Tag: The Daily Telegraph

A revisit to earlier times.

How time flies!

Last Monday, Jean and I had been living here in Merlin, Oregon for three years.

Why I am explaining this is because my day yesterday ended up being so busy that I ran out of time to focus on writing a fresh new post for you good people.

Thus, I decided to repost something that I published that first week we moved in to our Merlin home. Namely, a post published on the 16th October, 2012 under the heading of The death of the USA?.

So my apologies for you dear readers that recall this from three years ago, and welcome to the many new followers of this place that have signed up since then.


“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated!” Mark Twain.

Mark Twain

The Mark Twain quotation after hearing that his obituary had been published in the New York Journal.

Mistaken publications of obituaries aren’t as rare as you might expect. A recent example is of Dave Swarbrick, the British folk/rock violinist, who was killed off mistakenly by the Daily Telegraph in April 1999 when they reported that his visit to hospital in Coventry had resulted in his death. He did at least get the opportunity to read a rather favourable account of his life, not something we all get to do, and to deliver the gag “It’s not the first time I have died in Coventry”.

So why have I opened with this quote from Mark Twain?  Read on and I hope all will be clear.

A little under a week ago, I published a couple of posts that proposed that the United States of America is an empire in decline.  The first was What goes up? and the second Might just come down! As a Brit, I well know that aspect of British history!

However a recent conversation with a friend of many years back in England, who has also been a shrewd and wise entrepreneur for longer than I care to remember, argued that the evidence for the ‘end of the USA’ could be challenged.

He cited five reasons why he thought the USA would remain, more or less, in its dominant position.  They were:

  1. Spirit of innovation
  2. Relaxed labour laws
  3. The importance of Mexico
  4. The uncertainty of China in terms of the next ’empire’
  5. The likely energy self-sufficiency for the USA in the near-term.

So let me expand on each of those points.

Spirit of innovation

Let me quote from an article in TIME Magazine of the 5th June, 2011,

Innovation is as American as apple pie. It seems to accord with so many elements of our national character — ingenuity, freedom, flexibility, the willingness to question conventional wisdom and defy authority. But politicians are pinning their hopes on innovation for more urgent reasons. America’s future growth will have to come from new industries that create new products and processes. Older industries are under tremendous pressure. Technological change is making factories and offices far more efficient. The rise of low-wage manufacturing in China and low-wage services in India is moving jobs overseas. The only durable strength we have — the only one that can withstand these gale winds — is innovation.

Now there are plenty who would argue both ways in terms of the future innovation potential for the USA, as a recent article in The Atlantic does, see American Innovation: It’s the Best of Times and the Worst of Times.  But the spirit of innovation will, nonetheless, be a powerful economic potential for the USA for many years to come.

Relaxed labour laws.

Definitely an area that I have little knowledge of except for the subjective notion that compared to many other nations, the laws in the USA are much less of a restraint on economic productivity than elsewhere.

The importance of Mexico.

The importance in the context of providing the USA with a source of cheaper manufacturing facilities.  My English friend thought that this was a significant competitive advantage for the USA.  Now, as it happens, we had a couple staying with us over the week-end of the 6th/7th October.  The husband is a senior manager of Horst Engineering, an American firm based in Guaymas, Sonora County, Mexico.  Here’s a picture from their website,

We are a contract manufacturer of precision machined components and assemblies for aerospace, medical, and other high technology industries. Our core processes include Swiss screw machining, turning, milling, thread rolling, centerless grinding, and assembly. Our extensive supply chain offers our customers a full service logistics solution for managing their precision product requirements. We are ISO9001:2008 and AS9100 registered and proud of our 66 year, three-generation legacy of quality and performance.

I was told that many American and British firms were using Mexico rather than China for a number of reasons.  Not least because Chinese suppliers require full payment before shipment.  Plus that taking into account that financial aspect together with shipping costs and other logistical issues, China wasn’t as ‘cheap’ over all.  Here’s a recent announcement from Rolls Royce,

Rolls-Royce plans new Sonora hub

The burgeoning aerospace industry in Guaymas had its efforts validated recently when the venerable Rolls-Royce chose it as the site for its newest global purchasing office.

Surrounded by several of its aerospace manufacturing suppliers, London-based Rolls-Royce will move into a Guaymas industrial park owned by Tucson-based The Offshore Group to develop a supply hub for commercial jets and military aircraft around the globe.

“Rolls-Royce has very robust booking orders for the next 10 years,” said Joel Reuter, director of communications for Rolls-Royce in North America. “We need to double our production.”

Because a number of Rolls-Royce suppliers already operate in Guaymas, the city was a logical choice, Reuter said.

The uncertainty of China in terms of the next ’empire’

The point made in terms of China taking over ’empire’ status from the USA, as Simon Johnson argues over at Baseline Scenario, is countered by the fact that politically China is an unknown quantity.  Until China endorses some form of democratic process, that unknowingness is not going to disappear.

