Social Comment – 2015

Social Comment for Year 2015.

January 2015

Welcome to another year. Today, the 1st. January. is much warmer than of recent days when the temperature has been below zero, the forecast is for it to rise to 11c today. Already the accumulation of frost that had turned Fern Way into a skating rink has gone. It is only the uneven and gravel strewn pavements that makes walking fairly dangerous and we have them 365 days of the year. Add to these the abundance of deep curb side puddles along lower Fern Way and Greenwood Drive and you have an assault course like trip to the local shops.

The fireworks on the South Bank were again spectacular and watched by thousands. This was the first year that various viewing sites had been ticketed. A safety operation, but also providing a contribution to paying for what must have been a very expensive display

Today signalled another rise in rail fares which did not go down too well, especially for those that had suffered a complete loss of service from Kings Cross and delays at other stations due to over running Christmas maintenance works. The subject of BR bonuses was raised and if they should be paid. There were some hopeful recipients that agreed it would be less than honest to accept large performance sums when their passengers had arrived at termini to find them closed. This argument goes on.

Two ships full of mainly Syrian refugees, 2nd January have been abandoned off the Adriatic coast of Southern Italy by their presumed people traffickers crews. These families must be truly desperate to have spent what very little money they had to get away from the Hell hole of terrorism they used to call home.

The Hornets are able to concentrate on their league position following their loss of interest in winning the FA CUP this year. They succumbed to Chelsea 3-0 without really creating any great threats. They were playing against rather superior opposition to that encountered in the Championship.

First time house buyers are in the news. Nearly 330,000 purchased their first properties last year. 6th January a 50% rise in the last 2 years. With government assistance on down payments, the lower cost of a mortgages and the reduction in stamp duty this situation looks likely to continue. If enough properties come on the market!

World oil prices continue to fall. 7th January. To the benefit of motorists; Petrol at ASDA is now 105p per litre, but upsetting the global financial markets. Heavy falls have been seen in share prices. There appears to be some perceived theory amongst the people that manipulate world prices that this fall could indicate a much wider recession than the one we are still clinging to the edge of. The possible exit by the Greeks from the EU seems also to be a factor. It seems not to take a lot to stir up the world markets, with each countries financial manipulators adding their 10 pennyworth to the Lemming like falls. You can bet your life someone out there is getting very rich without getting their hands dirty!

Much mileage is being gained by the politicians over the NHS’s inability to cope with the influx of patients into Accident and Emergency Departments across the country. The response times are rising beyond the agreed level of 4 hours and some dozen hospitals have declared “A Major Incident” and cancelled all non essential operations and non emergencies in order to free bed spaces. What are the reasons for this reported huge surge in patients?

Apparently there is little doubt that many cases presenting are not an emergency and people have called ambulances for problems that did not require transport and should have been dealt with at the Doctors surgery. The claim is that getting an appointment with their local GP means a delay of weeks, and they are not prepared to wait.

There is a possibility that referrals to hospitals are being given by 111 operators, who are also under pressure.

The time of year is also a factor. With an aging population many weather and temperature factors come into play. Seasonal ailments that in the past would have been dealt with by a visit to the Chemist’s or a day or so in bed are now deemed worthy of a obligatory; and probably useless, prescription for antibiotics. The local paper reports that among the 240 patients that attended Watford General last Monday some thought they may have flu and others wanted “The Morning After pill”.

The UK now has a much larger; and ever growing, population. Immigration and longer lives have added millions to the NHS patient base over the years.

No doubt financial restraints have also had an effect. These; in the current situation, have to be shared with all public services.

To use the situation as a “political battle field” as decreed by one party official appears to be both unhelpful and two faced.

Terrorist’s have shot dead 12 of the staff and two policemen at the Paris offices of a satirical magazine.7th January. The attackers are believed to be Islamist and three of them are being pursued after escaping in a car after using assault rifles to kill the Editor and several well known cartoonists. Support has been given by world leaders for those killed in what is described by the French Prime Minister as “murdered in a cowardly manner”.

An attempt to contact our local police on the non emergency 101 number resulted in a farce today. 8th January. After repeating several times the name of the PCSO required, and being told it was not recognised, my wife tried the same thing and several other names from the list too. The end result was a message left for a person we did not want to speak to and a general feeling of frustration. Why does the system not work? After all it is not rocket science! Could this contribute to the reported numerous unwarranted users of the emergency 999 service?

French police have identified two of the terrorists they claim are responsible for the bloody massacre in Paris yesterday. They are currently surrounded by armed militia in a northern French town and holding a hostage. They are prepared to die they claim. This currently looks like being a likely result, particularly as the interior Minister has stated on TV that those responsible will be “neutralised”. The brothers are French born sons of Algerian born parents and were already under police surveillance following a jail sentence of 18 months for of them attempting to travel to Iraq. The police woman shot and killed in southern Paris yesterday is reported as being part of the current activity. Extra checks are reported to be in operation for those traveling into and out of UK terminals. Threat levels remain “Severe” and even more vigilance called for.

It is reported that up to 40% of some UK grown crops are rejected by supermarkets because they do not meet the standard of size, straightness or possibly the carrot has too many legs. These perfectly edible foodstuffs are sold for cattle feed at virtually give away prices. What a waste of resources when some areas in the world are starving. We can’t control the number of consumers but surely we can make more sensible use of the produce grown. Is the British consumer is getting a little too fussy? Or are the supermarkets not giving them the choice? After all a 50% reduction for a bent cucumber or a carrot with three legs would satisfy a number of needs.

A second siege in Paris yesterday (Friday) resulted in the death of 4 hostages in a Kosher Supermarket and one of the terrorists. A woman accomplice escaped and is listed as armed and dangerous. There are supposedly definite links between this incident and the other one where the two men who massacred the staff at the publishing office on Thursday were holding yet another hostage in a separate part of the city. These two died; by what means is not stated. The hostage escaped. There has been much rhetoric from various statesmen and memorial rallies held in various parts of the city with thousands of armed police in evidence. The year has started well again!

The Hornets have lost again to Huddersfield 3-1 10th January during what sounded like a game not worth the travel north, to rain, wind and snow. It is to be hoped they can pull themselves out of what seems a not very positive period.

 

April 2015

 Another spring break over and the admission that I have not seen TV or read an English newspaper for 11 weeks so have no idea what has been going on in most of the world; but am willing to guess that what emerges will be no less dismal than before I left the country.

Our visit to India was longer than last year and left me with more time to notice what was going on around me.

One of the things which stuck out in my mind was the complete reliance and necessity of holiday makers remaining in contact via various electronic devices with the folk at home. The proliferation of pad’s, Laptops, Smart phones and Kindles various was very obvious. Rarely was a device of some kind not within easy reach; even on the beach; or paddling in the sea. In fact the younger generation were rarely without a phone actually in their hand; with constant glances down to see if they still had any friends left who actually gave a dam that they were still on the planet. In a restaurant one evening, of the 18 people dining 16 were actually looking down with fingers flying. Very little face to face real conversation at all. Much of the correspondence off line was reference “Face book” or the latest posting on “Travel Adviser”, or “Meet and Greet”; whatever that may be. A strong Wi Fi signal was also a frequent topic. The saddest thing I heard was one finger merchant telling another that the food and service were much better in restaurant A, but they always went to restaurant B, because the Wi Fi was better. Sad Sad Sad! Neither did I get used to people obscuring their faces behind tea trays whilst taking pictures.

Another innovation was in the way the now obligatory “Selfie” is accomplished. A young lady spent half an hour titivating before taking a chrome pen like device from her bag, extending it, and connecting it to her camera. She then spent another half hour pouting and posing, oblivious to all the interest and comments from her audience in the shack. Narcissism is a word I have never typed before but what we witnessed must be a perfect dictionary illustration of its meaning.

A complicated situation arose during the holiday that prevented beef entering Goa. Political, inter denominational/religious or just plain bureaucracy was not determinable. I do know that there have never been so many semi feral cattle wandering about the streets and in fact anywhere else they felt like. Most of the cows were pregnant or had charming calves, but there was still a complete lack of steaks!

Another proliferation on the beach were the dogs. A pack of a dozen or so would bark and howl whilst defending what they saw as their territory; after all they had marked all four legs of each and every sun bed several times over. Margaret was knocked over by one pack but fortunately bruised but not bitten as this would have resulted in a painful course of injections and the uncertainty over several months that Rabies had not been contacted. The most dangerous incident was when the pack stampeded the otherwise docile cattle through the sunbeds. That could have been very nasty. Apparently the police are more interested in the beach sellers than the dogs. Margaret walked many many miles along the extensive beach with various company as they came and went , and even alone when no others could be press ganged. She came back tired but very pleased with herself.

There were not as many Russians to be seen as on previous occasions. Mr Putin’s actions over Ukraine have produced sanctions that have hit the country’s finances badly. Those that did come still smoked on all occasions; before a meal, during courses and whenever a hand was not occupied with a mobile or similar. They again refused to even acknowledge a greeting or a smile and held long and loud conversations between themselves. Probably talking about us!

There is virtually a blanket ban on smoking in public places and although virtually no one takes any notice in restaurants two Brits were fined for smoking on the street. Only £2.50 but very embarrassing. Whilst the fine was taking place no doubt a dozen scooters went past with no lights and jay walking was rife.

There is a change in the reliability of the electrical supply. It has gotten worse! One evening we had five cuts after a day with no supply at all.

The roads and paths; where they exist, are about the same. What pavement there is, is used as a taxi park; where it has not already disintegrated due to previously departed taxi’s. A road widening operation was converted overnight to a taxi rank. An overnight trench digging operation by girl labourers was filled in roughly the next day and took out the walking area over a lengthy piece of busy road. We heard of three road accidents locally, one of which was fatal and a second produced multiple fractures. Booze, inexperienced drivers and in the fatal case plain bad driving were the causes.

Other fatalities during the period were two drowning’s and a suicide.

Does not sound like much of an advertisement does it? But the local people were just as nice and we met our brown cousins and loads of visitors we had seen before in previous years. The food was excellent, (no Delhi belly) and varied. With a little adventure we found local eateries where the price was right too and avoided the Fish and Chips and Sunday Roast establishments, and particularly those places that played music (?) so loud you could not hear yourself swallow. The weather was also excellent most of the time although we did have two rain storms that were both spectacular and noisy. The last week had temperatures in the thirties and was very humid. Even the locals were commenting on the uncomfortable night although most would have had no A/C.

A further distraction was the week of intermittent Dry Days, (no booze on sale anywhere) due to local elections. It seems the electorate are inclined to get drunk otherwise and bash one another about. It would be nice if we could get that enthusiastic here!

Holi again occurred during our stay. The Hindu festival of colours involves throwing poster paint powder over one another and anyone one else adjacent, with cries of “Happy Holi”. The kids see it as a way to extort money from the visitors and you can sometimes buy them off with a few Rupees. This does not guarantee getting away with it and a few simulated harsh words and threats are sometimes needed. This does not always work either. Don’t put your designer gear on during Holi!

 

What I do know is that the Hornets have performed well on most occasions whilst we have been away with 10 wins, 1 draw and 3 losses. These leaves them today 2nd April, one place off the top by one point. There are some significant matches to come so they need to stay focused.

A massacre took place in a Kenyan college yesterday 2nd April, 147 students were killed and many more injured in a siege that lasted several hours’ the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militant group claimed responsibility for the assault and it is claimed they separated and released the Muslims and shot the Christians. 4 terrorists were killed. The attack was carried out by the same group that shot up the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi in 2013 killing many locals. Al-Shabaab have ambitions worldwide and are trying to get their nationals living abroad to carry out attacks in their current countries. And so it goes on.

One slightly better piece news from Iran. An unwritten understanding has been reached between Iran and six major powers which if ratified and observed will decrease the likelihood that they will produce nuclear weapons The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, read out a joint statement outlining the main points, including a reduction in the number of Iran’s operating centrifuges, changes to its nuclear facilities, and a promise to lift sanctions if these steps are verified as completed. All of Iran’s nuclear facilities will be subject to regular IAEA inspections. This last operation is reminiscent of the inspection carried out on the WMD position in Iraq. They were useless!

The General Election starts here! A televised debate between the top seven party leaders went much as one would expect. As a pointer to who one should vote for it did little to make up my mind. The most noticeable and therefore possibly most dangerous leader appeared to be Nicola Sturgeon for the SNP. A female version of the late lamented Alex Salmonde. The knock on effect from her popularity may be significant in the final elected make up. Not another coalition surely?

Today is Good Friday. 3rd April. What does it mean to most of us other than another day off work? I have seen the preparations for this event and the privations of Lent leading up to it in a country that seems to take it much more seriously than the majority of us. I wish you all what they wished me. “Have a Happy Easter”

A first walk out this morning 4th April. showed a resurfacing of the northern footpath of Fern Way. Very nice, but the other side is by far the worst, specially on the alley bend. Will this side also be done?

