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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Climate emails: Storm or yawn?

  The release, again, comes just before a UN climate summit, this time in Durban Another year, another UN climate summit on the horizon... and another release of emails hacked from climate researchers at the University of East Anglia.

It's like 2009 all over again, minus the Copenhagen snow.

To some of climate science's regular critics, the latest release is another reason for doubt.

"Michael Mann, Phil Jones, Ben Santer, Tom Wigley, Kevin Trenberth, Keith Briffa - all your favourite Climategate characters are here, once again caught red-handed in a series of emails exaggerating the extent of Anthropogenic Global Warming, while privately admitting to one another that the evidence is nowhere near as a strong as they'd like it to be," writes James Delingpole in the UK's Telegraph.

Over at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), Francesca Grifo, director of the Scientific Integrity Program, has a different take.

"These leftover emails should be met with a collective yawn," she says.

"It's time to condemn the real perpetrators in this story: the hackers who stole and released university property. The hackers and their allies are resorting to desperate measures to distract the public when our focus should be on how to respond to climate change."

With more than 5,000 emails in the file (posted on a Russian server), plus assorted documents including papers relating to various Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects, there's much more here than anyone has been able to trawl through thus far.

UEA's Prof Phil Jones may find some more phrases he wishes he hadn't written

Anyone, that is, apart from the person in whose hard drive they have languished for the last two years.

Because unless appearances are very, very misleading, they were hacked from UEA in the same attack that led to the 2009 posting.

Some of the emails in the new release, for example, appear to be continuations of conversations that emerged back then - you can even find the infamous "hide the decline" phrase.

Whoever hacked the documents and whoever's releasing them - code-name FOIA 2011 - leaves an intriguing clue to his or her rationale, in a file released with the hacked material.

"'One dollar can save a life' - the opposite must also be true," he/she writes.

"Poverty is a death sentence. Nations must invest $37 trillion in energy technologies by 2030 to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at sustainable levels."

One hesitates to dive into anyone else's mind on the basis of a few words (remember trying to interpret Eric Cantona's famous "when the seagulls follow the trawler" speech back in 1995?); but as far as I can see, the only logical explanation is that the writer thinks curbing grenhouse gas emissions will cost so much that the developing world will be left poverty-stricken as a result.

It's odd, because the poorest nations on the planet - through the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) bloc, the Small Island Developing States (SIDs) bloc, and the Africa Group representing the poorest continent - are calling for action louder than just about anyone else in the world.

What does FOIA 2011 know that they don't? What umbilical connection to the global poor does he/she have that governments and charities and UN agencies dealing with poverty do not?

The majority of poor countries lobby for more, not less, action on climate change

If the emails disproved man-made climate change, he/she would have a point.

But judging from what I have read, they do not.

As with the 2009 release, there are hugely important caveats in any kind of interpretation.

We have access only to a tiny fraction of the hacked emails (FOIA 2011 claims to have 220,000 more), begging the questions of who selected these and on what basis - and whether they were tampered with before release.

With all that in mind, there is, to be sure, a list of phrases in the emails as presented to us that surely the protagonists will wish they had not committed to record, in the same way that UEA's Phil Jones admitted back in 2010 that he had written several "very awful emails".

But what's interesting is that some of the most frank and forthright wording comes from scientists telling their peers off - often, trying to calm them down and get them to be more grounded in accurate science, whatever the political implications.

"Mike, the figure you sent is very deceptive," writes Tom Wigley from the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, who emerged from the 2009 bruhaha as a stickler for evidence-related communication and reprises that role here, to Penn State's Michael Mann in 2009.

"Would you agree that there is no convincing evidence for kilimanjaro (sic) glacier melt being due to recent warming (let alone man-made warming?)" asks Geoff Jenkins, ex-UK Met Office, of UEA's Phil Jones in 2004.

The IEA said trillions of dollars are needed for energy, irrespective of climate curbs

"The Mann/Jones GRL paper was truly pathetic and should never have been published," declaims Ray Bradley of the University of Massachussetts in 2003.

Robust debate? You bet.

A desire to prevent material being released through Freedom of Information (FoI) requests? Absolutely - as acknowleged, apologised for and dealt with during the 2010 inquiries into the incidents of 2009.

But a concerted plot to deceive the world?

I've yet to find it; and, judging by what he/she has highlighted, so has FOIA 2011, despite having had the unique opportunity to scour the emails for two years.

The $37 trillion figure, by the way, probably derives from the International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook for 2009, released shortly before the Copenhagen summit.

If so, it's being mis-used here.

The IEA said the cumulative investment needed to meet the growth in projected energy demand by 2030 was $26 trillion.

Keeping CO2 concentrations below 450 parts per million would require an additional $10.5 trillion, they said, because of the more expensive technologies that would be needed.

In some reports, these figures were combined to form $37 trillion. But the bulk of that is to feed power to the poverty-stricken people FOIA 2011 cares so much about - nothing to do with climate change.

My guess is that several readers will have fingers poised over the "comments" button to ask "why do you call it a hack with such certainty?" (I've had a few emails already asking the same thing in reference to my news article.)

I have it from a very good source that it absolutely was a hack, not a leak by a "concerned" UEA scientist, as has been claimed in some circles.

The Norfolk Police clearly see it as a criminal act too, a spokesman telling me that "the contents [of the new release] will be of interest to our investigation which is ongoing".

Groups like UCS are, however, beginning to ask where that investigation has got to.

I have been passed information stemming from an FoI request to Norfolk Police showing that over the past 12 months, they have spent precisely £5,649.09 on the investigation.

All of that was disbursed back in February; and all but £80.05 went on "invoices for work in the last six months".

Of all the figures surrounding the current story, that is perhaps the one that most merits further interrogation.

Crane crash brings delays on M4

  Delays were being reported as far back as junction 26 at Malpas at one stage Police have advised motorists to avoid the M4 near Cardiff after a serious crash between a lorry and a crane.

Traffic Wales said two lanes westbound between junction 30 Cardiff Gate and junction 32 Coryton were likely to remain closed for a number of hours.

Earlier 10 mile tailbacks have reduced to five miles following the crash at 06:51 GMT.

One casualty was taken to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff but no further details have been given.

Traffic Wales said at 11:15 GMT that lanes one and two were likely to remain closed for a number of hours, although the lengthy queue is improving.

Police have appealed for witnesses to the crash.

The crane was on the back of another lorry, emergency services said.

One motorist told BBC Wales it looked like a lorry had clipped a mobile crane and gone into the central reservation.

"The cab of the lorry has come off and is upside down on the road with a blue cover over it," he said.

"One lorry is buried in the central reservation and another two have pulled up. Looks like lorry was driving down road, has gone into the central reservation."