The likely energy self-sufficiency for the USA in the near-term.

I can’t do better than to ask you to watch this video!  Just 27-minutes long, it is a very interesting review of the energy future of the USA.

As the TED website suggests in terms of why you should listen to Amory Lovins,

Amory Lovins was worried (and writing) about energy long before global warming was making the front — or even back — page of newspapers. Since studying at Harvard and Oxford in the 1960s, he’s written dozens of books, and initiated ambitious projects — cofounding the influential, environment-focused Rocky Mountain Institute; prototyping the ultra-efficient Hypercar — to focus the world’s attention on alternative approaches to energy and transportation.

His critical thinking has driven people around the globe — from world leaders to the average Joe — to think differently about energy and its role in some of our biggest problems: climate change, oil dependency, national security, economic health, and depletion of natural resources.

More on Reinventing Fire may be found here.

So, don’t know about you, but I found those five points deeply convincing.  How about you?  Are the reports of the death of the USA  greatly exaggerated? Do leave a comment.


Now some three years later on, these five factors still seem to be valid.

Faithful dog Masha.

Another wonderful dog story, courtesy of Chris Snuggs.

Over four years ago, I published a post under the title of Faithful dog Hachikō. It was the heart-wrenching story of a Japanese Akita dog called Hachi, Hachikō in Japanese, that continued to wait for his master’s return, Hidesaburō Ueno, for years after the professor’s death.  Here’s an extract from that post:

In 1924, Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at the University of Tokyo took in Hachikō as a pet. During his owner’s life Hachikō saw him out from the front door and greeted him at the end of the day at the nearby Shibuya Station. The pair continued their daily routine until May 1925, when Professor Ueno did not return on the usual train one evening. The professor had suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage at the university that day. He died and never returned to the train station where his friend was waiting. Hachikō was loyal and every day for the next nine years he waited sitting there amongst the town’s folk.

Hachikō was given away after his master’s death, but he routinely escaped, showing up again and again at his old home. Eventually, Hachikō apparently realized that Professor Ueno no longer lived at the house. So he went to look for his master at the train station where he had accompanied him so many times before. Each day, Hachikō waited for Professor Ueno to return. And each day he did not see his friend among the commuters at the station.

The permanent fixture at the train station that was Hachikō attracted the attention of other commuters. Many of the people who frequented the Shibuya train station had seen Hachikō and Professor Ueno together each day. They brought Hachikō treats and food to nourish him during his wait.

This continued for nine years with Hachikō appearing precisely when the train was due at the station

A few days ago, Chris sent me details of a faithful dog story that appeared in the English Daily Telegraph newspaper on the 26th November. The story was headed: Loyal dog waits for owner who will never return at hospital for two years. It opened, thus:

A loyal dog has shown up every day for two years at a hospital where her master passed away.

Masha appears at the Siberian hospital’s reception area every morning, the Siberian Times reports.

Her owner was admitted to the hospital in Novosibirsk region, south western Siberia, two years ago after falling ill.

Masha is well cared for by staff who make sure she has a warm bed and food every night. The faithful canine was the elderly man’s only visitor, staff say, and used to run home every night to stand guard before returning the next morning.

If we then go across to that Siberian Times story, we see that the wonderful Masha is linked to Hachikō.

Heartbroken little dog becomes Siberia’s own ‘Hachiko’

By Kate Baklitskaya and Derek Lambie – 24 November 2014

For past year devoted Masha has been waiting in a hospital for the beloved owner who will never return.

'One day, and we very much want this day to come soon, our Masha will trust somebody.' Picture: Svyatoslav Odarenko
‘One day, and we very much want this day to come soon, our Masha will trust somebody.’ Picture: Svyatoslav Odarenko

A little dog that waits in vain at a Siberian hospital for the owner who has already died has been dubbed Russia’s own Hachiko. Heartbroken Masha has been turning up looking for her beloved master every day since he passed away at the facility in Novosibirsk last year.

It is a tale mirroring that of the famously loyal Akita dog Hachiko in Japan, who arrived at a train station every evening for 10 years to greet its owner even though he had died.

Masha has become a well-known, and much loved, figure at the Novosibirsk District Hospital Number One, where patients and workers ensure she has a warm bed and food to eat.

But, aware of her obvious sadness at being unable to find her owner, staff are hoping an animal lover will come forward to adopt her and give her a new home.

Chief doctor Vladimir Bespalov told Novosibirsk Vesti TV: ‘You see her eyes, how sad they are – it’s not the usual shiny eyes for when a dog is happy. You can see this in animals in the same way as with people.

‘There is nothing medicine can do for her here, but we are still hoping that Masha will be able to find another owner. One day, and we very much want this day to come soon, our Masha will trust somebody.’