The Law has changed on Parental Leave. 5th April. It now allows parents who have worked for their current employer for at least 12 months, up to 18 week’s unpaid leave for each child up to age 18. Benefits may be available to those on low pay. The period is up from 5 weeks.

The way in which retirees can take their pensions changes today, 6th April. No need to buy an annuity, you can cash in the lot and spend it on beer and fags if you wish. This may not be the most practical way of providing for your old age but who cares? Many won’t. It seems the possible reason is to boost the economy by providing more cash on the market. The first 25% will be tax free, but over that tax will be levied at your current highest rate. Some careful thought will hopefully be given before leaping in.

A burglar alarm signal was received by the police from a Hatton Garden safety deposit establishment on Friday 10th April. The call was sent to the police Computer aided dispatch system. A grade was applied that that determined no police response was required. This gave an estimated six man crew until Sunday morning to open safe deposit boxes and steal an estimated £60.000,000 from them. It is believed they have left the country. Well you would, wouldn’t you?

Today was forecast to be the warmest of the present fine spell but brought with it health warnings on air pollution. Still conditions combined with pollution from Europe with some Saharan dust thrown in, prompted a health warning for adults and young children with lung or heart problems; and older people to avoid strenuous exercise and stay indoors. Others to stay away from main roads. It was the warmest day and hopefully most of us survived it!

The election rumbles on. Things are getting personal now and can only get worse. It would be nice to think that the electorate were the main concern and not the individual ego’s of the prospective MP’s. Promises of spending on the NHS and other services like education don’t seem to have been costed realistically. Robbing Peter to pay Paul won’t cut the mustard. Tony Blair has made a TV appearance implying the British public were not to be trusted with an in out decision on the EU!

News that there could be up to 100 billion barrels of oil beneath the South of England have resulted from test drillings near Gatwick. Although only a fraction of this figure could actually be recovered it is considered a significant discovery and possibly the largest on shore (UK) find in the last 30 years. Environmentalist only see it as an additional source of greenhouse gases and polluted atmosphere. What about a few more windmills?

The Hornets are still in contention for automatic promotion to the Premier League. 11th April. One point behind the leaders and tying for second place they have five games to go to make up the lee way, or fall back!

A young lad from Staffordshire suffered serious injuries when he fell through his school roof; whilst breaking into the tuck shop. His parents claimed from the education authorities for damages due to lack of care on their part. The judge rejected their claim and imposed damages that could run to £250,000. 14th April. Whilst regretting the injuries suffered by the lad, which were both serious and ongoing and may insure he never walks or talks again, the ruling was against the usual trend.

Russian warships and Bear bombers are being shadowed by the navy and RAF in the English Channel. It is to be hoped that this is a muscle flexing exercise and not a build up to annexing Canvey Island!

Today 15th April. was the hottest so far this year and with less pollution, a very enjoyable 25 degrees C.

More party manifesto’s out today. They all promise one group or the other will be better off, but with money needing to come from somewhere someone is going to lose out!

Inflation is down to 0%. In fact if taken to three decimal places it actual went to a minus figure. This is a first time in 55 years. It suggests the Bank Rate will not be going up anytime soon.

The Hornets have made it to the top of the Championship today, 18th April. with only two more matches left to play they have their destiny in their own hands; or feet! The home win was not too impressive but with the teams above them losing and drawing respectively it did the trick.

800 refugees attempting to reach Italy from Libya have been drowned when their overloaded boat capsized trapping many women and children below decks. 19th April. It is estimated that thousands have; and more will die this year in a similar manner, as they try to escape the conflict and persecution in their home land.

The Electioneering continues with still more promises of billions of pounds for the NHS, education, housing and various other no doubt worthy recipients. No one yet has shown me where they will get this cash. The Machiavellian SNP are still apparently aiming to control the UK Parliament through another party but leave no doubt that they want to leave the UK; but in the mean time why not grab a few more goodies. They seem to be the only party that has really stated its intent directly. With UKIP making statements reference leaving the EU, (this would certainly provide a deal of cash) limiting immigration and paring down the BBC to become a news provider and current affairs set up only, they certainly have grabbed large chunks of interest. The three alleged Main Parties are too busy bashing one another to take a lot of notice. And so it goes on, and on.

The Hornets are promoted. 25th April. Another away win at midday was followed by two out of the three chasers either losing or drawing in the afternoon. Another win next Saturday or Bournemouth not achieving max points from their last two games, will make them League Champions. The display was not great but it is difficult to argue against the points total.

Last weekend saw a terrible earthquake in Nepal. Officials say currently the death toll is 5,000 but could rise to 10,000 as a result of the 7.8 magnitude quake. Another 10,000 are known to have been injured and 500,000 have been displaced by the first and subsequent aftershocks. Water, food and electricity are not available in many areas and although international aid is being transported the congestion at Kathmandu airport is hampering its distribution.

Although several hundred kilometers away, some of the staging camps on the route for climbers to the top of Everest were wiped out by ice, snow and rock avalanches, killing many climbers and their support staff.

It is reported and shown on news broadcasts that Kathmandu is under a pall of white smoke from the many funeral pyres along the river Ghats as hundreds of the dead are laid to rest with the Hindu traditional rites.

We have visited the area of the Ghats and Durbar Square and are horrified to see the destruction in Kathmandu and scenes of mass cremations with the terrible grief on the faces of the mourners. It is hoped the Nepalese young men we met; who were returning home at the end of the season in Goa, survived.

The surgery in Sheepcot Lane has closed 27th April. and the Doctors have moved to a new building by the film studios. This is too far for many Kingswood patients to walk and may be quite costly for those without transport. The surgery has been in the ‘Lane for as long as we remember.

 

May 2015

The death toll in Nepal has risen to 6,500 and many remote areas are still unreached. 2nd.May. After-shocks continue to occur and many people are still sleeping outside as they fear being buried as so many were during the first catastrophic quake.

We have a new Princess. The Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a 8lb 3oz daughter just two and a half hours after arriving in hospital. She will be fourth in line to the throne but has as yet no name. This event seems to have raised more interest than the pending General Election.

The Hornets are not the Champions! After leading 1-0 for most 0f the last game they succumbed to one of the very few attacks made by Sheffield Wednesday and thus came second; due to a 3-0 win by their rivals Bournemouth. We will just have to put up with being in the Premiership next year!

The Election rattles on with more comments on which party will sleep with which party in the predicted most likely event that a hung parliament results. This possibility is seen to be considered inevitable in most areas and shows how short a memory we have following the current and last set up.

20,000 people were in Cassiobury Park on May Day. 4th May. to meet the Hornets players who travelled to the venue in an open topped bus through North Watford to some acclaim. Captain Deeny, (21 goals) made a speech and an Elton John tribute act made a lot of noise. It was a great day with splendid weather. The only thing missing was the Championship winner’s trophy.

The new Princess has been named Charlotte Elizabeth Diana and been kissed and welcomed by the majority of the royal family. Her arrival has been a breath of fresh air in an election campaign that has produced a number of bad smells.

We awoke on Sunday morning 5th May to find a car parked completely on the pavement on the new tarmac. There was not enough room to walk between the car and the wall. It beggars belief that drivers can be so unaware, or care so little for of the needs of others for free access. This occurrence is not the only example noted on the estate recently. The police turned up and obtained the keys and moved it off the pedestrian footpath.

The General Election is over 8th May and the result is a big surprise to many people, not least to Nick Clegg (Lib Dems), Ed Miliband (Labour) and Nigel Farage (UKIP). They have all resigned due to the poor performance of their respective candidates. Nicola Sturgeon ( Scottish Nationalist) is the party leader with success on her hands. They took nearly all the Scottish seats mainly to the detriment of the Labour Party. David Cameron (Conservative) has formed a government with an overall majority; if only just. The general opinion; as mentioned previously, seemed to suggest we would be stuck with another coalition. This should not happen now. Dorothy Thornhill (Liberal Democrats) was not elected for the Watford constituency, the seat was retained by Richard Harrington (Conservative).

The totals are as follows.

Conservatives     330   +24

Labour               232   -26

SNP                   56     +50

Liberal Dems.     8      -47

UKIP                 1      +1

Others               23

The local Council Elections were not good news either for the Liberal Democrats, who lost 5 seats to both Labour and Conservatives. They no longer have control over the Council. The Stanborough man Derek Scudder was however re-elected.

Today is the 70th anniversary of VE Day 8th. May. (Victory in Europe). I recall the jubilant and somewhat scary celebrations that took place in Watford on the evening following the announcement by Winston Churchill at 3 pm. The Town Hall roundabout was solid with people singing and dancing, many with the help of Benskin’s; and any other liquor manufacturers product they could lay their hands on. Every town and village celebrated the end of a terrible 5/6 years and the impending arrival home of the men who had survived the fighting. Use this link to see a fuller personal report on events; as a 12 year old recalls them under “WW11 – A Young Persons guide in the “50 Years Ago” section of  “History Pages” on this site. It appears towards the end of the article.  Today’s memories were centred around the Cenotaph where Party Leaders; past and present, laid wreaths commemorating the event of nearly three quarters of a century ago.

Another earthquake has hit Nepal.12th May. Not quite as severe this time but still killing lots of people and injuring many more. Despite the international aid our hearts go out to a people that did not have a lot to start with, and now many have nothing. Even more to those that have lost relatives and friends.

The traffic lights on the dome roundabout have been turned off for several weeks and a noticeable improvement to traffic flow resulted. Having fitted the alleged improved software and turned them back on, St Albans Road has been a virtual car park at times and today 15th May. the traffic bulletin on the radio warn of delays in the area. Something expensively wrong here I suspect!

IS forces have captured the Iraqi city of Ramadi 17th May. despite the efforts of the Sunni militia’s attempts at defending it. Hundred’s of them; together with many of their families have been shot dead in the streets and the survivors forced to flee. John Kerry the US secretary of state said “I am convinced that as the forces are redeployed and as the days flow in the weeks ahead that’s going to change, as overall (ISIS) have been driven back…I am absolutely confident in the days ahead that will be reversed”. Is he is a brave man or …..

EU ministers have agreed plans to provide a naval force under an Italian Admiral to stop people smugglers operating in Libya. The EU cannot cope with the masses of illegal immigrants from Africa and the Middle east attempting to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe. Many hundreds have died when overloaded ships sinking and abandoned by their crews at sea have caused them to drown in trying to reach shore. The traffickers are reported to have charged up to $700 for each passenger.

The pavement on the south side of Fern Way is in the process of being replaced by tarmac. 19th May. It will be great to walk without tripping over broken and misplaced paving stones.

Inflation has dropped to a “negative” figure for the first time in many years. 20th May. We are paying less now for food than we were last year but the recent rise in fuel prices at the pump will soon wipe out the advantage. Assurances that this is not the beginning of raging deflation are made by economists.

A trip to ASDA found the Dome with free flowing traffic and the traffics lights out. A return journey half an hour later, found queues on the A41 up to the underpass, and the lights back on!

The police have arrested 8 men 21st May. in connection with the £35m raid on the Hatton Garden diamond safe deposit boxes last month. They are reported as being aged from 43 to 76 and all from around the London area. This could be a face saver for the apparent misjudgement of sending no one to investigate a burglar alarm on the actual day.

Six big Banks have been collectively fined £2.6bn by the regulators for their traders manipulation of foreign exchange rates. HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Swiss bank UBS and US banks JP Morgan Chase, Citibank and Bank of America have all been found to have rigged the rates to profit themselves. FCA boss Martin Wheatley has said: “This isn’t the end of the story.” “The individuals themselves will face the consequences,”. Several senior traders at the banks have already been put on leave and the Serious Fraud Office is in the process of preparing potential criminal charges against those alleged to have masterminded the scheme. A separate probe into Barclays is continuing. The regulators found the attempted manipulation of the foreign exchange market had been going on for several years, with the FCA saying the failings occurred between 1 January 2008 and 15 October 2013. The CFTC said its investigation found the traders’ misconduct took place between 2009 and 2012. They found certain foreign exchange traders at the banks had co-ordinated their trading with one another to attempt to manipulate benchmark foreign exchange rates. The CFTC said traders had used private online chat rooms to communicate. They had disclosed confidential customer order information and trading positions, and altered their positions accordingly to “benefit the interests of the collective group”.

Who can we trust these days? These traders appear to live in a different world to most of us and treat the countries financial dealings like a computer game.

IS has made further conquests including the historic UN Heritage site of Palmyra in Syria where they have routed the national army producing even more refugees. It is estimated that a third of the 200,000 population has fled, and social media shows IS men posing among the ancient columns in Palmyra whilst others showed the more familiar theme; the slaughter of local men on the blood soaked roads.