There are also delays reported eastbound, with drivers slowing down near the crash scene.

"South Wales Police are at scene continuing to investigate the collision," said a force spokesperson.

"At present, lanes one and two are closed. Lane three is open, however drivers are asked to avoid the area if at all possible."

South Wales Police have asked any witnesses to call 101.

Damning World Cup reports leaked

Johnson explains his England exit last week

A number of England's World Cup players were "more focused on money than getting the rugby right", according to leaked reports published in The Times.

The reports were compiled by the Rugby Football Union, the Premiership clubs and Rugby Players' Association (RPA), which interviewed players anonymously.

The RFU document reveals a delegation of senior players disputed the amount of money the squad were paid.

England manager Martin Johnson and his coaching team are also criticised.

England, who were dogged by disciplinary problems throughout the tournament, were beaten by France in the quarter-finals, equalling their worst ever performance in a World Cup.

The three reports on England's performance in New Zealand were submitted to the Professional Game Board (PGB) last week. The reports were never intended to be published and the BBC has not seen them.

The PGB, which runs elite rugby in England, is due to make recommendations based on the reports' conclusions to the RFU management board on 30 November.

The Times says team manager Johnson, who resigned last week, is criticised in the RPA submission for failing to instil discipline in the squad following a series of off-field incidents, with one unnamed player quoted as saying "he was too loyal and that was his downfall".

The RFU report, produced by elite director of rugby Rob Andrew, is critical of the fact that England players were disputing the World Cup payments they would receive on the eve of the tournament.

"It was very disappointing that a senior group disputed the level of payment for the World Cup squad," Andrew is quoted as saying.

"It led to meetings with RFU executives in the last few weeks before departing for NZ. This led to further unsettling of the squad.

"Some of the senior players were more focused on money rather than getting the rugby right."

In a statement PGB Chairman Ian Metcalfe said he was "disappointed and frustrated that confidential reports had been put into the public domain".

"All involved were promised that their views would remain private for the ultimate goal of improving the England team. The reporting of selective elements of those documents is also counter-productive to that aim," he added.

"There will naturally be a wide range of views surrounding the Rugby World Cup and the PGB review was set up to take into account all feedback from all parties."

E. coli baby deaths investigated

  Singleton Hospital's maternity unit is still open for full-term births Investigations are continuing at a Swansea hospital after two premature babies died of an E. coli infection.

One was a five-day-old baby, Hope Erin Evans from Aberdare, who died at Singleton Hospital after contracting ESBL E. coli.

Another very premature baby also died.

There were three more non-fatal cases. Abertawe Bro Morgannwg (ABM) University Health Board said they appeared to be isolated incidents.

Investigations will include how cross-infection occurred in the maternity and neonatal unit.

One case is that of a mother who has tested positive for ESBL E.coli but who has not shown any symptoms nor required treatment.

The health board said it suspected she had contracted the bug in the hospital, but that they were waiting for test results to confirm this.

It said that while both babies died in Singleton, only one had contracted the infection inside the hospital.

Meanwhile, an inquest has been adjourned into the death of Hope Erin Evans, who died on 4 November.

'Difficult to eradicate'

ESBL (extended-spectrum beta-lactamase) producing E. coli are strains resistant to antibiotics, making them difficult to treat.

In many cases, only two types of antibiotic taken by mouth and a "very limited" group of intravenous antibiotics are effective, according to information from the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

E. coli can lead to serious infections such as meningitis and blood poisoning, which can be life- threatening.

The hospital has said it is only delivering full term babies, that is of 36 weeks or more gestation, at the moment.

As a precaution, the unit has undergone a deep clean.

Microbiologist Prof Hugh Pennington told BBC Radio Wales ESBL E. coli caused problems for young babies because their immune systems were not well-developed.

Continue reading the main story ESBL E. coli is not the same as the E.coli O157 which causes food poisoningESBL stands for Extended Spectrum Beta LactamaseESBL E. coli is most often found in the gastrointestinal tract but may cause urinary tract infectionsESBL E. coli is resistant to commonly-used antibiotics such as penicillin, but can be treatedIn most people ESBL E. coli does not cause harm but in vulnerable individuals it can cause serious infectionsSource: ABM health boardProf Pennington believes the hospital is taking the right steps to try to deal with the outbreak.

"These bugs . . . are really quite good at getting about and once they get into something like a neonatal unit, history tells us with other related bugs they can be really quite difficult to eradicate," he said.

"I'm sure that the people at Singleton are doing their utmost to make sure that there aren't any problems.

'Isolated incidents'

"They have restricted admission to the very young babies because they are the ones really at risk from this particular nasty bug. It's a very reasonable approach to take."

"These appear to be isolated incidents which have been contained, and there is no evidence of the infection spreading further," Dr Ferguson added.

"Checks have been taken of patients, equipment and areas in the maternity/neonatal unit and no evidence of ESBL E. coli has been found.

"The unit has an excellent record for hand-hygiene and general infection control adherence. Reported infection levels in the unit have been below the national average in recent years."

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Farmers counting cost of drought

  Wheat is among crops affected by the drought Parts of England are still in the grip of a drought, which has cost some farmers thousands of pounds and led to restrictions on water use.

Jonathan Brant, 52, has ploughed the fields of the Lincolnshire farm where he grew up, for more than 30 years.

But this year, an exceptionally dry spring hit his barley and wheat crops and he lost between £15,000 and £20,000 - his biggest loss yet.

Mr Brant has a herd of suckler cows and also produces oil seed rape, milling wheat and malting barley in the picturesque Normanby le Wold.

But after a frosty winter his land was hit by "strong, dry winds which sucked out the moisture".

Following this, he said only about 4 to 6mm of rain fell between the end of March and June, which led to the failure of half the barley planted on 30 hectares.

The lack of moisture in the land led to nitrogen levels in the remaining barley being too high for it to be used to produce beer and it was instead sold for animal feed, for about £50 less a tonne.

'Natural variability'

The farmer's winter wheat yield was also down by about 25%. He said it was not possible to irrigate his land, which was on a hill and on clay.

Continue reading the main story
Many British farmers are facing difficulties due to the dry conditions and it is important that they can find ways to become more resilient in the long term”

End Quote Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs He has not had any compensation for the financial loss but accepts it is part of farming, which is "still the best job there is."

"It's for God and the weather to decide," he said. "You have to accept it and just get on with it and start again with the next year's crops."

He added: "There are people who have been far worse affected. Some people haven't managed to grow anything.. particularly further down in the eastern counties."

He said the drought had also caused a straw shortage which was being felt by livestock farmers.

For some areas, such as the Midlands, the year up to October was the driest 12 months since records began in 1910.

In June, areas of East Anglia were declared to be in drought, while parts of the Midlands, South West and South East were said to be in a "near drought" state.