Masha, who looks like a dachshund with short legs, has been coming into the reception at the hospital in Koltsovo every day for the past two years since her owner was admitted. The man, a pensioner from the village of Dvurechie several kilometres away, had fallen ill and had turned up with his pet.

There are three heart-rending photographs of Masha that you really must look at. The article then concludes:

Whilst he was staying on the ward, Masha was his only visitor and she even trotted off home to guard the house before returning to the hospital in the morning.

Sadly he died a year ago but the loyal dog has continued to turn up every day, perhaps because she has nowhere to live, or because she believes her master is still there.

Nurse Alla Vorontsova said: ‘She is waiting for him, for her owner. Just recently a family tried to adopt her, but Masha ran away and returned to the hospital. She was taken on Friday evening, and at 3am on Saturday she was back here.’

Masha’s story is similar to that of the famous Japanese dog Hachiko, who used to greet his master on his return from work at the Shibuya train station in Tokyo.

When his owner, agricultural science professor Hidesaburo Ueno, died in 1925 he continued to visit the station every night for 10 years still expecting to meet him off his 4pm train.

In 1935 the dog’s body was found in a Tokyo street and his remains were stuffed, mounted and put on display in Japan’s National Science Museum, while a bronze statue was erected outside Shibuya. A Hollywood movie of the sad story, starring Richard Gere, was released in cinemas in 2010.

There are also similarities to Greyfriars Bobby, a little Scottish terrier who was unwilling to leave his dead master’s grave in Edinburgh, Scotland, for 14 years in the 19th century.

What wonderful, loyal, loving friends dogs are to us humans.

The intelligence of dogs?

Fascinating article in the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.

This post was written last Monday in the hope that I will be back home from my ‘op’ by today, or more accurately expressed as hoping I was back home yesterday.

Friend, Chris Snuggs, sent me an item that appeared in The Daily Telegraph about measuring the intelligence of your dog.  Here’s how it opened:

Quiz: how intelligent is your dog?

Take our special test to gauge your pet’s brainpower

Canine brains: test your dog's intelligence Photo: Alamy
Canine brains: test your dog’s intelligence Photo: Alamy

By Andrew Bake

7:00AM BST 25 Oct 2014

We all love our dogs. They repay us with affection, loyalty, fun and amusement, and we boast of their beauty, athletic prowess and impeccable behaviour. But while we can subtly promote our own academic achievements, and hint heavily at the brightness of our children, it is hard to prove – really prove, beyond reasonable doubt – that our canine companions are as intelligent as we know in our hearts they must be.

There is no doubt that some breeds are more intelligent than others, the result – as so much else about dogs – of selective breeding for many generations. But human classification and stereotyping of breeds has also evolved – not always fairly – and there are exceptions within breeds. So it is perfectly possible for an ostensibly airheaded Chihuahua to perform very well in intelligence tests, while a supposedly sagacious German shepherd will fail to distinguish “sit” from “fetch”.

Behaviour that seems to demonstrate intelligence in dogs is often the result of a combination of breeding and intense training. It is often suggested that Border collies are outstandingly bright, and that may be so: but they have been bred for generations to respond rapidly to complex commands; and sheepdogs – the rock stars of the obedience world – are trained from puppyhood, in many cases at the side of their parents.

Andrew Bake closes his piece, thus:

So how can we arrive at a reasonable estimation of our dog’s mental abilities? The Telegraph canine intelligence test combines observation of the subject’s regular behaviours, some of which may have been influenced by training, habituation and what might loosely be termed upbringing, with a series of simple staged exercises which attempt to measure the dog’s ability to think sequentially and to respond to challenges.

Putting the scores from the two together will produce a fair estimate of general intelligence: good enough, at least, to boast about in the park.

No special equipment is needed — though patience, a new dog-toy and a supply of dog-treats will undoubtedly come in handy.

Then at the bottom of the article is a link ‘Let’s Play‘ that takes you to the test questions.


The love of a dog – big time.

As post sequels go, it doesn’t get much better than this!

I was so pleased at how yesterday’s post was received and, serendipitously, the ‘add-ons‘ that appeared as comments to that post.

So how to follow that today?

Chris Snuggs came to the rescue in sending me a link to a recent item in the UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph: Touching moment sick elderly man is reunited with his dog.

Luckily, rather than republish the Telegraph item without permission, the video and background information were over on YouTube.

Here it is:

Watch heart-melting moment stricken patient makes shock recovery after being reunited with pet dog.

Published on Oct 18, 2014

James Wathen, 73, and his beloved one-eyed Chihuahua, Bubba, both stopped eating for six weeks after they were separated.

This is the heartwarming moment a seriously ill elderly patient made a “tremendous recovery” thanks to an emotional reunion with his pet dog.