The 75th. anniversary of Operation Dynamo, or “Dunkirk” as it became known was commemorated on the beaches of Northern France and at the memorial to what was described officially as “a successful operation”. The Allied Expeditionary Force together with French and Belgium troops were cut off and trapped in the Dunkirk area and were sitting ducks for the rampant German army. On May 26th an operation was launched to facilitate a “Planned withdrawal” of these men and as the beach was very shallow 800 “little ships”; consisting of pleasure craft and fishing vessels from around the English coast were used to either bring the men back or ferry them to larger ships. The beaches and boats were under constant attack from the ground and air with dive bombers taking their toll. Through into June the operation continued, and between 330,000 and 400,000 troops were returned to English ports. 90,000 men were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. The Germans; for reasons unknown, did not go all out to annihilate the trapped army and if they had done so the war may have been virtually lost. This action has gone down in military history and the bravery of the commanders of the unarmed “little ships” were amongst those commemorated.

The US have arrested a number of high ranking FIFA members in Switzerland a few days before they hold their presidential elections 27th.May. Corruption is alleged; and that they accepted bribes and kickbacks amounting to millions of dollars over the last 20 years in return for awarding prestigious tournaments to some countries, and rigging their own presidential elections. In a separate investigation “Criminal mismanagement” is raised, with money laundering tied to the allocation of the 2018/22 World Cups to Russia and Qatar. President Putin immediately objected to the US meddling in other countries affairs, whilst Gary Lineker has called FIFA “nauseating” and “an embarrassment”. It is time for the footballing nations to walk away from the “nauseating pollution of the world game”‘ he suggests. Sepp Blatter the current FIFA president and candidate for a sixth term has said that he can’t be expected to know everything that is going on. (What?) With many big multinational companies allegedly reconsidering their sponsorships it remains to be seen if Blatter will survive; or even FIFA for that matter, in its current form.

 

June 2015

MP’s have a pending £7,000 a year pay rise 3rd June. provided by the Independant Parliamentary Standards Authority. It has been labelled “inappropriate” when many households are suffering the effects of the claimed lowering of living standards and public services are likely to be further cut.

Sepp Blatter has resigned as FIFA president only four days after his re-election on 5th June. The latest news is that former Vice President Jack Warner was arrested and released on bail on corruption charges. After initially denying any wrong doing he now states “I will no longer keep secrets for them.” He further says he has documents that “also deal with my knowledge of transaction at FIFA including- but not limited to- its President, Mr Sepp Blatter.” He claims he fears for his life! There has been little doubt in many people’s mind that FIFA has been guilty of many corrupt activities over a good many years but President Blatter has been seen to be fireproof. What results from the investigations can only lead to yet another of the world’s “nasty tastes”, exacerbated by the apparent acceptance of what at the time seemed unacceptable decisions by other reasonably powerful football organisations. It would appear that an awful lot of money has been transacted “under the counter” to buy or cover up various arrangements. The paying fan can only wait and see what comes to light!

The Hornets have appointed Quique Sanches Flores the ex Althletico Madrid boss as their new head coach. 6th June. It would seem that the man that got them into the Premiership was too expensive to keep them there.

The G7 summit in Germany 7th June. have discussed their united front to preserve the sanctions imposed on Russia over their territorial actions in Ukraine (hence G7 and not G8) and find a way of keeping Greece in the EU following the default in debt payments. Meanwhile behind the scenes talks are apparently taking place at all the head of states meetings between David Cameron and his EU counter parts in an effort to get a fairer deal for the UK within the EU. Surely the result of the promised referendum will depend to a great extent in the changes he can negotiate.

Some news agencies 8th June. are claiming both Russia 2018, and Qatar 2022, could lose their rights to stage the World Cup competition if firm evidence is brought that they purchased votes in order to win their involvement.

Philae awakens. The robot explorer vehicle that was landed on Comet 67P last November but bounced into a shadowed area, thus preventing its batteries from being recharged, has recommenced communications with its mother craft Rosetta and these messages are being relayed to earth.14th June. The scientists in Germany were surprised but worried that the messages were very brief. They nevertheless are delighted that nearing its closest position to the Sun it may provide important information on the comets make up as the surface vaporises. Mother and child are currently 305 million km. from Earth and the radio messages take 26 minutes to arrive home.

Today is the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta at Runnymede on the Thames by King John. 15th June. It is considered the nearest thing to a Bill of Rights that England has ever had and its influence on British and American law is still acknowledged. Although declared null and void within a few short weeks by the Pope and not including items like the right to trial by jury or Habeas corpus it has influenced many legal processes that are taken for granted today.

Bill Temple who has been Treasurer in charge of the finances for much of the life of the KRA since 1996 has died in Watford Peace Hospice, 15th June. following a lengthy illness. Only quite recently has he been forced by his ill health to relinquishe his post. This column records both its respect for Bill and his contribution to a successful KRA and to his wife Mary for backing him through some extremely difficult times. Condolences Mary.

Watford town Centre and Ring Road were brought to a standstill late morning today 18th June. when the police and security services dealt with a suspicious package just a few yards from a previous threat in Market Street three years ago. A bomb disposal robot was used to provide a controlled detonation of the suspected device and it was afterwards determined to be “non-viable”. What that means in civilian English has not been spelt out. An arrest was made of a white man wearing full-length niqab/burka and carrying a Pepper Pig children’s rucksack. Again the real facts behind the event are not known as of now. It is pleasing to record that the emergency forces appeared to have reacted in good time and had a successful outcome on the object of unknown potency. It is a lot less pleasing to be forced to realise what a world we live in today, where civilians are at risk in a shopping area; either by serious attempt to kill or maim or by frightening hoax.

The arrested man was later released without charge and another man is sought by the police. The package was not capable of causing an explosion.

Today was the 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo 18th June. this saw the final end of Napoleon Bonaparte’s attempted domination of all Europe. A coalition army consisting of Anglo Allies and Prussians defeated him at Waterloo soon after he escaped from exile on Elba. He had previously come unstuck; as did Hitler later, by invading Russia. He lost most of his army in the unsuccessful attempt after his uptil then great successes. Self crowned Emperor of France from 1804/14 and again at the time of his last battle he is remembered for his alleged “not tonight Josephine” statement and the fact that he wore his bicorn hat east to west and not north to south as did everyone else. He was a scourge of much of Europe and a politicians politician. It took a very close win in Belgium to knock him off his seat. This battle cost the lives of many thousands of men, both ally and enemy, and the Europe it left was a very different place to that which would have resulted from a French victory.

A parade took place in London the next day to commemorate the arrival of the good news. Today it would have been an instant text or tweet with graphic pictures on U-tube.

Mid Summer day has come and gone 21st June. The previous day gave us a lot of rain and the actual day was warmer but no sun. It’s all downhill from now on.

England ladies football team has won its way into the quarter finals of the FIFA World Cup in Canada. 23rd June. The performance was not great but perhaps we should settle for the result. The knowledge of the crowds and performance of the referees in general leaves a lot to be desired. With the next game against the home team Canada both these points may be tested.

Illegal migrants have been pouring into UK ports taking advantage of one of the fairly frequent French strikes. The number of people on this island went up by around half a million last year; give or take a few thousand or so. No one really seems to know!

David Cameron is in Brussels 25th. June. talking about three things. The first is his push for a changed relationship between the UK and EU. With a promise of a referendum on whether we stay in the EU by the end of 2017 he has admitted that “legally binding and irreversible” promises may not be ratified within the time constraints. “First get your promises” should perhaps be the way to go. The last major treaty revision took eight years to come into force. With all the countries represented by mainly unelected but very well paid members should we not expect them to be a little more on the ball. No matter what their thoughts on right or wrong are.

The second item for discussion is the EU demand from the UK for an extra £1.7billion pounds as a levy because we are recovering faster than other member states. This sum is just £0.6billion more than the amount loaned to a virtually bankrupt Greece by the IMF, which ends this weekend. There are threats of expulsion but this would lose considerable face for the Union. Meanwhile the anti-austerity lobby in Greece has been protesting strongly so they obviously can’t see that there is a problem. Have we not been here before?

Also subject to long and bad tempered discussion is the Mediterranean migrant problem. Many thousands have crossed the sea, often spending all their assets with the traffickers who in some cases have abandoned them on board overcrowded boats in terrible conditions. Thousands have died at sea. Eventually a deal was made to settle 40,000 asylum seekers, exempting Hungary and Bulgaria whilst the UK opted out.

Today was not a good one for humanity. 26th June. An IS. gunman walked onto a beach in Tunisia and shot 75 tourists at a hotel we have once stayed in, killing 39 of them. He in turn was shot and killed. Many British tourists are being ferried home by planes laid on by their tour company.

A driver who had previously been checked for links with Islamist radicals attacked a plant in Lyon in France causing an explosion by ramming his car into a flammable substance store. His boss was later found beheaded. France is now on its highest terror alert condition.

A suicide bomber walked into a Shia mosque east of Kuwait City during prayer time and killed 27 men, another 227 were wounded. An IS. affiliated group has claimed responsibility. Kuwait is Sunni ruled but has many Shia adherents who are considered by them to be heretics. Similar attacks have taken place recently in nearby Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

It appears all these attacks had IS. links, or so they claim.

Eurozone financial ministers have turned down the Greek request to extend their loan repayment beyond the due date of the 30th June. Greece has broken off negotiations on a new deal unilaterally. Their Finance Minister will try to secure an alternative bailout deal to put before the referendum arranged by PM Tsipras for the 5th July. With the £1.1bn due to be paid to the International Monetary Fund by the 30th June this seems to leave a bit of a hiatus. There is a fear that without an acceptance on deferment Greece may leave the Euro; and its economy; which has been virtually nonexistent for some time, will collapse altogether. With a new theory coming out every hour or so no one seems to know what to expect. I bet a compromise is suddenly discovered.

England ladies football team have reached the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup in Canada. 28th June. Playing against the host nation before a very partisan home crowd of 54,000 they scored two good goals in the first 15 minutes and were backs to the wall for the remaining 75. Despite giving away a goal just before half time there is no doubt they have great hearts and the celebration scenes at the end showed they are in it for the team. The general standard of refereeing must be a worry. Some of the decisions were inexplicable; and they were not all given against England. The Lionesses next task is to take on the reigning champions Japan on Wednesday. This is not going to be easy as witnessed by Japans earlier performances.

Confirmed British deaths in the Tunisian beach massacre have risen to 15. Some bodies are yet to be identified and others are seriously injured in hospital. UK. Foreign Minister Ellwood says that the attack in Sousse is the “most significant terrorist attack on British people” since the 7/7 bombings.

Today will be one second longer. 30th June. An extra second or “leap” second will be added to compensate for the world slowing down. Don’t forget to adjust your clocks!

The RAF have brought 4 injured holiday makers back from Tunisia whilst the bodies of some of the dead are also soon to be transported back. 22 British nationals have been positively identified as dying on and around the Mahaba hotel in Sousse and another eight await verification.

Despite an attempt to obtain a third European bailout in five years, the Greeks; with their banks closed and tight limits on cash withdrawals look likely to default, and some say this will force their withdrawal from the Euro market. The stock markets are seeing this as a no lose situation for them and whatever happens to those who have no control, they will no doubt make a killing.

 

July 2015

Today is the hottest weather wise for 9 years. 1st July. 36 degrees in the shade was recorded in a Fern Way Garden. The papers are in their normal “panic mode”. Keep workplaces cool and let staff avoid commuting in the fiercest heat. Take plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration and due to high levels of pollution and pollen attempt to avoid breathing at all when in the dangerous outdoors. If you are unlucky enough to live in or around Norwich, Peterborough or Cambridge the Department of the Environment say the pollen levels will be at their highest. If you are really brave and attempt to travel by train to these spots then take sandwiches as the rail lines are buckling due to the heat.

Whilst on the subject of rail travel it would not be a good idea to try to travel to France either as the French ferry workers are on strike yet again and have thrown burning tyres onto the Eurorail tracks in an entirely successful attempt to block the tunnel. The strikers fought with the police whilst as many of the 4,000 would be migrants to the UK took advantage and attempted to break into the rail terminal.

The action will cause travel disruption until tomorrow when the French air traffic controllers will walk out for two days as per their strike rota! We never had this problem with the Onion sellers!

The Greeks have defaulted on their loan repayment.

The Lionesses have been knocked out of the FIFA World Cup at semi-final level in Canada. 2nd July. They fought through to a creditable 1-1 at very nearly full time when an own goal to Japan lost them a place in the final. The girls have put up a spirited show throughout the tournament and should be proud of themselves, and this despite a standard of refereeing that leaves a lot to be desired. It could not be claimed that this fact had influenced the semi-final result but the fact that two doubtful penalties in this last game cancelled one another out is perhaps indicative of the poor official performance.