The Environment Agency (EA) said Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and west Norfolk and parts of Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire were still in drought in November.

A spokeswoman for the agency said groundwater, reservoir and river levels were all "very low" in these areas.

Some farmers struggled to harvest potatoes and sugar beet from dry soil

Other areas are also suffering and EA staff recently rescued fish from the River Kennet in Wiltshire and River Pang in Berkshire because of low water levels.

Some sugar beet and potato farmers in Cambridgeshire struggled to harvest their crops because it was difficult for harvesters to work in such dry conditions.

James Wilmot, from Swaffham Bulbeck, said: "We need the rain desperately to get the crops growing that we've just planted."

Anglian Water applied for a winter drought permit last week to allow it to take out extra water from the River Nene to top up its Pitsford Water reservoir, which is 56% full.

The firm said supplies had been hit by the driest spring in over 80 years, while September rainfall had been about 49% lower than average.

'Less certainty'

The Met Office said while there had been "extremely dry conditions in some places" others, such as Northern Ireland, had seen heavy rain and flooding.

A spokesman said it simply demonstrated "natural variability in climate" from month to month and between different places.

The EA has placed restrictions on farmers and other businesses who abstract water from springs and rivers. It said about 200 licence holders in central and eastern England have been told they cannot abstract water because of low levels.

NFU water policy adviser Jenny Bashford has warned that if autumn and winter saw below average rainfall then the effect on agriculture could be "significant" next year.

The NFU said farmers were working to increase their water efficiency, but called for government measures, such as over the regulation of abstraction licences.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was working with all sectors to plan ahead to meet challenges of a continued drought.

"Many British farmers are facing difficulties due to the dry conditions and it is important that they can find ways to become more resilient in the long term," a spokesman said.

"While droughts are not new, we may face a future with less rainfall and less certainty about when that rain will fall. Next month we will set out our plans to ensure there are secure water resources in the future."

Fight to repatriate dead children

  Yaanis and Mira Mellersh grew up in the New Forest before moving to Germany with their parents The family of two children from the New Forest found dead in Turkey are facing a complicated legal battle to get their bodies flown home to the UK for burial.

Yaanis Mellersh, eight, and Mira, six, and their German mother, Elke Mellersh, 45, were found dead in Soke on Friday.

A German court had granted custody of the children to their father, Justin.

It is feared the Turkish authorities will give custody of the three bodies to Elke's relatives, meaning the children could be buried in Turkey.

Natasha Mellersh, Yaanis's godmother and cousin of both children, told the BBC: "Hearing the pain in my grandfather's voice just made me completely devastated.

"I later spoke to my mother, we just cried, it was just heartbreaking.

"Now the main thing is to get the bodies back into the country and bury the children. After that we can really grieve."

'Inner pain'

Justin Mellersh, 46, and his father Nick are in Turkey and were due to go to the mortuary to see the children's bodies on Tuesday.

In a message posted on Facebook, he said: "Yaani and Mimi - the lively, loving, tender, kind individuals who were children, grandchildren, nephew, niece and cousins to us - lost their lives because of deliberate actions of their mother, who took her own life as she took theirs.

"We do not blame the mother for this tragedy - it's clear that she suffered a debilitating mental illness with paranoid delusions.

"Rather we mourn that we were not able to ease her inner pain and confusion, and so were unable to prevent this sad, sad end."

Mr Mellersh's family live near Lyndhurst in the New Forest.

The two children grew up in the area before moving to Germany with their parents.

They were reported missing in 2010 and their mother was wanted on suspicion of child abduction in Germany.

'Failing the children'

The bodies of the children and their mother were found in a farmhouse in Soke.

They were last seen at Hepstedt near Bremen in Germany in February 2010.

The children's aunt, Lucy Mellersh, wants to see action taken to protect and recover children who have been victims of parental child abduction.

She said: "Every well-intentioned person who helps to hide an abducting parent is failing the children and putting them in danger.

"Every slow-moving government agency that assumes the children will be okay because they are with their mum is putting the children in danger.

"Every police officer who puts a parental abduction to the bottom of the pile on their desk is putting the children in danger.

"Don't leave it until it is too late, don't focus on last Friday's deaths. Do something about the children who are still missing."

Fog leads to flight cancellations

 There has been heavy fog in London on several days this week Air passengers have faced disruption after a number of flights to and from Heathrow and London City airports were cancelled due to fog.

A total of 18 flights - nine arrivals and nine departures - at Heathrow were cancelled on Wednesday morning.

At 11:00 GMT, an airport spokesman said: "The fog is clearing rapidly and there are no delays that I'm aware of."

Flights to and from Heathrow and London City airports were also disrupted on Sunday and Monday due to fog.

A Heathrow Airport spokesman said cancellations were due to "reduced capacity on the runways caused by the thick fog".

"It is hoped that few, or no, further cancellations will be necessary as the fog is expected to clear," he added.

"Passengers should check with their airline that their flight is going ahead."

At London City Airport, nine flights - four arrivals and five departures - were cancelled, while further flights were diverted or delayed.

An airport spokeswoman said: "We are asking customers to contact their airlines and are constantly updating our website to keep customers informed."

How have history lessons changed?

Ancient Rome or the Battle of Hastings? The Tudor monarchs or the trenches of WWI? Opinions on exactly what children should be taught are myriad and often generate controversy.

In a new book - The Right Kind of History - the historian Sir David Cannadine argues that the subject should be compulsory until 16, to help broaden knowledge. The book is the result of a two-year research project that explored history teaching in state schools in England since the early 1900s.

Here - take a look back in time, listen to the classroom memories of some of the people who took part in the study, and hear from Sir David Cannadine who spoke to BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Continue reading the main story To see the enhanced content on this page, you need to have JavaScript enabled and Adobe Flash installed. All images subject to copyright. See captions for image and audio information.

Music courtesy KPM Music. Professor Sir David Cannadine interview spoke to BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Other interviews by Dr Jenny Keating and Dr Nicola Sheldon from the History in Education Project.

Slideshow production by Paul Kerley. Publication date 22 November 2011.

Monday, 28 November 2011

How much privacy can you expect?

By Brian Wheeler BBC News, Washington Many consumers continue to allow mobile applications that can locate them

The US Supreme Court could soon allow police to monitor the movements of US mobile phone users without a warrant. Now that most of us carry sophisticated tracking devices in our pockets, how much privacy do we have a right to expect?

Millions of us happily invade our own privacy every day on Twitter and Facebook, sharing personal details with the world and broadcasting our location in a way previous generations would have found bizarre.

Even those who shy away from social media and new technology in general are not immune. The most basic mobile phones are in constant contact with the nearest mast, sending information about the whereabouts of their users to phone companies, who can later hand that data over to the police, if requested.