James Wathen, 73, looked doomed when his condition – related to an unknown illness – deteriorated after six weeks at Baptist Health Corbin hospital in Kentucky.

The pensioner was so ill he could barely speak and had stopped eating.

However, all that changed when he managed to whisper to nurses that he was missing his one-eyed Chihuahua Bubba.

His revelation sparked a desperate search for the beloved dog, which was being kept at the Knox-Whitely Animal Shelter.

Pets are banned at the hospital, but nurses managed to sneak Bubba in and then filmed the emotional reunion.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” the hospital’s chief nursing officer Kimberly Probus told WKTV. In a further twist, Mary-Ann Smyth, from the animal shelter, said the dog had also stopped eating when the pair were separated.

They didn’t think James was going to make it,” she told NBC. “He [Mr Wathen] has done a complete turnaround. He’s speaking, he’s sitting up, he’s eating.

He doesn’t look like the same guy, and the dog is eating and doing better now, too.”

The hospital has allowed Bubba to visit his owner several times since, with staff saying they have both made a “tremendous recovery”.

It’s what this blog is all about. There is no limit to what our dogs offer us; love being at the top of the list.

James Wathen and his beloved dog Bubba.
James Wathen and his beloved dog Bubba.

Legitimate anger.

What a greedy, selfish race of people we can be at times!

I’m writing about the subject of elephants.  Or, to put it more precisely and distastefully, the murder of elephants. For the ivory in their tusks.

The post was prompted by a recent item over on Chris Snuggs’ blog Nemo Insula Est.  Chris and I have known each other for quite a few years now; since the time that he was Head of Studies at the French college, ISUGA, in Quimper, France and where I attended as a visiting teacher running a class on Sales & Marketing.

Chris has allowed me to republish the piece in full.  Please read today’s post and then come back tomorrow to see in what ways we can all help.


The Human Shame in Northern Kenya


One of my NYRs was to stop reading bad news, but that lasted about 6 hours ….. there is of course so much of it, and so much that is utterly depressing. One of the first of 2014 was an article in “The Independent”:

Elephant Appeal: Few are willing to say just how bad the poaching crisis is – the elephant population may easily fall into terminal decline

Tragic, to the extreme!
Tragic, to the extreme!

You can get all the details from the article – which is pretty harrowing, with surviving elephants described as being “stricken with grief” as they cluster round their slaughtered brethren – but basically, elephants in the Tsavo East National Park in Northern Kenya are under threat of extinction from poachers from Somalia. This provoked a number of reactions on my part:


  • The price of ivory depends on the demand and supply. The former is very strong and apparently rising, especially in China. For extraordinarily moronic and selfish reasons, ivory is considered artistic and – for example – tiger and rhinoceros parts medicinal and/or possessing aphrodysiac properties.
  • Can China really do NOTHING to stop this cultural abomination? People in the west for the most part stopped acquiring ivory years ago.
  • If China – and other Asia nations – cannot or will not do anything, should the west not apply more pressure? Same applies of course to China’s support of North Korea. YES, sanctions are painful, but nothing NON-painful is likely to work.


  • They are execrable, of course …… and yet, many may be extremely poor, and indeed ignorant. There is no excuse in the strictest sense, but it may to some extent be understandable if they see a chance to make several years’ normal income in a single day. This is no different from City bankers, or indeed the Enron directors and many others: greed is sadly rampant on our planet.
  • But  the poachers are not only ignorant and destitute farmers: terrorists are now apparently turning to the ivory trade, too.
  • There are insufficient funds to patrol the parks properly. Kenya is just one more corrupt African state where politicians earn a fortune while basic needs and services are severely underfunded.


I always wonder what if anything goes through the minds of those who spend these obscene sums on frippery and personal self-glorification. Do they ever think that their money could do immense good elsewhere? Would WE be just the same in their shoes?

Is there any solution to this greed?


Chris wrote his post motivated by the article in The Independent UK newspaper.  But that newspaper was not alone in promulgating the despicable killings of these smart and magnificent creatures.  Here’s a story that was in the UK Daily Telegraph newspaper a year ago.

Horror as entire family of elephants slaughtered for ivory

Armed wildlife rangers on Tuesday night fanned out across eastern Kenya in pursuit of ivory poachers who killed an entire family of 12 elephants in the country’s worst single such slaughter since the 1980s.

By , Nairobi

5:26PM GMT 08 Jan 2013

Eleven adults and one infant calf died in a “targeted and efficient” attack highlighting the growing professionalism of poachers bankrolled by international criminals supplying soaring demand for ivory in the Far East.

Six of the animals lay in one heap, their tusks hacked out with machetes.

None of the family group managed to flee further than 300 yards before they were gunned down and their ivory removed.

The calf, less than a year old, is believed to have been crushed by its dying mother as she fell to the ground.