A memorial is to be built to recognise the loss of life in the Sousse massacre. The final total of British dead is 30 with several still in hospital.

England 1-Germany 0. 4th July. The game for third place in Canada saw the Lionesses win against Germany for the first time in 21 attempts and collect Bronze medals. They; and their numerous fans, were delighted, and it made up a little for the disappointment of the quarter final result. They have made a lot more supporters and it is to be hoped they will see the effect when the Ladies league restarts soon.

The Greeks are holding their momentous referendum 5th July. with their PM recommending they don’t accept yet another bailout with quite severe austerity conditions.

The Greek referendum result was a resounding NO to its creditors the acceptance of more austerity and was greeted by celebration and jubilation by the electorate. 6th July. One of Greece’s main debtors; the Germans, can find no reason for them to celebrate. The resignation of the Greek Finance Minister this morning has drawn mixed responses and interpretations. Attempts are still being made to find a middle way but as the indecision continues so the EU credibility reduces. The banks remain closed.

The USA won the FIFA World cup final against Japan in a comprehensive manner with a 5-2 score line and a hat trick in 14 minutes in the first half. This was ladies football at a different level. A generally very good competition and at this last game the refereeing was of a class above the previous norm.

The Greek government has been given five days to come up with creditable proposals to win yet another bailout. 8th July. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk has said: “I have to say it loud and clear. The final deadline ends this week.” The scenario painted for a failure has been called “Black”. With bankruptcy and insolvency of the Greek banking system.

A further formal request has been lodged for a bailout and Greece has until Sunday to submit acceptable proposals to satisfy her creditors when the full European Union summit meet. It is still seems amazing that so few Greeks actually think that they can keep on borrowing and show little if any signs that their economy will change in order that they can have half a chance of ever paying off their debts. Their answer seems to be to keep spending and borrow even more. A massive Pay Day Loan situation?

A London Rail strike is due to start at 18.30 tonight and last for two days. The reason appears to be around the non acceptance of a 2% rise and £2,000 bonus for operating a planned 24hr Tube Service in September. Further strike action is also due on the First Great Western.

Chancellor George Osborne has presented the first fully Conservative budget for 18 years. As usual the reactions depends on where you look at it from, but it certainly has something to please everybody, and the obverse of course; from a Benefit cap reduction, restrictions on housing benefits for under 21 year old’s, Child tax and universal credits limited to two children in 2017, Public sector pay capped to 1%, Corporation tax to be reduced to 18% by 2020, Student grants to be replaced by loans to be paid back when recipient earns more than £21,000, a fall in social housing rents but high earners to pay full market rate, various changes to banking rules particularly effecting non-domiciled exemptions and the replacement of the levy with an 8% surcharge.

On the tax front the personal allowance for tax purposes will rise to £11,200 by 2017/18 and both the 20% and 40% bands will be raised over the same period. The 45% band will remain the same. Inheritance tax to be raised to £1m by 2017. Fuel duty to be frozen this year. On the debit side is a rise in Insurance Premium tax from 6% to 9.5%. With a projected national economy growth averaging around 2.3% and ongoing, the target for a surplus result is put back to 2018/19. An apprenticeship levy will be imposed on all large firms and the banks, including RBS will be returned to the private sector quicker. A new national living wage of £7.20 rising to £9 by 2020.

This is just a brief synopsis of the budget, but one that Greece would be delighted to be involved with.

The Foreign Office has warned all British tourists to leave Tunisia. 10th July. A large number of British investigators are still in the country and together with their Tunisian colleagues have determined the country faced a high risk of terror from an only partially dismantled terrorist cell. The recent precautions taken by the Tunisian forces are considered only “mitigation efforts”. Between 2,500 and 3,000 current tourists are involved. The advice has met with mixed reaction with some saying it is allowing the terrorists to win. The FO. claim the risk is considered too great at present and the advice was not given lightly.

Greece has won a third bailout after 17 hours of talks with the EU bosses. 13th July. A unanimous agreement has resulted “in principle”, with continued support and a growth package of £25bn and something described as “debt restructuring”. This is all dependent on the Greeks agreeing stringent reforms by Wednesday.

At last a possibly successful deal with Iran on limiting its nuclear weapon production potential.14th July. Although some Politician’s are apparently not convinced that the agreement has achieved all it set out to do or is indeed enforceable, others appear pleased that the situation is considerably better than when the negotiations commenced in 2006. Sanctions will be lifted by the west as a result of the deal.

The NASA space probe New Horizons has just made a close pass at 7,770 miles of the dwarf planet Pluto. (It was a planet when the probe was launched 9 years ago but has since been downgraded). In the meantime it has traveled 3bn. miles and performed a “sling shot” operation round Jupiter to accelerate 9,000 mph to reach its speed at flyby of 28,000 mph. It becomes the fastest spacecraft to leave Earth orbit and the first to explore this outermost inhabitant of our solar system. The size of a washing machine it is hoped it will provide mass’s of data for the NASA scientists over the next few months.

Claims of “extraordinary hypocrisy” at Westminster followed SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon’s instruction 15th July. to her MPs to vote against a government proposal to bring England and Wales into line with Scotland reference Fox Hunting dog pack numbers. The vote has been postponed, and the fact that the Scottish Nationalists have recently stated (18th May)they would not vote on this issue as it defies the convention that they should not influence events that do not affect them, has brought comments such as “What we have seen, really is a pretty toxic mixture of opportunism and hypocrisy” from Liam Fox, “entirely opportunistic and very hard to explain” from the PM, and “playing games in order to antagonise the English” from another senior Conservative. Who can say this is a surprise move? Or one not likely to be repeated?

The Greek government has very reluctantly agreed the financial restrictions attached to the latest bailout offer. 16th July. The IMF are unhappy that Greece will never pay back what they owe and the UK are less than pleased that £b’s will be asked for to support a currency that we have no part of. (£1bn has been suggested by EU bureaucrats.) It seems relatively easy to live beyond your means these days. Someone will always come up with a way out.

The New Horizons Pluto probe has demonstrated its survival of its close pass of the planet by sending back crisp pictures of the surface of the dwarf planet. Consider these signals take 4.5 hours to reach Earth, traveling at the speed of light and some small concept of the success of this “washing machine” sized device can be judged.

The general world mayhem appears to have stepped down marginally, 20th July. but it could be that we are becoming so used to horrendous events that the next happening will become, “I told you so”; rather than a great surprise.

Cuba and the United States have restored diplomatic relations. They were severed during 1961 during the cold war. The Trade embargo however remains. US. companies can still not do business with Cuba until Congress approves the end of the embargo so all the old American cars will have to wait for genuine spares and US businessmen will continue to smoke contraband Havana cigars.

The Greek debt saga continues. 24th July. The internationally mandated reforms that were pushed through parliament by the MP’s mark a defeat for Prime Minister Tsipras who had previously vowed he would never allow the auditors to set foot in Greece again. It is yet to be tested how the public will react and it would seem that the way the volatile press play the options will be a determining factor. Yet another bailout seems the most likely outcome, but it will possibly be far from quietly accepted!

More shootings in the US. This time a man opened fire from his seat in the cinema. No one seems particularly surprised!

Turkey has agreed to allow US war planes to launch attacks on IS sites from an airfield in Southern Turkey. Where do we go from here?

Crossing the channel is again difficult to impossible, 25th. July. due to a combination of continuing French strikes in Calais effecting ferries and the ongoing mass attempts of immigrants to gain access to the tunnel. Delays of several hours are being encountered by passengers and Operation Stack has provided miles of parked lorries on the M20 that are unable to cross due to the industrial action on the French side. With school holidays in their first week there are going to be many frustrated “are we there yet?” cry’s from the rear seats. European Union? I don’t think so.

Turkey has initiated air attacks on IS bases in Iraq and Syria and on PKK bases in Turkey and Iraq. The peace deal between the Turkish Government and the Kurdish Workers Party is now considered dead. With the PKK being attacked by suicide bombers in Syria by IS, and the Assad government in Syria forcing millions of refugees to flee to camps in Turkey and rumours of illegal oil deals between various governments it would take a brain better than mine; and most others, to sort this one out.

1,500 immigrants stormed the Eurotunnel terminal in Calais overnight. 29th July. One person died; possibly crushed by a truck. He is one of nine to lose their lives in the last two months. The Eurorail service is severely disrupted yet again. It is estimated 5,000 more migrants are poised to make an attempt and more are on their way. The French do not appear to see the situation as their problem.

David Cameron pledged that the UK government would do everything it could to combat the crisis.

Speaking as the UK confirmed £7m ($11m) of funding for new fencing at the terminal, the prime minister said the situation was “very concerning”.

England beat the Australians in the third Ashes Test at Edgbaston. 31st July. They won in three days and now lead the series 2-1 after a shocking display at Lords last week.

 

August 2015

The illegal immigrants at Calais 1st Aug. continue to disrupt both passenger and freight traffic as they attempt; frequently successfully, to break into the loading yard to climb aboard or attach themselves underneath wagons bound for the UK. The M20 continues to be filled with thousands of lorries unable to cross on the ferries and sites are being looked at to park them off the road.

The government have met under committee Cobra at Downing Street to attempt to find an answer to this serious problem and the French have provided a few more troops.

David Cameron has been taken to task by the PC. brigade for saying the immigrants were “swarming” across the continent and into France. I wonder if the stranded lorry drivers or frustrated holiday makers; or even the illegal’s, give a hoot what they are termed? And there are a lot of them!

Chelsea Ladies beat Nott’s County Ladies at the first women’s Cup Final to be played at Wembley Stadium. Nearly 31,000 saw the game and hopefully the start of more popular spectator events. England winning a Bronze medal at the FIFA World Cup in Canada has made the ladies game very popular and it was good to see that the referee and her officials interpreted the rules very well.

Operation “Stack” has been eased this morning 2nd Aug. and some vehicles are managing to cross the channel.

Introduced in 1996 Stack is used to hold commercial vehicles in two lanes of the M20 whenever the sea crossing is disrupted due to poor weather, migrant activity or French industrial action. Up until 2007 it had been used 95 times adding up to 145 days. Since then; until June of this year, only several short term uses have been made of the plan.

The financial effects on the economy and to the carriers is incalculable and the supply of goods to shops is also at risk. Tourism, both UK holiday makers traveling to the continent and Europeans coming to visit our green and pleasant lands is obviously suffering.

Another 24 hour underground rail strike 5th August. over more money for operating the planned all night service. Chaos for those who did make an attempt to get into work. Another ACAS meeting on Monday will determine if the mayhem continues.

The first Atomic bomb was dropped by the US Superfortress Enola Gay 70 years ago on the 6th August. on the Japanese city of Hiroshima killing 140,000 people and maiming and disfiguring thousands of others. Three days later another was directed at Nagasaki with similar horrific effect killing and maiming another 70,000 inhabitants.

The Japanese; who themselves were guilty of horrendous war crimes soon surrendered. With the return of allied prisoners of war it was confirmed the treatment they had received had been horrifically cruel and inhumane. Many died in captivity whilst carrying out forced labour. But if the nuclear attacks on civilian targets were justified is still fiercely argued. No other attack detonations have been carried out since, although the world lived for many years under the cloud of “Mutual Assured Destruction” from rocket propelled missiles in silos, all aimed at targets in both the West and East. 17,500 warheads still remain and possibly under unreliable control.

The advent of the “nuclear age” has not brought all the benefits promised. Several “melt down” accidents have occurred at power stations around the world that have killed people and still cause mutations and cancer to those exposed to the leaked radiation. The level of background radiation in the world has risen significantly due in part to the 2,000 warheads that have been detonated for test and propaganda purposes. Tonnes of radioactive waste; some with a half life of thousands of years, is stored in hopefully safe places, as no way to hurry the process or dispose of it once and for all has been discovered.

Nuclear power generation; although subject to horrendous accidents, has been of considerable benefit in reducing the Carbon Emissions from fossil fuel use which in itself is a manmade disaster. Particle physics has given the physicians new curative and diagnostic tools undreamed of before the 1950’s. Only time will tell if man can made an overall positive nett out of a powerful and dangerous science.

England cricketers have beaten the Aussie’s at Trent Bridge in two days and thirty minutes. 8th August. by an innings and 78 runs. They bowled out Australia for 60 runs in the first innings with a display of bowling and fielding that was a joy to behold.

After losing the Ashes 5-0 in Australia in the last series they have won them back with a score of 3-1 with one test to go.

The Hornets played their first game in the Premiership at Everton, where after twice leading they finally drew 2-2. Listening on the radio was difficult with many new names and nearly all very foreign sounding. The new manager was also difficult to understand. With Watford favourites to go down again at the end of the season is was ironic that they were the only one of three promoted teams who got a point. Its Early Doors. Whatever that means?