At the other end of the spectrum, in the world of smartphones, privacy is becoming an increasingly outdated concept, argues technology writer Sam Biddle. What might once have been considered "creepy" and invasive is becoming normal.

"That line of creepiness is there, but it's eroding quickly because, frankly, we are just getting used to it," says Mr Biddle, a staff writer for

"Something like (smartphone app) Foursquare, something like Find My Friends, these things all would have sounded like something from 1984. Now they are fun and free.

"So I think whatever line there once was is receding very quickly."

He adds: "The excitement and the novelty of it blinds us to the fact that is a little weird and maybe, in terms of privacy rights, a little ominous."

For the smartphone customer "it's a trade-off, in terms of privacy versus service," he says. For the mobile phone company "following you around is just part of the service".

'Legitimate expectation'

There are signs that governments and law enforcement agencies around the world are taking advantage of this increasingly relaxed attitude towards privacy to step up surveillance of citizens.

The case currently before the Supreme Court, US vs Jones, hinges on whether police officers should be allowed to plant GPS tracking devices on suspects' cars without a warrant.

GPS tracking can actually be quite revealing about who a person is and what they value”

End Quote Catherine Crump American Civil Liberties Union Nightclub owner and suspected drug smuggler Antoine Jones had such a device attached to his vehicle for 28 days so officers could follow his movements in order to build up a case against him.

His legal team argued at a Supreme Court hearing earlier this month that his Fourth Amendment rights, which are meant to protect US citizens from invasive searches, were violated.

Lawyers for the Obama administration argued that Jones did not have a "legitimate expectation of privacy" - the standard legal test in the US for the past 45 years - because his car was in a public place.

Attaching a tracking device to it was no different to tailing him, which has always been legal, the government argued.

If the Supreme Court agrees, it could open the door to mass unwarranted surveillance of suspects using GPS bugs, civil liberties campaigners have warned.

Open to abuse?

But law enforcement officers no longer have to physically plant a bug on a suspect's car or person. In the US, they are increasingly using mobile phone tracking software.

"Police officers can sit in the comfort of their own stations and use this technology to watch not just one person, but many people, over long periods of time," says Catherine Crump, an attorney for American Civil Liberties Union.

This is far more invasive than traditional surveillance, she argues.

"GPS tracking can actually be quite revealing about who a person is and what they value. It can show where a person goes to church, whether they are in therapy, whether they are an outpatient at a medical clinic, whether they go to a gun range."

Without police officers being forced to go before a court to obtain a "probable cause" warrant, the technology is wide open to abuse, the ACLU argues, and it is hoping that the Supreme Court will ban all warrantless surveillance when they deliver their verdict in the Jones case.

"I don't think you have to be a card carrying member of the ACLU to be concerned about a world in which every citizen of the United States can be tracked on the whim of a curious police officer, for any reason, or no reason at all," says Ms Crump.

But police and prosecutors tend to take a different view.

"If it is a legitimate law enforcement need and there is no time to get a warrant there should be occasions when you can use a tracking device," says Ed Marsico, district attorney for Dauphin County, in Pennsylvania.

Metropolitan police

And the same goes for mobile phone tracking, he says, arguing that there is little practical difference between a mobile phone company knowing your location and the local police.

"Most of us have cell phones now. Most of them have some kind of GPS tracking within them, so Verizon or AT&T already know where you are," Mr Marsico tells BBC News.

If the Supreme Court rules against the government it could seriously damage the ability of police officers to carry out undercover surveillance of suspected major criminals, he argues.

It wouldn't surprise me if in 10 years, I know where everyone I know is at all times, in real time, constantly”

End Quote Sam Biddle "Police are not out to put tracking devices on every single car. They are using it sparingly to further legitimate investigations.

"Technology has changed. The criminals are using technology to stay one step ahead of us, so we would like to use some technology to get ahead of them."

In the UK, the availability of cheap GPS devices, and a mistaken belief that it was permitted under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, led to covert tracking being used by public authorities, including local councils "without properly considering the application of the legislation," according to watchdog the Surveillance Commissioners.

The government issued new guidelines in April 2010, stressing the need to gain permission from senior officers, who must be convinced it is necessary and proportionate - and not likely to fall foul of Article 8 of the Human Rights Act.

Personal permission from the home secretary is needed to intercept phone communications. Some 1,682 interception warrants were issued in 2010.

'Not the Gestapo'

Public authorities can obtain other communications data without the home secretary's authority, such as the time, date and location of phone calls. In 2010, 552,550 such requests were made.

The Metropolitan Police has stepped up its surveillance of social media in recent months, claiming it helped prevent this summer's riots spreading to high-profile targets such as the 2012 Olympics site.

But the London force is also reportedly using software that masquerades as a mobile phone network, allowing it to intercept communications and gather data about users in a targeted area, such as a demonstration.

Most civil liberties campaigners do not want the police banned from using new technology and accept that telecoms companies are "not the Gestapo", as Catherine Crump puts it.

But, argues the ACLU lawyer: "People should not have to choose between using new technology, which is becoming increasingly commonplace and hard to live without, and giving up their privacy."

Some believe the moment when that choice has to be made has arrived.

'Watershed moment'

Earlier this month, a US Federal Court in Virginia ordered Twitter to grant the Justice Department access to private data from the accounts of three suspected Wikileaks supporters, ruling that they had a "lessened expectation" of privacy after signing up to the micro blogging site.

Al Girardi, a defence attorney who specialises in internet and telecoms privacy, sees this, along with the Jones case, as a "watershed" moment.

"You have some very serious decisions happening which basically define you as having no expectation of privacy with your online provider and yet nobody seems to be concerned about it," he says.

"I don't know if it's just the Facebook generation but it's a surprise to me that there isn't more resistance."

Without a major public outcry, or some kind of "scandal" to focus the minds of politicians and telecoms executives, the erosion of privacy is likely continue unabated, argues Sam Biddle.

"Barring some kind of very radical, strong legislation, it wouldn't surprise me if in 10 years, I know where everyone I know is at all times, in real time, constantly.

"I think it won't even be an issue then. It will just be the status quo."

Injured Murray out of Tour Finals

British number one Andy Murray has been forced to pull out of the ATP World Tour Finals with a groin injury.

He strained the muscle in training on 14 November and suffered a recurrence in Monday's straight-sets defeat by David Ferrer at London's O2 Arena.

"I was told to take a week to 10 days completely off - I just didn't have enough time to recover," said the visibly dejected Scot.

"I was probably going to do myself more damage playing than not."

Murray was scheduled to practise at 1300 GMT on Tuesday for an hour ahead of Wednesday's Group A match against Tomas Berdych.