“It is unimaginable, a heinous, heinous crime,” said Paul Udoto, spokesman for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

“We have not seen such an incident in recent memory, it’s the worst single loss that we have on record, and our records go back almost 30 years.

“These were professional killers. The attack was targeted and efficient.”

The poachers, armed with automatic rifles, had already fled but there were hopes last night that a massive search involving foot patrols, a dozen vehicles and three aircraft could still find them.

“Every possible resource is being deployed to track down these criminals,” Mr Udoto said. “They will feel the full force of the law.”

But the area where the elephants were killed, in the north of Kenya’s largest wildlife reserve, Tsavo East National Park, is sparsely populated, has few roads, and lies close to Kenya’s border with Somalia.

Privately, conservationists said they feared the poachers and their haul of 22 tusks, worth an estimated GBP175,000 on the Asian market, would already have escaped.

The attack was the latest in a surge of elephant deaths that has seen the number of the animals killed for their ivory in Kenya increase sevenfold in five years, from fewer than 50 in 2007 to 360 in 2012, according to KWS figures.

The increase has led many wildlife experts to declare the current situation a crisis worse even than the mass slaughter of Africa’s elephants in the 1970s and 1980s, which led to a global ivory trade ban in 1989.

I don’t have permission to republish the article so please go here and read the full piece and view a couple of harrowing photographs.

Then come back tomorrow and explore how you and I can do something to help. Please.

More on those poor rhinos

Awareness is the only way to go.

Two days ago, I published a post under the title of Reflections on pain and peace. The pain aspect was as a result of a shocking photograph of a rhino that had been slaughtered for its horn.

Subsequent to that piece coming out there has been more information that I wanted to cover.

I had an email from Avaaz that needed circulating:

Thanks for joining the campaign to protect the world’s rhinos. To win this campaign, we urgently need to build a massive outcry — every voice who joins us makes a difference!

Help spread the word by sending the email below to friends and family, and post this link on your Facebook wall.


Thanks again for your help,

The Avaaz team


Dear friends,

The rhino is being hunted into extinction and could disappear forever unless we act now. Shocking new statistics show 440 rhinos were brutally killed last year in South Africa alone — a massive increase on five years ago when just 13 had their horns hacked off. European nations could lead the world to a new plan to save these amazing creatures but they need to hear from us first!

Fueling this devastation is a huge spike in demand for rhino horns, used for bogus cancer cures, hangover remedies and good luck charms in China and Vietnam. Protests from South Africa have so far been ignored by the authorities, but Europe has the power to change this by calling for a ban on all rhino trade — from anywhere, to anywhere — when countries meet at the next crucial international wildlife trade summit in July.

The situation is so dire that the threat has even spread into British zoos who are on red-alert for rhino killing gangs! Let’s raise a giant outcry and urge Europe to push for new protections to save rhinos from extinction. When we reach 100,000 signers, our call will be delivered in Brussels, the decision-making heart of Europe, with a crash of cardboard rhinos. Every 50,000 signatures will add a rhino to the crash — bringing the size of our movement right to the door of EU delegates as they decide their position. Sign the petition below then forward this email widely:


So far this year one rhino has been killed every day in South Africa, home to at least 80% of the world’s remaining wild rhinos. Horns now have a street value of over $65,000 a kilo — more expensive than gold or platinum. The South African Environment Minister has pledged to take action by putting 150 extra wardens and even an electric fence along the Mozambique border to try and stem the attacks — but the scale of the threat is so severe that global action is required.

Unless we act today we may lose this magnificent and ancient animal species permanently. Some Chinese are loudly lobbying for the trade in horn to be relaxed, but banning the trade in all rhinos will silence them. With the EU’s leadership, we can bring these international gangsters to justice, put the poachers in prison, and push for public awareness programmes in key Asian countries — and end this horn horror show for good.

In the next few weeks, the EU will be setting its agenda for the next big global meeting in just a few months — our best chance of turning the tide against the slaughter. We know that rhinos will be on their agenda, but only our pressure can ensure they challenge the problem at its source. Let’s build a giant outcry and deliver it in a spectacular fashion — sign now and together we can stop the slaughter across Africa:


In 2010, Avaaz’s actions helped to stop the elephant ivory trade from exploding. In 2012, we can do the same for the rhino. When we speak out together, we can change the world — last year was the worst year ever for the rhino, but this can be the year when we win.