A new way of fleecing the NHS has been discovered. The card we can apply for to receive basic health care in other EU countries; the cost of which is subsequently recharged to our health service, are being fraudulently obtained by non UK residents and used for treatment outside the UK. The bill is then sent to the NHS. Perhaps we should employ some of these clever fraudsters to instruct our government on how to write legislation that does not resemble a very wide mesh fishing net. So many “holes” appear to have been written into various legislation it makes you wonder if we don’t have a Mole working in some departments.

Japan has restarted one of its 25 Nuclear Power Plants, 10th August, which were shut down in 2011 when an earthquake and Tsunami caused the Fukushima plant to go into a series of melt downs. The restart follows stringent new safety tests and is attended by protestors who had been promised a disaster such as occurred could never happen. This unease has insured that legal challenges will be made against the restart of all 25 plants. With much of the Fukushima surrounding area uninhabitable due to the radio activity, it is perhaps not surprising that for the inhabitants of a country in a very seismically active part of the world, are more than a little uneasy.

The Hornets drew 0-0 with West Brom. 15th August. on their first home game at the refurbished Vicarage Road. A crowd of over 20,000 saw it at near to full capacity.

Today we celebrate the anniversary of VJ Day. 70 years ago Japan unconditionally surrendered. The British PM Clement Attlee said, “The last of our enemies are laid low”. Celebrations were held but in some cases a long wait for the return of the men interned in the east by their barbaric captors was experienced.

The newspapers and TV have highlighted the shocking increase in diabetic cases. 17th August. Figures reveal that with four million current sufferers there has been an increase of over 60% in the last ten years. Many lower limb amputations have been recorded and the effect on the NHS financial position has been seen as dire. It is claimed the cost is currently nearing £10billion and much of this is spent on managing avoidable complications. An NHS spokesman says the rising figures should be seen as a “stark warning”.”Evidence is piling up that added sugar and excess calories are causing avoidable increases in obesity and diabetes.” “..it’s time to get serious about lifestyle change..”

The struggle for the leadership of the Labour Party continues. 17th August. The Machiavellian ploys from both within the party and other interested factions are difficult to summarise.

Greece has accepted a £61bn bailout and a set of financial conditions that will make many people very unhappy. The 7 month old PM has resigned to allow the electorate to vote again on how the restrictions operate. Many of the items; by their previous absence, suggest why the country has been in such an awful mess.

A disastrous crash of a vintage Hawker Hunter jet took place during the Shoreham air show in Sussex on Saturday 22nd August. The plane did not recover at the bottom of a loop and crashed onto the A27 in a fire ball where it hit several vehicles and other onlookers. It is reckoned; two days later, that 11 people may have died. It is particularly poignant that a party from the Kingswood Association watched the Air Show at close by Eastbourne just 7 days earlier and saw many similar manoeuvres carried out by a variety of aircraft. It is perhaps not lost on some that this Eastbourne display was carried out entirely over the sea and therefore the risk to the public much reduced.

The British Embassy has reopened in Tehran following the agreement reached earlier this year on the control of Iran’s nuclear armaments. 23rd August. The embassy was closed four years ago when it was stormed by the Iranians protesting against the sanctions placed by the West over their weapon development programme. Iranian Embassies in both the UK and USA are to be reopened.

England cricketers have taken possession of the Ashes at The Oval after a fairly poor display on the field to lose the fifth and final test in four days; by an innings and 46 runs. The series has been marked by some tremendous bowling performances and some fairly average batting. It has nevertheless been entertaining, with the right end result.

The Hornets have drawn their third game on the trot. Sunday at 4pm seems a most unnatural time to play a game of football.

The prescription and overuse of antibiotics is rife say many reports. The NHS is paying millions of pounds for drugs that will have no beneficial effect on many of the common viral infections; such as Colds, Flu, and Bronchitis, most sore throats some ear and sinus infections or even viral gastroenteritis. But in these instances; and many others, the drug will still attack the beneficial or benign bacteria in your body and promote antibiotic-resistant properties that may be shared with other less welcome bacteria. With very few new types of drug in development, this is currently; and will be more so in the future, providing the doctors with no effective weapons against a number of problems such as some forms of TB, and including post operative infection such as MRSA. NICE say that of the 10million prescriptions made for the drug every year only 1 in 4 was necessary. 97% of these scripts are filled by GP’s, many in response to strong patient demand. These figures vary over different reports but all show the same expensive and almost certainly dangerous trend.

The Chinese Stock Market continues to plunge. 25th August. Its slowing industrial growth has triggered a global sell off. 16% was lost from the value of Chinese stock over the last two days. The worst fall since 2007, it of course caused a sharp drop in US and European markets. Billions were lost in London as the FTSE fell yet again. The lowered share prices in China should only have a moderate effect on other markets as foreigners own only 2% of shares. Why then has this last apparent failure of another country’s financial control had such a catastrophic effect on UK values? Who has made a fortune this time? The Chinese have added a Bank Rate reduction today to their existing currency devaluation. This had some calming effect on the non local exchanges.

The destruction of ancients relics in Iraq and Syria continues. Pictures of sledge hammer wielding men destroying statuary that has stood for 3,000 years appear regularly. It is also reported that smaller items have been advertised and sold on E-Bay.

A deluge gave North West London, including Watford, nearly 2 inches of rain in a short period around midday. 26th August. Roads were flooded and cars floated in and around Wembley. My electronic forecaster showed clear sky and a big shiny sun and 87% humidity. It was difficult to know which one to believe!

The Queen has been graciously pleased to signify Her intention of conferring a life time UK peerage on a number of political figures including our Mayor Dorothy Thornhill MBE. 27th August. A good friend of the KRA Dorothy has been very supportive. Congratulations.

The Hornets have lost their first game in the Premiership 29th August. to Manchester City. A much better team in all areas of play. In a most uninspiring black away strip they did not manage one shot on goal. City scored twice.

The World Athletics Championships ended today in Beijing. The British stars were Mo Farah; with Gold’s in both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres: Jessica Ennis-Hill in the Heptathlon and Greg Rutherford in the Long Jump. Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt won another set of Gold’s which must take him fairly close to the UK reserve total. Several other Brits put in good performances to allow the UK & Northern Island to finish up 4th in the medal table. Lord Coe was elected President of the IAAF that governs world athletics earlier in the month and has said he will deal with the allegations of rife drug abuse in the sport that has been made public over recent months.

Today is the last Bank Holiday before Christmas 31st August. and the French are blockading the Port of Calais. Again! Returning holiday makers are again denied their right of free travel within the EU. To add to our woes it is also pouring down with rain.

IS have destroyed parts of the 2,000 year old Greco Roman Temple of Bel at the World Heritage site in Palmyra in Syria. This follows earlier destruction and looks likely to continue. The archaeologist who oversaw the site for 40 years was killed by the militants earlier in the month.

 

September 2015

Calais is again in the news. 2nd September. The Eurostar terminal was closed for 4 hours whilst refugees attempted; and in some cases succeeded, to gain access to the tunnel. The extra fencing and French police had little effect. Power was turned off when people were heard on the train roofs. There is little cohesive thought between the EU countries as to the action with “not in my back yard” seeming to sum up most of it.

David Cameron has said “taking more and more refugees” was not the answer to the mass migration. The EU should focus on bringing peace, stability and stronger economies to the countries effected. The IS and other regimes and factions do not see it that way!

Elsewhere many migrants are in a stand-off with the police outside a Budapest railway station. Many of the people have tickets and insist they be allowed to travel into Germany. Hungary says it is enforcing the EU rules. Attempts to cross the sea to Greece have resulted in more deaths by drowning and stories of many; including those from the west, people traffickers, making fortunes and providing at best dangerous transport are rife.

Germany, Italy and France have called for a “fair distribution” of refugees across the EU. In other words, no one has any idea on how to tackle the life changing problems, which does not only effect the refugees.

Despite earlier comments to contrary David Cameron has announced the UK will provide placement for “thousands” of Syrian refugees in response to the humanitarian crisis; worsening by the day. 4th September. He said numbers are not firmed as yet but the extra refugees would come from camps near to Syria and not from those already in Europe. The idea would seem to be to cut out the people traffickers who have caused the death of many thousands.         A further £100m in humanitarian aid will be made available to those in the camps in Syria, Turkey and the Lebanon. This amount is over and above the £920million already provided and more than the total provided by the rest of Europe, who still accuse the UK of not doing enough. European Union? I think not!

David Cameron has confirmed the UK will take 20,000 Syrian refugees by the year 2,020. He said the UK had a “moral responsibility” to displaced persons in camps near to the Syrian border, but must continue to do all we can to end the conflict, the cause of the problem. 7th September. Vulnerable children and orphans would be the priority. The scheme will be paid for from the overseas aid budget for the first year but after that local councils would be involved in a contribution. Labour claims the figure is too low and have secured an emergency Commons debate.

The government were defeated on a proposed amendment to the wording of the EU referendum that will take place by the end of year 2017. It surrounded what is known as the “purdah” rules, which control government activity during the campaign period. A politicians point? Not one I understand.

The PM said that two British Islamic State jihadists were killed in Syria by RAF drone strikes, one of whom was plotting “barbaric” attacks on UK soil. “The Civil Rights people are not happy with this situation!” The PM further said that these two had been plotting terror attacks on “high profile public commemorations” this summer and posed a direct threat to the UK.

Today, 9th September. Queen Elizabeth II becomes our longest reigning monarch. At age 89 years she has overtaken her great, great Grandmother Queen Victoria with a total reign to date of 63 years, 7months and 2 days. Since her accession in February 1952 at age 25 she has met 12 UK Prime Ministers and 11 US Presidents and seen the world change in so many ways.

Long Live the Queen.

The West Herts Hospital Management Trust has been ordered to improve following an inspection found problems including a chronic lack of nurses and untrained staff assessing patients. 10th September.

The Trust has been put “into special Measures” after inspectors found serious failings in safety and quality of care for patients. The Care Quality Commission watchdog rated the Trust as “inadequate”.

The Trust is responsible for providing health care to half a million residents from its three hospitals located in Watford, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans.

It is good to know that the new chief executive: Jac Kelly, has been praised for understanding the problems and taking decisive action to tackle them, it is less satisfactory that the situations threatening patient safety has been allowed to get to an “inadequate” situation.

This household has suffered recent problems that we thought were just our bad luck. Perhaps not! The Trust will receive support to help it improve its services and quality of care and an improvements director will be appointed to help speed up the process. Yet another executive parking space? For the sake of our health let us all hope the plan works.

The Northern Ireland peace accord is apparently threatened due to the alleged activity of banned IRA personnel. First Minister Peter Robinson has decided to step down after the alleged IRA involvement in a Belfast killing. He claims that the continued existence of IRA structures had “pushed devolution to the brink”. David Cameron has refused to suspend the Stormont assembly and Mr Robinson has appointed Arlene Foster as acting First Minister in order to keep devolution going for a few weeks. A lot of bad news!

The Hornets have achieved their first Premiership 3 points with a win over Swansea at Vicarage Road. 12th September. In a good game they held on to a one goal to nil lead, despite losing a player to a red card in the 2nd half.

Jeremy Corbyn has been elected as leader of the Labour party in an election that can best be described as unusual. 13th September. He has made his left wing ally John McDonnell shadow chancellor. Several previous shadow ministers have refused positions in his new cabinet. Only time will tell if the radical changes will be good for the party, or indeed for the country.

        From The Prime Minister’s Office, No 10 Downing Street. 14th September.

“The Queen has been pleased to approve the appointment of Richard Harrington MP as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State jointly at the Home Office, the Department for Communities and Local Government, and the Department for International Development.

Richard Harrington will be responsible for coordinating and delivering work across government to resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees in the UK, along with coordinating the provision of government support to Syrian refugees in the region”. He will report primarily to the Home Secretary, as Chair of the Ministerial Group on Syrian refugees, and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, as deputy Chair of the Group.”

The Prime Minister is in The Lebanon visiting Syrian refugees in camps, some of whom will be part of the 20,000 due to come to the UK.

Meanwhile EU interior ministers are meeting in Brussels to plan for the allocation of another 160,00 asylum seekers across 23 EU states under a mandatory rota system. Not every country actually wants them

Battle of Britain Day. Today is the 75th anniversary “The Battle of Britain” a reaction that determined the survival of the UK as an independent entity and possibly determined the balance of world power as it exists today. 15th September.

With Hitler and his Nazi armies having overrun most of Europe he determined that all he needed was air supremacy over the British Isles to make an invasion a success. Operation Sea Lion would be launched from the recently captured French channel ports. The Luftwaffe launched two massive air attacks to wipe out what they thought was an already severely depleted RAF force and ineffective air defense system. The RAF pilots flew sortie after sortie to inflict massive damage to the seemingly endless hordes of Nazi bombers and fighters. These men became known as “The Few” and sent a clear message to Hitler that Britain would never surrender. By October 1940 Hitler’s plan to invade were cancelled and his bombers turned to civilian targets in city areas. Britain was now the last active outpost of resistance against Nazi Germany.