But he failed to appear and a hastily arranged press conference was called at which the 24-year-old delivered news of his withdrawal.

He has been replaced by world number nine Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia.

"When I came off the court [on Monday], I was very disappointed and upset," said Murray.

"I said we'd see how I feel when I woke today up but I was never going to feel great. You hope things are going to get better, but in reality that wasn't ever going to happen.

"I woke up this morning still sore, came in and was going to hit. We chatted for about two hours - about when I was going to be practising, what I should do, what the right thing to do was.

Continue reading the main story 19 - Andy Murray12 - Roger Federer9 - Rafael Nadal7 - Novak Djokovic

Matches played between end of US Open and start of ATP World Tour Finals

"I had some food, we spoke more about it. I was just trying to find reasons why I should try to play.

"But there was no real positive of coming out and playing because yesterday I was really unhappy on the court. I wasn't enjoying it at all.

"This is one of the best tournaments in the year, one that me and all of the players look forward to playing. I couldn't give anywhere near my best and that's what was disappointing."

After losing to Ferrer, Murray admitted that unless it was this event or a Grand Slam, he would not even have started the tournament.

He will now attempt to recover in time to begin his 2012 season at the Brisbane International on 1 January, with the Australian Open starting in Melbourne on 16 January.

Continue reading the main story Wins: 56Losses: 13Titles: 5Australia Open: Finalist (lost to Novak Djokovic) French Open: Semi-finals (lost to Rafael Nadal)Wimbledon: Semi-finals (lost to Nadal)US Open: Semi-finals lost to Nadal)

"It might seem like it's a long time away but the Australian Open is six, seven weeks away," Murray continued. "I could mess up my preparation for that, for the beginning of the year.

"That off-season is so important for me in terms of getting myself in shape. It's one of the few times when you can have an actual training block.

"It's a strain - I definitely don't need an operation. It's not a major injury but it's something that I needed much more time than I had to get ready."

Murray added that he may have to think more carefully about his schedule in future.

Since the US Open, he has played more matches than any other member of the world's top four - Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer - all of whom won their first matches at the O2.

"There's no chance I would have been ready to win the tournament here," Murray said. "In hindsight it was maybe the wrong decision [to play], but you also want to try and give yourself an opportunity, if you can.

"If you look at the other guys that played loads of matches this year, Roger and Novak both took a large break after the US Open. Rafa took one after Asia.

"Maybe me trying to get ready for Basel was too soon. That's something I probably need to learn from because I had played a lot of matches."

Job tribunal 'shake-up' unveiled

Employees will have to work for longer before being able to go to a tribunal Employers should be able to hold "protected conversations" with staff about poor performance without them being used in future job tribunal claims, according to new proposals.

Government plans also include a "rapid resolution scheme" to allow most job disputes to be settled more quickly.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said he wanted to help firms expand without making existing staff feel insecure.

Unions say the move will make it harder to bring legitimate claims.

But business leaders have welcomed the proposed changes to employment legislation being outlined by Mr Cable, which the government says will save more than £10m and benefit employers to the tune of £40m.

The key points include:

a consultation on "protected conversations", which would allow employers to have frank discussions about poor performance with workers without fear that they could be used as evidence in a tribunala "call for evidence" on the length of time required for a consultation period on planned redundancies. It is currently 90 days, but the government is considering reducing that to 30a requirement for all claims to go to the conciliation service Acas before reaching employment tribunaloptions for a "rapid resolution scheme" for more simple cases to be settled within three months

The business secretary will also confirm plans to make people work two years before they can make a claim for unfair dismissal from April - up from one year at present.

Mr Cable said the reforms would not erode workers' rights but would cut "unnecessary bureaucracy" and reduce the number of cases going to employment tribunal, which have risen 40% in the past three years.

"We are not trying to create an environment of 'hire and fire' and insecurity, absolutely not. That is not the way we want to proceed," he told BBC Breakfast. "In current conditions that would not be helpful at all."

"But we also want to create an environment in which entrepreneurs want to start businesses, expand, take on staff and feel confident that they can do that and, if they run into difficulties with a particular employee, they can have a conversation with them without worrying they are going to be taken to a tribunal."

'Weeded out'

Business group the CBI welcomed the changes and called for them to be implemented quickly.

Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Mandatory Acas involvement and new claimant fees will make the system fairer by ensuring that baseless claims are weeded out, and the pressure to settle is reduced.

"The proposal to investigate a fast-track scheme for simple claims could also help.

"Once these reforms are in place, firms won't have to waste time and money and can focus on running their business and delivering growth instead. It will also mean that genuine grievances get a better hearing."

But Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said the agenda was "being driven by the CBI, who want the balance of power in the workplace tilted even more against the ordinary worker".

"These changes will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of workers to bring cases of victimisation, unfairness and bullying at work," he said.

'Retrograde step'

"This will just sweep abuse under the carpet."

Mr Kenny also said a plan to require only one judge to preside over unfair dismissal cases was "retrograde" as it would remove "the voice of business and the shop floor" from proceedings.

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said Labour agreed the tribunal system needed reform.

But he said: "Watering down people's rights at work by doubling the service requirement to claim for unfair dismissal from one to two years is not a substitute for a credible plan for growth.

"Instead of seeking to make it easier to fire people the government should be looking to make it easier to hire people at a time when their reckless economic policies have pushed up unemployment to a 17-year high."

Some 218,000 claims were received by employment tribunals last year.

A recent government-commissioned report suggested that unproductive workers should lose their right to claim unfair dismissal.

But the Lib Dems rejected the proposals from the businessman and Conservative donor Adrian Beecroft, saying they would not help the labour market at a difficult time for the economy.

Johnson 'affair' bodyguard sacked

  Mr Johnson had faced some criticism for his handling of the shadow chancellor's brief A police bodyguard to former Home Secretary Alan Johnson has been sacked after an inquiry into an alleged affair with the Labour MP's wife.

PC Paul Rice, 45, was dismissed by the Metropolitan Police, which condemned him for damaging its reputation.

Mr Johnson quit as shadow chancellor in January as allegations surrounding the affair became public.

PC Rice is thought to have worked for Theresa May since she took over at the Home Office in May 2010.

The specialist operations officer had been suspended in January.

In a Metropolitan Police statement, Commander Peter Spindler said the behaviour displayed by the officer was unacceptable and he had been "rightly sanctioned" for the "abuse of his position of trust".

"He has damaged the reputation of the Metropolitan Police Service and the specialist discipline in which he worked. By doing so he breached the high professional standards expected by the public and his colleagues," added Commander Spindler.

Mr Johnson's decision to quit his job as shadow chancellor came as a complete surprise at Westminster, even though he had suffered some criticism for his grasp of its more technical aspects.