With hope,

Iain, Sam, Maria Paz, Emma, Ricken and the whole Avaaz team

More Information:

Few Rhinos Survive Outside Protected Areas (WWF)

South Africa record for rhino poaching deaths (BBC)

‘Cure for cancer’ rumour killed off Vietnam’s rhinos (The Guardian)

British Zoos on Alert as Rhino Poaching Hits the UK (International Business Times)


Then as a reminder that sitting on our hands and doing nothing must be resisted, Chris sent me this link to a recent item in the British Telegraph newspaper, from which I include these portions:

Last rhinos in Mozambique killed by poachers

The last known rhinoceroses in Mozambique have been wiped out by poachers apparently working in cahoots with the game rangers responsible for protecting them, it has emerged

7:46PM BST 30 Apr 2013

The 15 threatened animals were shot dead for their horns last month in the Mozambican part of Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which also covers South Africa and Zimbabwe.

They were thought to be the last of an estimated 300 that roamed through the special conservation area when it was established as “the world’s greatest animal kingdom” in a treaty signed by the three countries’ then presidents in 2002.

Aislinn Laing finishes off her report, by writing:

Dr Jo Shaw, from the World Wide Fund for Nature, said the rhinoceroses had probably crossed into Mozambique from Kruger.

Whereas killing a rhino in South Africa can attract stricter punishments than killing a person, in Mozambique offenders generally escape with a fine if they are prosecuted at all.

“Rhinos being killed in Kruger are mostly by Mozambican poachers who then move the horns out through their airports and seaports,” she said. “With huge governance and corruption issues in Mozambique, it’s a huge challenge.”

Boy, do we have so much to learn from dogs!

Not so common sense!

Sometimes one wonders what happened to common sense!

Today’s Post is motivated by a number of items that have crossed my screen over the last few days which when looked at collectively might remind one of the old saw, “You don’t have to be mad to work here, but it does help!

Sit with me, metaphorically, and allow me to muse.

First was a recent Post on 350 or bust that included the March 2012 TED Conference in Long Beach, California where NASA climate scientist Dr. James Hansen explains why he must speak out about climate change. (See the video later on.)  That Post refers to an item on Martin Lack’s Blog, Lack of Environment, where Martin as well as including the video below also lists the challenges that we on this single, finite planet face.  Here is that list,

  1. The Earth’s current energy imbalance is 0.6 Watts per sq.m.; a rate of energy input 20 times greater than the energy output of all human activity; and equivalent to the detonation of 400,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs every day.
  2. Since measurements began in 2003, there has been a noticeable acceleration in the annual rate of mass loss from both the Greenland and Antarctica ice caps.
  3. The last time atmospheric CO2 was 390 ppm, sea levels were 15 m higher than they are today, which implies even if we stopped burning all fossil fuels tomorrow, this is where they would end up several centuries from now because the warming “is already in the pipeline” (i.e. because the Earth must warm-up in order to restore its energy balance).
  4. Unless we stop burning fossil fuels soon, sea level rise will continue to accelerate, which is likely to cause between 1 and 5 metre rise by 2100AD (depending on how quickly we now decide to stop burning them).
  5. Palaeoclimatology tells us that 350 ppm is the safe limit for avoiding significant disruption to the planet’s ecological carrying capacity (i.e. in terms of both populations of individual species and overall biodivesity); and it now seems likely that between 20%-50% of all species will be “ticketed for extinction” by the end of the century.
  6. If we push the Earth beyond it’s “tipping point” (i.e. allow all the emerging positive feedback mechanisms to take hold); ACD will become unstoppable; and the ensuing socio-economic damage will be almost unimaginable. The total global cost of mitigation is already put at somewhere between 35 and 70 Trillion US Dollars depending on how soon we choose to act.
  7. If we had started to get off fossil fuels in 2005, it would have required 3% reduction per year in order to restore energy imbalance by 2100AD. If we start next year, it will require 6% p.a. If we wait 10 years it will require 15% p.a.
  8. Recent droughts in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico were 3 Standard Deviations outside the norm. Events such as these cannot therefore be ascribed to natural variability; anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is happening just as Hansen said it would 24 years ago (if we did not change course – which we haven’t).
  9. Pursuing emissions limits (i.e. Cap and Trade) will not work because there is no actual incentive to reduce emissions without any self-imposed restraint being to the advantage of others who do not do the same (i.e. the Tragedy of the Commons problem).
  10. Hansen uses the analogy of an approaching asteroid – the longer we wait to prevent it hitting us the harder it becomes to do so.

Do watch that Hansen video,

Second is that yesterday Martin Lack published an item that really does seem to endorse the view that there is no sign of intelligent life living on Planet Earth (not counting dogs!).

Think about it.  The planet is warming up.  The use of carbon-based fuels is a strong suspect, putting it mildly, of the rising levels of CO2 in our atmosphere, 394.45 on April 5th, so rather than change the incentives for using such fuels, we are taking advantage of  this warming planet causing the melt of the Arctic ice cap by allowing Shell to drill for oil in the Arctic.  But even crazier than that, Shell have contracted for a Finnish icebreaker to assist them in breaking up the ice!  (I really do feel a headache coming on!)

Greenpeace in the UK are running a campaign to stop this.