During the battle 1,887 German aircraft were lost against 1,023 RAF planes. The cost in lives was 2,600 Germans to 544 RAF personnel. The RAF personnel involved included a significant number of British Dominions, occupied Europe and neutrals servicemen.

P.M. Winston Churchill in a House of Commons speech cast in stone the comment…..

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Per Ardua Ad Astra.

The Syrian refugee crisis continues with hordes of desperate men women and children attempting to get to what they see as a Northern European Eldorado. 18th September. It is not clear which country is their target but they continue to press through various borders. First Hungary and then Croatia closed their border posts but the desperate refugees just found a way round. Recrimination all round for those countries who will not take what has been determined their quota, quite often from those that had no intention of taking anyone themselves. Attacking the root cause that exists in Syria apparently is not considered the answer.

President Putin has been asked to get involved in the Syrian conflict although no doubt he already has some considerable knowledge of the situation as he continues to send troops and armaments into the country. It is difficult to decide the direction of his support. It is claimed that he is trying to assert his authority in the Middle East and to sustain his Arab allies. Since being ejected from Egypt back in 1972 Assad has been Russia’s main asset in the Middle east.

Obama has attempted to contact Moscow in an attempt to co-ordinate actions in the war zone as Soviet warplanes arrive in Syria. This is somewhat of a change from last week where the US condemned Russia’s proposed moves as a “strategy that’s doomed to failure”.

Meanwhile an awful lot of Syria’s inhabitants leave the country; by whatever means, to achieve their goal of reaching Northern Europe. Several of the countries on their route have closed borders and accuse one another of playing “pass the parcel”.

Today is the 60th anniversary of the launch of ITV London. 22nd September, the UK’s first commercial TV channel. All those with the wherewithal to purchase a VHF aerial and set top box were poised for a new black and white experience at 7.15 pm. This was circumvented by the 7.pm episode of the long running radio series “The Archers”. Grace Archer; the five month bride of farmers son Phil, tried to save a horse in a burning stable, was hit by a falling beam and dragged out by her husband, rushed to hospital where she was pronounced dead. The nation went into shock! BBC switchboards were jammed for days and Broadcasting House inundated with wreaths. The next day’s newspapers carried the story on their front pages. The audience of 9.4 million were shocked by the latest event in their “must listen to” programme. It could be considered too much of an coincidence that this day and time had been chosen and many stories were generated around the possibility that it was a clever way of taking away ITV’s limelight. Other suggested that the actress playing Grace had been after more money.

Originally billed as “an everyday story of country folk” the Archers is still broadcast on Radio 4 after a run of circa 17,750 episodes and is now called a “contemporary drama in a rural setting”, it still attracts over 5 million radio listeners a day. A further 1 million plus listen via the internet which makes it something of a legend in its own lifetime.

ITV, after its launch set back 60 years ago, has grown exponentially to its present day multi regional massive organisation.

Volkswagen diesel vehicles in the US have allegedly been rigged to pass the emission test legislation for the country when in fact they do not reach the levels decreed or agree with the falsified test results. 24th September. The company now agrees it used software to provide false emission test results which effected 11 million vehicles and it is not known currently how many of these were in the UK. With diesel cars being far more popular in Europe than the States it seems likely the ratio will be high. Several top executives have been purged in Germany and US and VW shares have plunged by as much as 40%, knocking billions of Euros off its market value.

It would appear the company have admitted that the software was programmed to detect when it was in test mode and alter the running parameters to conceal the actual level of emissions. This sounds like a litigators dream.

The alleged agreement following the meetings this week to relocate 120,000, mainly Syrian migrants, across the continent were approved by EU interior ministers. Under the scheme, migrants will be moved from Italy, Greece and Hungary to other EU countries. Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary did not see it this way and voted against. It is apparently unusual for decisions’ involving national sovereignty to be decided by majority vote rather than a unanimous decision.

A summit meeting report 29th September in the US had President Obama condemning President Assad for his actions and atrocities in Syria whilst Russia’s Putin supported him. They both however seemed to agree that IS must be curbed. On the whole not a great prospect of an agreement helping the thousands of displaced Syrian residents.

 

October 2015.

At least a million diesel cars and commercial vehicles are affected in the UK by the rogue software fitted by VW. In an attempt to muddy the water the fact about emission measurement as a whole in all vehicles has been raised. 1st October.

Russia has stepped up its air attacks on Syria. 3rd October. They claim to be aiming for IS strongholds but the UK and America claim their targets are Assad’s Syrian enemies.

Following an indiscipline performance and loss to the Welsh last weekend the England Rugby team have achieved a record first against Australia today at Twickenham. Despite lots of “Swing low” they were out thought and outplayed to lose by a total too large to further record, and be the first home nation to ever go out of the World Cup at the Pool stage.

The Hornets managed a draw at Bournemouth with a display that did not inspire. Their sparkle appears to have dulled over the last two or three games.

Channel Tunnel services are back to schedule today. Sunday.4th October. This followed the break in of around 120 migrants on Friday evening. One tunnel employees and two policemen were injured as the immigrants broke through security fencing. The authorities informed the freight drivers that their journey’s would take four hours whilst passengers have a three hour delay following the incident but services were running as normal by the evening. The company say they are worried there may be a repeat and are “being very careful because it was such a different tactic, a different approach”. A tunnel spokesman said staff were overwhelmed by the “number and aggression” of the group.

Plastic bags will be charged at 5p each from today 5th October in large outlets in order to reduce these almost indestructible containers from further polluting our more or less green and pleasant land. They are everywhere, in verges, trees and the park. The sea worldwide is full of them. How do they escape captivity?

Russian warplanes have been reported as violating Turkish airspace. Moscow claims that it was neither intentional or important. The NATO General Secretary today 6th October. rejected that claim and said there were two separate incidents and “the violations lasted for a long time”. Additionally Turkey claims that its jets patrolling the Syrian border were placed in radar lock by Russian planes and surface to air missiles.

Foreign media reports that Russian planes attacked the city of Palmyra are an absolute lie a ministry spokesman said. “Our planes in Syria do not strike populated areas and especially ones with architectural monuments. The fear continues that Russian air strikes are more directed against Assad rebels than the claimed IS.

All these claims and counters claims are a serious threat, not only to the Syrians but to the world.

The National Lottery has moved the goal posts again. After a simple doubling of the stake from £1 to £2 a while back it has added another ten balls to the big fish ball. 10th October. This in straight forward terms raises the odds on winning a jack pot from an high 14million to one to an astronomical 45 million to one. With £34billion passed on to good causes to date, how will the “pot” fair from now on? Already the Jackpots have reduce considerably in size and there are many more Roll Over’s.

A double bombing in Ankara has killed over 100 attendees at a peace rally. Turkish citizens gathered in the city centre to lay the blame on the government for not providing sufficient security measures saying that police officers who arrived after the bombing fired tear gas into the crowd, some of whom were trying to locate family members. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims IS were responsible. Whoever is responsible, they certainly achieved what must have been their aim of creating panic and stirring dissent.

Sepp Blatter, the President of FIFA has at last been ousted from his apparently invulnerable position after what appears to be many years of suggested corruption. 12th October. His number two; and earlier proposed successor Michel Platini, has also been dismissed. It is difficult to see who actually did the wicked deeds and who will now be put forward as the next President. And by whom!

The campaign to say no to the UK leaving the EU at the 2017 referendum has begun. No doubt we will have to listen for the next two years to entirely conflicting views from everyman and his dog.

A Final report today,13th October. by the Dutch Safety Board chairman claims the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in July of last year killing 298 passengers and crew was due to a near hit from a Russian made Buk missile and that it was fired from the Eastern Ukraine. Although not saying who was responsible, the examination of the reconstructed wreckage of the Boeing 777 proved the missile had detonated less than a metre from the cockpit and the plane fell into Eastern Ukraine where the ground conflict raged.

Earlier today; even before the report was published, Russian officials from the state owned firm that manufactures Buk missiles again rejected all accusations. They suggested the plane was shot down by a Buk fired by Ukrainian forces.

Knowing who was the perpetrator would be cold comfort for the many people who lost friends and relatives in the disastrous attack on non combatants. It is unlikely anyone with a terrible conscience will own up.

The report suggested the civil air space above the raging conflict should have been closed. It further said “No one had considered that civil aircraft at cruising altitude were at risk”.

Israeli and Palestinians are killing one another with increased frequency and the Israeli cabinet has authorised the police to seal of parts of Jerusalem in an effort to keep them apart. 14th October. This follows a police report that three Israelis were killed and 20 more hurt in shooting and stabbing attacks. The police shot two Palestinians’ when they were caught stabbing passengers on a bus. Yet another flare up of violence in this troubled world.

UK inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index fell to 0.1% in September. The CPI has been close to zero for much of the year and the lowering price of fuel at the pumps and only a small rise in clothing prices are the main reasons. Some benefits and public sector pensions are linked to the September figures so millions will not see a rise in their benefits. Fortunately the state pension is protected and will go up by 2.5 %

Unemployment has fallen to seven year low. October 14th. 4% of the workforce were without jobs whilst the number actually in work was 73.6% or in total 31million which is the highest number since records began in 1971. There is still a considerable divide north to south with the former coming off worst.

Victim Support records that one in three victims of fraud are aged 65 and over and increasingly likely to be targeted by phone internet and fraudsters knocking at the door. The scams become more and more sophisticated and are often used against the elderly and isolated and possibly suffering from some form of dementia.

The West Herts Hospital Trust is not the only establishment in the country found wanting in safety of patients. 13% have been deemed “inadequate” whilst 61% “require improvement”. These findings are the result of a new tougher regime from the Inspector of Hospitals Professor Sir Mike Richards. GP services also come in for censure with 25% determined requiring improvements whilst 10% of Social Care facilities were at the bottom of the listing with an “inadequate” label. A major reason for the poor performance and safety failings is not enough staff and the use of temps; claims the report.

There is currently a Sale on at Poundworld in the High Street. 50% off everything, with queues at 7.30am for the opening resulting. The shop closes later this month to make way for the development which will possibly mean that most of the establishments in the area will not be cheapies or charity shops. There won’t be much for £1 in these emporiums!

Two new suspects have been named over the bombing of the Pan Am Jumbo Jet over Lockerbie in1988 which killed a total of 270 people, passengers, and residents of the Scottish town. One man had previously been convicted of the atrocity and jailed for a minimum of 27 years. He died in 2012 after being released on compassionate grounds with terminal cancer. Whether the two now identified will ever be tried in the UK is problematical.

The UK steel industry appears to be in free fall. 20th October. In the face of world over production and low prices from China in particular; the mainly foreign owned UK plants are not considered viable. Today TATA Industries have announced 1,200 job cuts at the Scunthorpe and Lanarkshire plants. This follows administrators being appointed affecting the Redcar plant earlier this month. The plant will close as no buying offers have been received.

The industry claim that competitive problems are from outside the UK; particularly China, who have been accused of dumping steel in the UK by selling it at uneconomical prices. Some anti-dumping legislation has been established on Chinese wire rod but a steel spokesman has said that even when dumping is identified it takes years to investigate. It would seem the UK steel industry may not have years left to work with.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is staying with the Queen at Buckingham Palace for three nights and is being afforded rides in the Royal Carriage down the Mall and what appears to be a “right Royal” buttering up, including a 41 gun artillery salute. The feeling is that favours may be part of a possible deal and a rumour in the air that British foreign policy regarding Chinese ownership of key British industry and a tighter tie in the financial sector is not a definite no. With their bad press on human rights and industrial pollution, (part due to producing an awful lot of cheap steel) it is going to be an enormously difficult sell to the people, and not without possible disastrous consequences.

With a possible $46b of deals in the offing and a rumoured 30% share in the building of three UK nuclear generation plants there is potential for mutual benefit. With the Chinese economy in a none too healthy position; one that has reflected in the UK and world markets, it would make sense to consider the plans, but very very carefully.

 

November 2015.

We are back from holiday in the Canaries 6th November. and the main item of news surrounds the crash of an Airbus A321 over the Sinai Peninsula with the loss of 224 mainly Russian lives. They were returning from their holidays in Sharm el Sheik. Many UK residents were; and still are involved, with many planes sent to repatriate them and all sorts of reasons given why most of them were not able to be utilised. Those that are returning are leaving their hold luggage behind for transportation by separate means.