He said he had "found it difficult" to cope with the responsibility at the same time as dealing with issues in his private life.

Mr Johnson, the MP for Hull West, is a former postman and trade union leader.

He has been married to his second wife Laura for almost 20 years and the couple have a 10-year-old son.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Large speed sign painted on house

 Tim Backhouse said he had painted the sign to get drivers to slow down A man has painted a 30mph sign the height of a double decker bus on the side of his house in a Devon village.

Tim Backhouse, who moved to Bow two years ago, said he hoped the 15ft (4.5m) sign would slow traffic.

He said speeding traffic on the A3072 made it difficult to cross the road to get to the village shop.

Devon County Council said its own tests revealed most drivers kept to the 30mph (48km/h) limit but it was aware of residents' concerns.

"Bow has a shop 300 yards (274m) outside the village perimeter which a lot of pedestrians walk to," Mr Backhouse said.

'Almost hit'

"There's no safe crossing point, the pavement runs out near a corner and it would be just about OK if vehicles did do 30mph, but they don't.

"Since we moved to the village two years ago, we've witnessed a few instances where people have almost been hit by vehicles."

He said he wanted a pedestrian crossing to be installed in the village.

Stuart Hussey, who also lives in Bow, said most traffic "and especially the lorries" did not keep to the 30mph limit.

"All it is is a sign on a wall and if it works, great," he added.

The county council said it had built a footpath to the shop, which Mr Backhouse said residents were grateful for.

The council also said its speed checks recorded an average speed of 27.2mph in the 30mph zone.

A spokesman said: "We're aware of concerns about the speed of traffic through the village, and local police have worked with the community on enforcement issues."

Mr Backhouse said he painted the sign as part of Road Safety Week UK and would paint over it on 5 December.

Man Utd will qualify - Ferguson

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson believes his side will qualify for the Champions League knockout stages despite drawing with Benfica.

United need a point against Basel in their last Group C game to reach the next round after the 2-2 result.

But hopes of topping the group look slim as they must better Benfica's result against pointless Otelul Galati.

"It will be a hard game in Basel. But when the chips are down I have every confidence in the team," said Ferguson.

"Benfica should win at home against Galati but we need to win in style."

Finishing second in the group would mean United could face the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan or Bayern Munich as early as the last 16, but Ferguson was bullish about the prospect.

"It makes it a bit harder of course, but maybe the bigger game will suit us anyway," he said, and added that he felt his side were now playing for second spot.

"Hopefully we are in that situation, in second place - because I don't think Benfica will lose to Galati. I'm sure they will win that match.

"Then the opportunities are against [a team like] Inter, Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich.

"You have to judge that in this way - if you played them in the semi-final or the final, you would be only be too delighted, knowing the possibility there is to win."

Ferguson's men fell behind to the Portuguese side, who have secured their passage to the next round, when Phil Jones deflected into his own net.

Continue reading the main story Man Utd will qualify if they get a point at BaselThey can top the group if they better Benfica's result against Otelul GalatiIf Benfica win against the Romanian side they top the group (regardless of Man Utd's result)Basel can still qualify if they beat Man Utd

But they went ahead through goals by Dimitar Berbatov and Darren Fletcher, before gifting the visitors an equaliser a minute after taking the lead.

Goalkeeper David de Gea's poor clearance went straight to Benfica's Bruno Cesar and Pablo Aimar tucked in his cross.

"The goals were a bit freakish - an own goal and the bad kick out by David," Ferguson added.

"The pass back could have been better but David should have played it into the stands and we didn't hold on to the lead.

"We played well tonight, and the team deserved better. It's a cruel game at times."

For the latest updates throughout the day follow Sportsday Live. Get involved on Twitter using the hashtag #bbcsportsday.

Minister agrees NIW head pay rise

  Danny Kennedy has agreed Trevor Haslett's pay rise The regional development minister has agreed to increase the acting chief executive of Northern Ireland Water's pay.

Danny Kennedy has permitted Mr Haslett's pay rise but only if NI Water performs satisfactorily over winter.

Earlier this month, Mr Haslett reversed his plans to resign from the company.

He wanted more security of tenure with a two-year contract and a £20,000 pay rise.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Regional Development confirmed the deal.

"Northern Ireland Water needs leadership and stability," she said.

"Trevor Haslett has demonstrated that he is the best person to lead NI Water through the winter that is almost upon us and beyond.

"The package proposed by the board of NI Water has been approved but will not be paid until after the winter period. A significant element is subject to a satisfactory performance over the winter."

Following behind the scenes negotiations, the board of NI Water contacted the Department of Regional Development and asked Mr Kennedy for approval for the new terms and conditions it was offering Mr Haslett.

At that point the minister said he would not be "stampeded" into making any decision and would be consulting ministerial colleagues before deciding what to do.

Mr Haslett has been in the post for less than a year after the resignation of the previous boss in the midst of the Christmas water chaos.

Lawrence MacKenzie stood down amidst damning criticism of the company's handling of the water shortages during the big freeze last winter.

Details including the length of Mr Haslett's contract have yet to be announced.

Number of over 75s to rise by 40%

  In the next decade the number of people living until 75 and above will rise by almost half In the next decade the number of people aged over 75 in Northern Ireland will rise by 40%.

That is one of the challenges that a major review of Northern Ireland's health service will have to consider.

NI's ageing population will require more services in their own homes, and the move to more community care will have major consequences for health service resources.

The review is due to be completed later this month.

BBC Health Correspondent Marie-Louise Connolly has been looking at how the health service can fund a system that promotes independent and healthy living for our older generation.

In the next decade the number of people living until 75 and above will rise by almost half - that's a tribute to modern medicine's ability to extend lifespans, but it is also a big challenge.

How can the executive pay for a care service which allows the growing number of older people to continue living at home for as long as possible?

Resources are not going to grow significantly, so effort will have to be shifted away from hospitals and into the community instead.

It could mean a seismic shift, both physically and in mindset.

More services will have to become available to people in their own homes.

The flipside of that is that hospitals, which eat up most of the health care budget, will have to be organised in a way that saves money.

At a day care centre in east Belfast, a group of pensioners told the BBC they want to stay in their own homes for as long as possible.

The 15 men and women who were there said they all enjoy being independent.

Some admit however, they do need a little help.

Ethel, who is 78, said she is too young for a nursing home.

"My health is generally good, it's just my back and my legs that are sometimes sore," she said.

"What I need is a chair lift which will help me up the stairs. I don't need to go into a home just for that."

At the moment an older person, who requires assistance at home, is assessed by their local health trust.

Depending on that assessment, a system will be put in place that could provide a home help, even meals delivered to the home daily - what is known as a domiciliary care package.

But according to Age NI's chief executive, Anne O'Reilly, that system is under pressure and failing too many people.

