean that the country will be uninhabitable, depends how much the conveyer slows and how much the temperature drops as a result. The rush to southern Europe would turn into a flood. Southern Europe is set to become near desert though. Strange days ahead. Sensor-equipped moorings installed at 25 locations across the subtropical Atlantic have now begun to monitor continuously the circulation at all depths. The next four years or so should tell us whether the Atlantic heating system is still working well

Hurricanes are set to increase, this year saw the most ever recorded and also the most major storms. And they're rebuilding New Orleans! Think the whole southern US coastline is going to have to be abandoned before long.




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