Sign up to save the Arctic

Let Shell know your feelings.

The pristine and beautiful Arctic: Shell wants to exploit it for oil. We want it protected.

Dozens of Greenpeace Nordic activists have boarded and occupied a Shell-contracted icebreaker in Helsinki harbour as it prepares to leave for the Alaskan Arctic.

Drilling in this fragile ecosystem – home to the polar bear, narwhal, Arctic fox and other iconic species – is unacceptable. A spill or accident in these waters would be disastrous and the harsh conditions would make responding to such a disaster almost impossible.

Demand Shell stop their plans to put the fragile Arctic and its biodiversity at risk.  We’ll keep you updated on our campaigns.

Write to Mr. Peter Voser.

Mr Peter Voser, Shell

The Arctic isn’t a place you can exploit, it’s a place we have to protect. Time and time again, experts have expressed serious doubts about the possibility of cleaning up an oil spill in the Arctic. The technical challenges posed by drilling there are obvious and no matter how much you try to convince people that your company can operate safely in such a harsh environment, we know the truth.

Because of this, I demand that you scrap your Arctic plans immediately.

Yours sincerely,


By the end of this week we want 500,000 people shouting at Shell that it must end its campaign of Arctic destruction. Click here now[N.B. This is a time-sensitive campaign response – please visit Greenpeace website and enter your name and email address and they will email Shell on your behalf.]

We can change things! Together we can stop Shell and other oil companies from destroying the Arctic. Not everyone can board a ship to demand that change. But today, you can email Shell and ask them to stop drilling for oil and ask 10 of your friends to do the same. Together, we can save the Arctic!

Rosa Gierens
Greenpeace Nordic activist from Finland.

It’s not just an isolated instance of madness! Just a little over 10 days ago, I reported on President Obama’s support for the oil companies that threatens the polar bears, see “President Obama’s proposal for these magnificent and imperiled animals is a gift to Big Oil

In closing, luckily there are many voices being raised about putting an end to this madness; see the recent item from Patrice Ayme.  Hopefully, all these voices will bring about the changes to the way so many of us are governed.  As Patrice commented recently on Learning from Dogs, “Hope is the breathing of the planet“.  Maybe, just maybe, hope will win through.  No better put than by James Hansen,

Most impressive is the work of the Citizens Climate Lobby, a relatively new, fastgrowing, nonpartisan, nonprofit group with 46 chapters across the United States and Canada. If you want to join the fight to save the planet, to save creation for your grandchildren, there is no more effective step you could take than becoming an active member of this group.”
– Dr. James Hansen, head of Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA

Oh, and before I forget, a tornado touched down in Southern France!  Not common and not making sense!

Titanic, 100 years on, Apr 10th 2012

A very famous, albeit sad, anniversary of a great ship.

Such a short life!

From launch to maiden voyage, 100 years ago today.

April 10th, 1911.

And just four, short days after RMS Titanic left Southampton for her maiden voyage; on April 14th, at 11.40 pm ….

Not even a year after the launch.

“The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912,” EyeWitness to History www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2000).

On April 10, 1912, the Titanic, largest ship afloat, left Southampton, England on her maiden voyage to New York City. The White Star Line had spared no expense in assuring her luxury. A legend even before she sailed, her passengers were a mixture of the world’s wealthiest basking in the elegance of first class accommodations and immigrants packed into steerage.

She was touted as the safest ship ever built, so safe that she carried only 20 lifeboats – enough to provide accommodation for only half her 2,200 passengers and crew. This discrepancy rested on the belief that since the ship’s construction made her “unsinkable,” her lifeboats were necessary only to rescue survivors of other sinking ships. Additionally, lifeboats took up valuable deck space.

Four days into her journey, at 11:40 P.M. on the night of April 14, she struck an iceberg. Her fireman compared the sound of the impact to “the tearing of calico, nothing more.” However, the collision was fatal and the icy water soon poured through the ship.

It became obvious that many would not find safety in a lifeboat. Each passenger was issued a life jacket but life expectancy would be short when exposed to water four degrees below freezing. As the forward portion of the ship sank deeper, passengers scrambled to the stern. John Thayer witnessed the sinking from a lifeboat. “We could see groups of the almost fifteen hundred people still aboard, clinging in clusters or bunches, like swarming bees; only to fall in masses, pairs or singly, as the great after part of the ship, two hundred and fifty feet of it, rose into the sky, till it reached a sixty-five or seventy degree angle.” The great ship slowly slid beneath the waters two hours and forty minutes after the collision

The next morning, the liner Carpathia rescued 705 survivors. One thousand five hundred twenty-two passengers and crew were lost. Subsequent inquiries attributed the high loss of life to an insufficient number of lifeboats and inadequate training in their use.