"Our social care system is broken and needs fixed. A new revised system is long overdue," she said.

"The current one is no longer sustainable or capable of meeting the needs of people."


From his home in County Down, John Murtagh, 91, is the human face of that system under strain.

He said the withdrawal of meals to his home by his health trust, will probably mean he will eventually have to move out of his house.

"After my wife died the trust took away the service, she needed it more than me. But I am 91, a bit forgetful and by the time I shop and cook the day is over," he said.

"I'm old, I need a little help, it's also good to have a little company during the day, though because they are so busy, the man who delivers the meals never has time to stay - even for just 10 minutes."

Deirdre Heenan is one of five experts employed by the Department of Health to lend her expertise about how social care could be developed.

"What we have to ask ourselves - is the system as good as it could be, especially for older people?" she said.

"We've been asking how can we do things differently.

"People want to remain at home, we need to see how the service can be delivered to their front door. But it must be affordable and it has to be effective."

One area being explored is what are known as direct payments or social impact bonds.

Each person who is entitled to financial help would be allocated a payment, for instance £100 a week.

From that payment the person and their family can choose how they want to spend it.

Choices would include meals on wheels, home help, the delivery of drugs by a pharmacy, even chiropody treatment.

Making greater use of that system would bring Northern Ireland into line with England, Scotland and Wales.

The chief executive of Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action, Seamus McAleavey, said personalising care is what communities want.

"I think communities and voluntary organisations can work with families as an advocate," he said.

"They can advise them how to make the right choices and to manage the money.

"The service would be evaluated by independents to ensure money is being handled properly and that families are getting good value."

But Anne O'Reilly from Age NI is concerned that the political will is not there to make it happen.

"Our biggest worry is that without the political will and public debate that we need, the system will revert to type. It will be a matter of just re-arranging the deck chairs," she said.

"Enough is enough. We've got to set the stage for the future - if we need access to care, for you, for me, for future generations."


A number of community associations in Belfast told the BBC they want to play a better role caring for the elderly.

Catherine Apsley is co-coordinator with the Belfast Central Mission.

Currently it supplies services to 60 people, but the demand is greater.

"People here in east Belfast like their neighbours, the streets where they raised their families, they want to end their days here," Ms Apsley said.

"At the moment we have handymen going into houses to fit locks on doors, rails on showers, stairs, etc, but we want to do more.

"With extra funding we could also do meals on wheels, people calling to help with collecting medication, podiatry services, there is a whole range of things which prevents accidents from happening and older men and women having to be hospitalized. It's cheaper in the long run."

In order for this aspect of the review to be tackled effectively, politicians must accept the scale of the challenge and the need for urgent action.

This is not the first time we have had such a review.

But what has changed this time is that the political choreography is different and we have a health minister who has said he is not afraid to make decisions.

That combination could create the chance to fix the care system so future generations are free from the fear of ageing.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Odds against Man City - Mancini

 Mancini's side will be out of the Champions League if they fail to beat Bayern Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini says his side have only a 30% chance of qualifying for the Champions League last 16 following defeat by Napoli.

City lost 2-1 in Italy on Tuesday and now need to beat Bayern Munich and hope Villarreal at least draw against Napoli if they are to reach the next stage.

"Our target was to go into the second stage and [now] we are depending on other teams," Mancini said.

Mancini rated City's chances of progress as "70% to Napoli, 30% to us".

The Italian refused to give up all hope, but put the onus on Villarreal to field a strong side against the Italians despite the Spaniards having little but pride to play for.

"If Villarreal play a normal game they may still get a result," he said. "If they play a serious game we can still get to the second stage.

"But Napoli are the favourites and life doesn't finish if we don't get through.

"We have still got another match to play and if we don't qualify we will play in the Europa League. Everything is not finished - never say never."

City were second best in Italy, with Edinson Cavani hitting an impressive double for the home side.

The prolific striker, who has now scored four goals in five Champions League appearances this season, grabbed a near-post header in the first half before netting the winner after 48 minutes when he side-footed home Andrea Dossena's cross.

Mario Balotelli had drawn City level just before half-time when he tapped home from two yards out after David Silva's shot had been parried into his path by Morgan de Sanctis.

The Premier League leaders struggled to impose their fluent attacking game on their hosts, but Mancini insisted the scoreline flattered the Italians.

"We didn't deserve to lose this game," he added. "After our equaliser we had two more chances to go 2-1 up. It is strange that we conceded this goal after 10 minutes.

"We had other chances to score. Their keeper was fantastic and saved three or four chances, but if you lose probably you have made mistakes.

Continue reading the main story Manchester City need to beat Bayern Munich to have any chance of going throughCity also need Villarreal to take at least a point from Napoli in SpainIf City draw and Napoli lose, the Italians go through because they have a better head-to-head record

"We conceded two stupid goals."

Midfielder James Milner, who impressed in City's midfield, echoed his manager's thoughts and turned his attentions to Sunday's Premier League clash with Liverpool at Anfield.

"We had more than enough chances to win the game but they are a very good team and they were good on the break," said the former Aston Villa man.

"We gave two sloppy goals away and you can't afford to do that in the Champions League.

"It's a learning curve and we have to make sure we bounce back from it. We will pick ourselves up and hope to put in a performance on Sunday."

Patient burnt in hospital blast

A statement from the hospital said an oxygen cylinder exploded and there was a "small fire in a single bay".

Staff transferred 12 patients to other wards in the hospital and extra staff were called in to help care for them.

Several RUH staff were treated for the effects of smoke inhalation. The ward is expected to reopen later.

James Scott, the hospital's chief executive, said the patient who sustained injuries was burnt on the leg and was transferred to the regional burns unit at Frenchay Hospital, in Bristol.

'Scorch marks'

Mr Scott said the patient had a "stable night" following the incident.

Three of the patients in intensive care were transferred to ordinary wards while five were looked after in theatre recovery.

Another three were transferred to other intensive care wards in Bristol after the explosion on Tuesday night.

"There's quite a lot of scorch marks on the wall and the unit is currently closed but we're working hard to get it reopened," Mr Scott added.

A cause for the explosion has yet to be identified and Mr Scott said an investigation would be carried out by the "relevant authorities".

Police 'want terror powers delay'

 By Robin Brant Political Correspondent, BBC News  Control orders were introduced under the former Labour government in 2005 Counter-terrorism police are not ready for the introduction of new laws to replace controversial control orders on suspects, the BBC understands.

The bill which would create Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPims) is due to pass its final hurdle in Parliament on Wednesday.

But some senior officers have told the BBC they still feel they are not fully prepared and a delay is necessary.

The Home Office said "extensive preparations" were ongoing for TPims.

TPims are due to come into effect early in 2012.