The plane reportedly broke up in midair some 25 minutes after takeoff and was at a height above which a ground based missile could have caused the damage. The UK immediately cancelled all flights to Sharm whilst the Russians accused us of being premature. They have themselves suspended all flights to Egypt leaving a calculated 79,000 of their tourists stranded.

The French have claimed the recovered Flight Recorder gives no indication of a structural failure and a noise indicative of an explosion was noted. The wide spread of the debris is also indicative of a massive mid air break up. For reasons; other than practical, the preliminary results of the investigation are not yet known although several Western agencies claimed they picked up “chatter”, both before and after the event, on social networks and similar that suggested some activity was taking place. IS have claimed responsibility, as they would, as retaliation for the Russian bombing in Syria.

The theory that a bomb was placed in the planes hold separately; or in hold luggage, is now being discussed with some passengers claiming security officials took them aside to demand monies to bypass the security checks, others said the checks were “perfunctory” at best. Our recall of several years ago remind us the checks were picky rather than thorough, but they were extremely slow.

The low UK Bank Rate is here to stay until at least this time next year. With inflation still very low; due in part to falling fuel prices, it means we will all be able to drive further but not save for our pensions. If you are buying a property make the most of it!

Cyber fraud is on the increase exponentially. 44% of the overall crime figure is composed of online fraud and malware attacks. “The Office for National Statistics” say in the last 12 months there were 5.1m cyber-crime incidents affecting 3.8m UK residents. It is “unfortunate” that the Home Office run “Action Fraud” is forced to allow a computer program to determine if a reported case is worth investigating. The consequence is that many thousands of cases are not followed up and you may be contacted only “in some cases”. A newspaper research suggests that only 9,000 convictions for online fraud have been obtained from the millions of reported cases. The answer is mainly in your own hands. Don’t tell anyone your personal details and assume that anyone asking is suspect. Social media is a “scammers” delight and an attachment you don’t recognise or expect should never be opened to find out. Your rubbish bin is for rubbish, not correspondence with your data on it! Shred it!!!

The Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone has been officially declared over by the World Health Organisation 7th. November. following a period of 42 days without a new case reported. 7th November. 4,000 people died of the virus in a period of 17months out of a total of nearly 9,000 infected. Other countries in the area are still reporting new cases and heightened awareness and care are the order of the day.

Yet another incidence of corruption, fraud and downright cheating in the great world of sport was raised today. A report released in Geneva, 9th November. by “The World Anti-doping Agency”, their former president Dick Pound looks at claims of systemic cheating and cover-ups within Russian international athletics. It is likely that calls for Russia to be expelled from World athletics will have to be answered satisfactorily if international sport is to survive.

Sebastian Coe, the new President of the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations), will have to act fast to retain his credibility and what is left of his associations. “Dark days” for the sport he comments.

Coe’s predecessor; Lamine Diack, together with the IAAF legal advisor and the head of its anti-doping unit were arrested in France last week and the marketing consultant; Diack’s son, would also have been detained if they could have found him. The ex president who “served” for the previous 16 years was accused of receiving more than one million Euro’s in exchange for covering up positive drug tests. The fact that Coe had served as vice president under Diack leaves some difficult questions to be answered.

As yet unsubstantiated; and furiously denied, allegations that 90% of Russian athletes have access to banned substances; and the means to avoid testing or having the results recorded if a test is failed, has cast a shadow over the last Olympics. The Russian Federation has until Friday to provide answers.

Corruption has been developed into an art form in many areas, with politics seemingly leading the way. Other; more or less unelected bodies, have taken up the challenge to be more blatant than the last and “feather their own nests”, usually with monies coming directly or indirectly from the public. Following closely on the FIFA debacle this latest example stinks!

Airport security worldwide requires a rethink, 10th November. say a UK airline. Whilst UK precautions are usually OK, other unspecified destinations leave a lot to be desired. There may be some cost and additional delays incurred. If as much money was spent on sensible security as on shopping mall like departure areas there would be less of a risk. Bypassing or bribing security may be possible but getting to your waiting area without a tour of dozens of booze, fag and perfume outlets is impossible!

David Cameron is attempting to persuade the EU that the UK should have certain op-out clauses in areas that are not considered relevant or fair to us. We should resist further integration that would make all countries into one big autonomous state; something that in many people’s mind is complete anathema. 11th November. He further fears that financial taxes could be imposed by the other members on the City of London. He claims we should be able to control the number of immigrants entering the UK and should impose a four year residency period on those that enter before they qualify for in-work benefits. Other associated areas for action are the power to deport foreign criminals, a change to European Court of Justice rulings reference re-entry for fraudsters, the sham marriage debacle and our release from the earlier mentioned EU commitment to an “ever closer union”. Decisions should be made by national governments; not Brussels. Justice and home affairs should not be interfered with and the Brussels imposed Red Tape which interferes with business activities should be cut.

These items have been variously welcomed and condemned as pathetic and watered, down by various UK correspondents. With a referendum due to determine if we stay or go imminent David Cameron has said the result of his demands/request will determine if the government recommends the people to vote to stay in or get out.

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month was marked as the end of World War 1. 75 years ago today with a two minutes silence. Big Ben struck the hour and most of London went quiet, together with repeats about the rest of the UK. Very few survivors from this horrific conflict remain with us today and it is to our shame that the many brave servicemen that have died in another World War and numerous other conflicts since, need to be added to the illustrious list. They should never be forgotten!

Bloody massacre in Paris. 13th November. A coordinated attack on civilians in a concert venue, bars, restaurants and the National Stadium, has left 128 confirmed dead and 200 injured; 99 of these critically. President Hollande has described the event as “an act of war” which was planned and co-ordinated and organised from abroad with help from inside the country. Gunmen with automatic weapons sprayed death on their victims, reloaded and repeated the carnage. No group had claimed responsibility but Hollande has accused IS, and since then a statement making the claim has been published. It would seem there were eight or nine terrorists directly involved and they all died, mostly by blowing themselves up.

Paris Orly was closed for some time and Gatwick also was evacuated. Both flights and rail services were later resumed with heightened security. With a state of emergency in force on Saturday France is to mourn for three days.

Russia is suspended by the IAAF from all international sport. The athletics world governing body has voted 22-1 to make the suspension due to widespread state sponsored doping. The ban will include the 2016 Olympics unless the countries’ authorities can demonstrate a major change in controls and especially testing. Seb Coe the IAAF chairman said that they “as a federation” are also in the dock. “The IAAF, WADA, and the member federations and athletes need to look closely at ourselves, our cultures and our processes to identify where failures exist and be tough in our determination to fix them and rebuild trust in our sport,” he said.

Russian President Putin has at last admitted it was a bomb that brought down the Airbus flying 224 Russian tourists out of Sharm al Sheik last month. 17th November. He has vowed to hunt down those responsible and has intensified air strikes against militants in Syria. He has ordered the Russian navy into the eastern Med to co-ordinate the sea and air strikes with the French navy. 37 planes will be involved together with cruise missiles. ” We will find them anywhere on the planet and punish them” said Putin and placed a $50m bounty in a global man hunt for the perpetrators. This change in attitude from the Western countries approach on a terrorist involvement has taken an awfully long time to surface.

A friendly football match between England and France took place at Wembley despite the horror of last Fridays terrorist attacks in Paris where the National Stadium was the site of one of the attacks during another international game and two suicide bombers killed themselves outside the stadium.

With a massive armed police presence the arch at Wembley was lit with Red White and Blue floods and an enormous electronic banner outside proclaimed “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” the motto of the French revolution. The 75,000 crowd of both supporters sang the “La Marseillaise” with complete respect and none of the usual shouting down. It was an emotive scene, and the resulting match; which England won, took a long time to become a real contest.

David Cameron has promised a “strategy” to win MPs’ support for bombing Islamic State in Syria as well as the current air attacks on IS targets in Iraq. He is obviously wary following a lost vote for action in Syria in 2013. He has said he wanted to do the right thing for our country and hit the “head of the snake” of IS in Raqqa, Syria.

With the concentration of the forces of France and a lately awoken Russia concentrated on Syria perhaps Iraq targets should remain our aim?

A raid took place in a Paris suburb 18th November, where a suspect was shot dead and a woman blew herself up during the police action. Seven arrests were also made during the violent siege. A flat in Saint Denis was targeted in the search for the alleged mastermind of last Friday’s atrocities. It is believed that Abdelhamid Abaaoud may still be in France. A State of Emergency for 3 months has been placed on France in order that raids can take place on demand.

The murder of PC Yvonne Fletcher; who was shot outside the Libyan Embassy in 1984 has resulted in an arrest after 31 years. 19th November. A Libyan national was arrested this morning in south east England. Now in custody; he is suspected of money laundering. The “long arm of the Law”?

Warnings come today that the world may well be on the edge of the “post antibiotic era”, with many bacteria having developed resistance to many antibiotics. This same resistance has been noted to colistin; the drug used as a last resort when all else fails. The resistance is believed to have developed from the over prescription of antibiotics; in many cases not appropriately or of any benefit. The over use of coliston in farming has also contributed.

Bacteria which has become completely resistant to antibiotics could reduce medicine to the dark ages where what is considered a minor infection these days would be very serious as was the case before the development of penicillin. This state has been named “the antibiotic apocalypse”. With no new drugs coming on the scene and without more prudent use of currently available ones this scenario is very real.

Another siege by Islamic terrorists. 20th November. The Radisson Blu Hotel in capitol Bamako has been stormed by gunmen shouting “God is great”. Hostages were taken but some were released by Malian special forces. 27 people; hostages and terrorists, are reported killed.

The siege in Mali is over 21st November, with the death toll now revised to 21. Three suspects are being hunted with both Al-Qaeda and al-Murabitoun saying they carried out the attack. Three days of mourning and a State of Emergency has resulted.

The Hornets play Manchester United at Vicarage Road this lunch time with a high level of armed security promised. This rather distracted from the actual game but hopefully they can continue with their fairly good start. Won 4, drawn 4, lost 4 is the record to date.

Watford 1 -Manchester United 2. A very cold strong wind, that had no effect whatsoever on the result!

Following the attacks in Paris the hunt for the perpetrators has spread to Belgium; and Brussels in particular. Since Saturday the capital has been on “lockdown” with universities, schools, shops and the Metro closed. With the city at its highest terror threat level and with fears of further atrocities, the search for Salah Abdeslam has involved many armed raids during which 21 arrests have been made and some gun fire has resulted. No weapons or explosives have been found.

On Monday 23rd November, Prime Minister Cameron has met with President Hollande in Paris to discuss more co-operation between the countries security forces and his proposals for parliament that the UK should join with France and Russia in providing more air power against IS in Syria. Whilst a general consensus shows parliamentary acceptance is fairly likely, he is very wary of a commons defeat, with the SNP the likely nays.

French aircraft are assisting the RAF to conduct an “activity” off the Scottish coast following a report that a Russian submarine was seen close to shore. We no longer have “Nimrod” for this purpose since its recent decommissioning. This incident follows the recent interception by UK Typhoons of a Russian Tu-Blackjack aircraft that strayed close to UK airspace.

Turkey has shot down a Russian war plane that was part of the force attacking Syrian rebels. 24th November. Turkey claims it did not know of the nationality of the plane and had warned it 10 times in 5 minutes that it was in their air space. Both pilots bailed out and reports said that they were in the hands of Turkey supported minorities. A search helicopter was also reported as being shot down by Syrian rebels. President Putin claims a “stab in the back” and warns of “serious consequences”. This is the first incident of a NATO country shooting down a Russian plane since the height of the cold war in the 1950’s. It may appear the Russians are playing a dangerous game if all the recent reports of actual and near incursions in the air and at sea are true. This last incident certainly makes joint operations in Syria seem even more fraught with danger.

The hoardings and barriers are up in the High Street in preparation for the fairly extensive changes to Charter Place by INTU. 16 modern shops,10 restaurants a communal area and a nine screen IMAX Cinema will appear in due course. In all, 1.4 sq.ft. of retail and leisure.

The Paris meeting on Global warming 30th November. involving world leaders and 40,000 delegates has been deemed “one of the most important international conferences in history”. Its aim was to determine a plan to hold temperatures down to 2 degrees C. above their pre industrial level with a binding treaty that would force nations to cut their current massive emissions of greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide.

The delegates were reminded that for 30 years; due to the rise in CO2 emissions, world temperatures have risen to unprecedented highs with attendant polar ice melts, sea level rises and dramatic increases in extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, heat waves and hurricanes. This scientific consensus has further predicted that unless the world abandons fossil fuels temperatures will continue to rise this century by 0.3 degrees per decade. By 2,100 they could be as much as 5 degrees.

The biggest block to achieving these targets is the fact that whilst the UK has shut coal generation plants and virtually lost steel production, some other countries seem not to have bothered too much with the year 2100 and have actually increased their current usage.