Read more of this fascinating account, especially the story of Elizabeth Shutes who, aged 40, was governess to nineteen-year-old Margaret Graham who was traveling with her parents. As Shutes and her charge sit in their First Class cabin they feel a shudder travel through the ship. At first comforted by her belief in the safety of the ship, Elizabeth’s composure is soon shattered by the realization of the imminent tragedy.

Also grateful to my cousin, Rose F., who sent me a link to a story in the British newspaper The Telegraph that came out in September, 2010.  I don’t have permission to reproduce that story but hope that it being 18 months since it was published by the Telegraph makes my act forgiveable!

Titanic sunk by steering blunder, new book claims

It was always thought the Titanic sank because its crew were sailing too fast and failed to see the iceberg before it was too late.

10:55PM BST 21 Sep 2010

But now it has been revealed they spotted it well in advance but still steamed straight into it because of a basic steering blunder.

According to a new book, the ship had plenty of time to miss the iceberg but the helmsman panicked and turned the wrong way.

By the time the catastrophic error was corrected it was too late and the side of the ship was fatally holed by the iceberg.
Even then the passengers and crew could have been saved if it had stayed put instead of steaming off again and causing water to pour into the broken hull.

The revelation, which comes out almost 100 years after the disaster, was kept secret until now by the family of the most senior officer to survive the disaster.

Second Officer Charles Lightoller covered up the error in two inquiries on both sides of the Atlantic because he was worried it would bankrupt the liner’s owners and put his colleagues out of job.

Since his death – by then a war hero from the Dunkirk evacuation – it has remained hidden for fear it would ruin his reputation.

But now his granddaughter the writer Lady (Louise) Patten has revealed it in her new novel.  “It just makes it seem all the more tragic,” she said. “They could easily have avoided the iceberg if it wasn’t for the blunder.

The error on the ship’s maiden voyage between Southampton and New York in 1912 happened because at the time seagoing was undergoing enormous upheaval because of the conversion from sail to steam ships.

The change meant there were two different steering systems and different commands attached to them.

Some of the crew on the Titanic were used to the archaic Tiller Orders associated with sailing ships and some to the more modern Rudder Orders.

Crucially, the two steering systems were the complete opposite of one another.

So a command to turn “hard a starboard” meant turn the wheel right under the Tiller system and left under the Rudder.
When First Officer William Murdoch spotted the iceberg two miles away, his “hard a-starboard” order was misinterpreted by the Quartermaster Robert Hitchins.

He turned the ship right instead of left and, even though he was almost immediately told to correct it, it was too late and the side of the starboard bow was ripped out by the iceberg.

The steersman panicked and the real reason why Titanic hit the iceberg, which has never come to light before, is because he turned the wheel the wrong way,” said Lady Patten who is the wife of former Tory Education minister, Lord (John) Patten.

Whilst her grandfather Lightoller was not on watch at the time of the collision, her book Good as Gold reveals that a dramatic final meeting of the four senior officers took place in the First Officer’s cabin shortly before Titanic went down.

There, Lightoller heard not only about the fatal mistake, but also what happened next, up on the bridge.

While Hitchins had made a straightforward error, what followed was a deliberate decision.

Bruce Ismay, chairman of Titanic’s owner, the White Star Line, persuaded the Captain to continue sailing.  For ten minutes, Titanic went “Slow Ahead” through the sea.

This added enormously to the pressure of water flooding through the damaged hull, forcing it up and over the watertight bulkheads, sinking Titanic many hours earlier than she otherwise would have done.

Ismay insisted on keeping going, no doubt fearful of losing his investment and damaging his company’s reputation,” said Lady Patten.  “The nearest ship was four hours away. Had she remained at ‘Stop’, it’s probable that Titanic would have floated until help arrived.

The truth of what happened on that historic night was deliberately buried.

Lightoller, the only survivor who knew precisely what had happened, and who would later go on to be a twice-decorated war hero, decided to hide what he knew from the world, including two official inquiries into the sinking.

By his code of honour, he felt it was his duty to protect his employer – White Star Line – and its employees.

Lady Patten said: “The inquiry had to be a whitewash. The only person he told the full story to was his beloved wife Sylvia, my grandmother.  As a teenager, I was enthralled by the Titanic. Granny revealed to me exactly what had happened on that night and we would discuss it endlessly.

She died when I was sixteen and, though she never told me to keep the knowledge to myself, I didn’t tell anyone. My mother insisted that everything remained strictly inside the family: a hero’s reputation was at stake.

Nearly forty years later, with Granny and my mother long dead, I was plotting my second novel and it struck me that I was the last person alive to know what really happened on the night Titanic sank.

My grandfather’s extraordinary experiences felt like perfect material for Good As Gold.

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2010

Anyone who reads this and is as fascinated as I was should read the comments as there is much discussion about the nature of the steering error.

Rest in peace.