Some countries and their scientists claim that we have not created a “greenhouse” and the warming is part of a natural cycle as we come out of a mini ice age. Only time will tell, and what it divulges may well be impossible to rectify!

 

December 2015.

A day long debate on the use of UK planes to bomb IS in Syria was won by the government by 397 votes to 223. 2nd December. A few conservatives voted against the government and a larger number of Labour MPs. (who were given a free choice by leader Jeremy Corbyn after much deliberation) voted for action, whilst the SNP gave 53 votes against. It has been determined by Mr Cameron that the recipient of the attacks will be known as Daesh; not ISIS, Isil, IS or even Islamic State. This will no doubt please them?

It was reported that the RAF flew 4 Tornados from Cyprus in a claimed successful strike on Daesh controlled Omar oil fields in Eastern Syria within hours of the end of the debate. The targets were oil well heads from which the terrorists derive much of their revenue.

The fourth North Atlantic storm Desmond. 6th December, has hit the UK and deposited 14 inches + of rain over northern England and Scotland in less than 24 hours. Despite the millions spent on flood defences following the 2009 disasters they proved entirely inadequate to cope with the unprecedented rain fall experienced. Many thousands are without power in Cumbria where the waters have forced the evacuation of numerous properties, some of which have only recently been made habitable again following earlier floods. With no rail or road link between Scotland and Carlisle and other line and road services destroyed, it will be some time before rescue services can be carried out by other than boat.

One can only imagine how distraught the flooded out victims are and realise that not only have they lost their homes and furnishings again but that Christmas at home will be longer on their calendar.

Could there be a connection between the subject of the Global Warming conference last week and the unprecedented weather of the last few weeks?

Youth Football Leagues across the country have been told not to publish results of games played in case “it upset the losers”. 9th December. It effects all matches for the under 11’s. Some people live in a different world! Will a trip or handball soon be deemed to be “politically incorrect?”

Donald Trump; who hopes to become the Republican candidate for the US presidency, has called for a ban on all Muslims from entering the US. The results over here can be briefly described as “anti”. Our PM has slammed the remarks as “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong”. Trump’s demands follow the massacre of 14 people attending a county health department lunch. 21 others were injured and the attackers, the US born husband and his Pakistani born wife died in the gun battle that followed the shootings.

300,000 people have gone on line to tweet; or whatever they do, to exclude Trump from visiting the UK.

More heavy rain has fallen in Cumbria 10th December. and the water level has risen again. Insurers claim Desmond has left a legacy of £500m in claims; nearly double that of 2009. This will no doubt be the excuse given for Kingswood tenants to have 12% added to their insurance premiums next time round.

England’s chief medical officer warns today that obesity is the biggest threat to women’s health and the well being of future generations. In her annual report she says that tackling the problem should be a national priority in an attempt to avert a “growing health catastrophe”.

She raises the possibility of a sugar tax; if the food industry does not do more, as a means towards reducing the numbers which last year showed obesity was a general population problem, but particularly for the 56% of women between 34-44 and 62% of those between 45-54 because it too often shortens their lives. Obesity is known to increase the risk of several diseases’ including breast cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The problem is a life choice decision and many will argue that it is down to the individual to determine how and what they eat. The dire warnings on cigarette packets may have reduced smoking to an extent but where a person can or can’t smoke has had more of an effect. Will the fast food outlets be forced to advertise “This burger can kill” on all their products?

In the past week the European Courts of Justice ruled that obesity could now be considered a disability. Employers beware!

Ten years ago today. 11 December, at 06.01. an explosion which registered 2.4 on the Richter Scale occurred at Buncefield, the Hertfordshire oil storage terminal at Leverstock Green close to Hemel Hempstead. The installation was the fifth largest in the UK and held 60,000,000 gallons of fuel held in 20 large storage tanks. The blast was very evident in Kingswood and although it caused no actual damage some residents were perplexed to see their loft hatch covers swinging in the breeze. This was not the case nearer to the site where many businesses were wiped out or badly damaged on the industrial estate. The explosion was heard as far away as Belgium and a plume of thick black smoke rose to a height of 9,999 feet. The original explosion was followed by a number of lesser detonations and was described as the biggest of its kind in peacetime Europe. Amazingly no one was killed, and the rumoured shortage of fuel at the pumps did not materialise.

In a jubilant gathering, the delegates from circa 200 countries decided in Paris; after two weeks of heavy negotiation, that they have an agreement to save the world from Global warming. The conference was under the auspices of “The UN climate conference of parties” (COP). 13th December.

The deal is an attempt to limit the global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees centigrade and is the first to commit countries of the G77 group and other nations; including China and India, to reduce carbon emissions.

As the agreement is partly legally binding and partly voluntary the “Paris Agreement” outcome will determine whether industrial countries can comply to the aims, or perhaps whether they care for the worlds current state.

President Obama has said the agreement reached is “the best chance we have to save the one and only planet we have”. Perhaps he should have said “the one and only chance”?

Watford Parade has a collection of what reminds me of a bunch of old allotment sheds masquerading as a German Market.15th December. They have been the subject of several break-ins and thefts and in my opinion do little to enhance the area or festive season. They also determine that cyclist’s are forced to weave in and out, and together with prams, mobility scooters and wheeled shopping trolleys, make transit for the less agile pedestrian shoppers, less than relaxed. Nearer the Town Hall the quality appears to improve a little and the Ice Rink looks inviting, despite the fact that I tripped and fell outside the area whilst attempting to get on the viewing platform!

Today marks the end of an era. The last deep coal mine closed at Knottingly in Yorkshire with the end of shift at 3 pm.18th December. In an emotional interview one miner said “This week we’re history…the last deep mine in England. Our country was built on coal, it fuelled the Industrial Revolution”.

Coal is considered the most polluting of the fossil fuels and has fallen out of favour as world governments seek to limit emissions and turn to cleaner power sources. With the British government aiming to phase out the most polluting of the coal fed power stations by 2025 this signals the end of an industry that facilitated the British empire’s industrial growth.

Talks in Brussels ended with an agreement to find common solutions by February to the UK demands for treaty changes within the European Community. Many States oppose a four year ban on benefits for in-work migrants, but Angela Merkel has said it may be possible to agree a principle of treaty change now with the implementation at a later date. She said “We made it clear that we are ready to compromise, but always on the basis that we safeguard the core European principles, which include non-discrimination and free movement. Especially regarding the forth pillar (welfare benefits), it won’t be easy, but I think with goodwill we can find a good solution”.

Santa Claus came along Fern Way assisted by “The Round Table” this evening, an event we look forward to each year. It was a shame he was in such a hurry to get back to Toy Land that he and his bucket elves were half way along the road before we got to the door. Next year perhaps.

The UN Security Council has unanimously agreed a resolution confirming a “roadmap” for a peace process in Syria. December 19th. This situation is a rare outcome where unity among the major powers is rarely the norm. With more than 250,000 lives lost and millions of Syrians displaced in the conflict between President Assad and his rebels it must be seen as a step in the right direction.

Following the recent deal between the US and Russia; which has made any possible concord possible, the US secretary of state has said of the resolution..”This council is sending a clear message to all concerned that the time is now to stop the killing in Syria and lay the groundwork for a government that the long-suffering people of that battered land can support”.

The differences in opinion regarding the fate of President Assad and how Syria should be governed are not resolved and may well still prove to be the stumbling block to a real peace. With Islamic State terrorists controlling a considerable amount of territory, the air attacks allegedly made on them have apparently often seen rebel positions hit.

The Hornets beat Liverpool at Vicarage Road 3-0. 20th December. They are now 7th in the Premier League and apparently good value for their position. Chelsea and Spurs may have something to say about that over the Christmas break.

The Government proposes to raise the penalty for using a hand held mobile phone whilst driving from £100 to £150 with 4 instead of 3 penalty points. The use of a hand held phone contributed to 21 fatal accidents and 84 serious accidents during 2014. Being walked into whilst a person is head and eyes down on the pavement; or waiting whilst an important conversation is held by a customer at the supermarket checkout is indicative of the hold these devices appear to have. If it rings, then it must be answered!

The US Federal Reserve have proposed a base rate increase from 0.25% to 0.5%. This is the first increase since 2006. UK financial sources suggest this will not be a trigger for a similar Bank of England move.

The shortest day of the year. 21st December, and with temperatures still in the mid teens the experts say that 2016 will be even warmer. Warnings are in place for some Pacific Islands, that if the claimed global warming continues at its present rate; will disappear. The Marshall Islands are one such area.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter and UEFA boss Michael Platini have been suspended for eight years from all football related activities. A “disloyal payment” of £1.3m was allegedly made to Platini in 2011. Ethics code breaches were made over this payment it is claimed.

Both these people will be allowed to attend matches during the period of their suspension provided they buy tickets in a private capacity. Beware who you may be standing next to on the terraces!

In a setback it is reported that Sangin, an important town in Helmand Province in Afghanistan is recaptured by the Taliban. 23rd December. Earlier this week some UK troops were sent back to the area although it was not to engage in actual fighting.

Yet another storm is coming in from the Atlantic and possibly adding to the current Northern England flood disaster. Eva; the fifth such weather episode, is a Christmas present the disaster hit population could have well done without. With winds up to 70mph threatening and a lot more rain, the Christmas cheer must be wearing very thin. We in the “soft south” can only sympathise.

A 3 kilometer long asteroid passed just (just?) 6.7million miles from earth today. 24th December. With the catchy name of 163899, or in more familiar terms: 2003 SD220, it is one of many celestial bodies that orbit the Sun and sometimes hit the earth every year. Having travelled countless billions of miles since the creation of our solar system it is fortunate that not too many really large ones have actually made contact, as yet!

Christmas day dawned bright but soon turned to rain. 25th December. The temperatures were still in the low teens though. The storms again threaten the north however with more than 100 weather warnings, 15 of which suggest life threatening conditions. The government emergency committee Cobra met to discuss measures to protect lives in North Yorkshire and Lancashire. Army units have been deployed in Cumbria to assist.

The Hornets held Chelsea to a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge 26th December, but were beaten 1-2 by Spurs at Vicarage Road on 28th December. The winning goal was declared offside by everyone bar the officials! They are now eighth in the Premier League.

The water levels are dropping in York 29th December, but storm Frank is on its way this evening and expected to add to the already saturated area. There are nine severe flood warnings, those that could be a “Danger to life” in force in England and Wales.

House prices are set to rise by up to 8% next year depending which part of the country they are in, say some property experts.

Police and security forces are on full alert for terror attacks across Europe on New Year’s Eve. With no concrete results having come from numerous follow ups the public is urged to be vigilant in reporting suspicious activities.

Not surprisingly, the National Lottery has come in for some severe criticism. Following a doubling of the stake from £1 to £2 a line and the introduction of another 10 balls into the draw which effectively took the odds of a big win from 14million to 1 to an eye raising 45million to 1. It has also currently provided a run of 10 Rollovers with the prize tomorrow for 6 balls of £42million. How long before the “possibility” is overtaken by the “no chance” approach?

A Yorkshire couple have had their recently deceased pet dog cloned for £67,000! What about humans then? But who?

It would appear that 550 or so prisoners have been released early over the past ten years in what is claimed to be “a series of accidents”. A member of the Commons Justice Committee said the situation was “nothing more than a shambles which puts the public at unnecessary risk”. It would seem on the face of it that the truth has not escaped him, on this occasion.

Storm Frank continues to wreak havoc in Northern England and Scotland with torrential rain and lost power supplies over large areas.30th December. A man has been arrested for looting from damaged property, the first such incident reported. Despicable!!

Several continental countries have cancelled their New Year’s celebrations due to what is called friendly foreign intelligence. 31st December. Munich has shut railway stations. Six arrests have been made in Brussels and some terrorism charges made. France has also received threats. The London fireworks display will go ahead but attendees will require tickets. Scotland Yard has cancelled all leave for 2,000 armed officers. London Mayor Boris Johnson told partygoers to “get out there” and “soak up” the atmosphere. The splendid display against the background of Big Ben and the London eye was enjoyed by an enormous crowd.

We come to the end of another year. All things considered it is again not one that mankind can be particularly proud of. With wars, the displacement of millions of people and the destruction of their homes, the most diabolically murderous attacks on civilians in several countries and news of torture and subjugation every day.

Global warming; or the threats of its longer term effects has produced an international agreement that it can only be hoped will slow the process down. Future generations will determine how diligently or cleverly the situation is managed. Without good management of the planet; its resources and its inhabitants, it is difficult to see an infinite future, as we know it.

Natural disasters have also played their part in the worlds woes with earthquakes of monstrous magnitude on one end of the scale to the more local weather disasters in the north of the UK which are still ongoing. It is difficult to entirely disassociate these last phenomena with the subject of the previous paragraph.

 

A Happy New Year to everybody!

 

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