Eleven people are currently subject to control orders. Their movements and their access to communications are severely restricted because they are deemed to be a threat to national security.

But the law is changing, following a commitment in the coalition agreement to "urgently review control orders".

End of relocation

The Liberal Democrats pushed for changes to some of the most restrictive conditions which they viewed as an intolerable breach of civil liberties.

One of the biggest changes will be the end of relocation, which gives the authorities the power to force suspects to move away from their homes and close associates. This applies to most of the current orders.

The police and MI5 have been given more money to pay for extra surveillance under the new system and about 100 new agents could be recruited.

But the BBC understands that some senior officers at Scotland Yard who deal with counter terrorism feel the police are not ready for a January start.

They want a delay of several months.

So far the government has been asked to extend the transition period by just two weeks.

This echoes concerns expressed in June by then Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Osborne, who told Parliament the Metropolitan Police needed "more than a year" to get the resources and people in place.

A Home Office spokesman told the BBC that "extensive preparations were being made for transition to the new TPim regime".

Friday, 25 November 2011

Plan on child sex exploitation

 It is feared thousands of children are groomed for sexual activity by gangs The problem of under-18s in England being groomed for sexual activity takes place "in far greater numbers than was ever imagined", the government warns.

Ministers say gifts such as money, food, drugs or alcohol are often used as a means of coercion.

They say robust strategies are needed to ensure children are not sexually exploited by gangs or individuals.

Children's Minister Tim Loughton is launching a plan to make sure agencies work together to tackle the problem.

The Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation Action Plan will bring together the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, local safeguarding children boards and support organisations like Rape Crisis.

The plan will also look at improving sex and relationships education in schools and helping parents know what tell-tale signs to watch out for.

In October, the deputy children's commissioner, Sue Berelowitz, launched a two-year inquiry into the scale and scope of sexual exploitation by gangs.

Ms Berelowitz said thousands of children could be affected and the issue reached across race and class.

Launching the action plan on Wednesday, Mr Loughton said: "This country has to wake up to the fact that children are being sexually abused in far greater numbers than was ever imagined.

"It could be going on in every type of community and in every part of the country.

"Too many local areas have failed to uncover the true extent of child sexual exploitation in their communities and failed to properly support victims and their families.

"Child sexual exploitation is child abuse, it is not good enough that some local areas don't recognise it as an issue.

"This is an extremely serious crime and must be treated as such, with the perpetrators pursued more vigorously."

Getting to court

Mr Loughton said it must be made easier for young victims and their families to go to court.

"It is worrying that many incidents go unreported because victims are unwilling to come forward," he said.

"The action plan is a big step forward and looks at sexual exploitation from the perspective of the young person, analysing what can go wrong and what should happen at every stage."

The children's charity Barnardo's, which is itself campaigning for a greater understanding of this issue, welcomed the action plan.

Chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said: "We cannot underestimate the scale of this sickening abuse and the damage it is doing to thousands of girls and boys across the UK.

"At Barnardo's we hear so many heartbreaking stories which are every parent's worst nightmare.

"The government's action plan to tackle child sexual exploitation will lay down the gauntlet for the criminal justice system to bring more prosecutions of this type of sex offender - but we need urgent action for the innocents who are groomed and exploited for sex."

Peter Davies, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop) Centre and Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) lead adviser for child protection, said: "A key challenge to overcome is improving confidence of victims, many who are extremely vulnerable, to come forward and report their abuse in the knowledge that they will be fully supported throughout.

"We have already come a long way in bringing this form of child abuse out of the dark, and we remain committed to build upon this work."

Police hit out at pension changes

 The Scottish Police Federation said the proposals showed "utter contempt" Police officers have become the latest group to reject the UK government's changes to public sector pensions.

BBC Scotland has seen a submission by the the Scottish Police Federation which describes plans for an increase in contributions as "an affront to democracy".

Public sector workers face increased contributions from April.

The UK government believes the current system for funding retirements is unsustainable.

More than two million public sector workers are due to take industrial action on 30 November in protest at the moves.

Police officers are not allowed to strike but they can make their views known.

In their submission to the Pensions Authority, the Scottish Police Federation, which represents 16,000 rank-and-file members, said the proposals showed "utter contempt" for the Scottish Parliament.

Ministers in Edinburgh control police pensions but said they had to adopt the pension reforms or face losing millions of pounds in funding.

'Serious reservations'

The submission said the SPF did not support adopting the England and Wales proposals in Scotland.

It said that without an up-to-date valuation of the pension schemes the SPF had "serious reservations about a proposal to increase contribution rates that bears no relation to the true value of the schemes".

It added: "It is our view the funding arrangements for police pensions in Scotland are such that there is absolutely no justification for passing increases to members of the police pension schemes.

"We further believe the Scottish government should be absolutely clear to HM Treasury their approach on this matter is an affront to democracy, undermines the devolution settlement and shows utter contempt for the role of the Scottish Parliament."

There are two police pension schemes: one for staff who joined after 1987, with contributions of 11% of salary, and a less generous one for staff who joined after 2006, with contributions of 9% of salary.

Officers earning between £27,000 and £60,000 a year will eventually pay 3.2 percentage points more in the 1987 scheme and 2.5 percentage points more in the 2006 scheme.

Race to bury carbon dioxide under ocean

Hiring a helicopter to hover above some of the Europe's largest carbon dioxide emitters seems an odd way to go about promoting green energy.

In the shadow of the vast cooling towers stand a few small turbines, generating a tiny fraction of the power emerging from their concrete neighbours.

But, for once, it isn't the turbines but the coal plants themselves that are on show.

According to CO2 Sense, a not-for-profit company which works to support clean energy projects in the area, the Yorkshire and Humber region is one of Europe's biggest emitters of carbon dioxide.

It is home to some of the UK's largest power stations.

Together, Ferrybridge, Drax and Eggborough provide more than 10% of our electricity but emit some 30 million tonnes of CO2 a year.

Chief Scientific Officer, David MacKay looks at the various energy options available to the UK

Add to that two of the UK's larger refineries - Total's Lindsay oil and Conoco Phillip's Immingham - and one of our largest steel mills, Tata Steel's Scunthorpe plant.

The entire cluster puts out a total of 60 million tonnes of CO2 more than double the next biggest emitting region in the UK, along the Thames in Greater London.

"What we're in here is one of the Europe's big energy and climate change hotspots," says Dr Stephen Brown, director of carbon capture and storage at CO2 Sense.

It means that in this region, thousands of jobs depend on industries whose emissions are set to be taxed and regulated ever more heavily over the next decade.

Some may be forced to close, others to move abroad.

Keeping the lights on

To Dr Brown, however, the cluster presents an unusual opportunity.

The more industries releasing carbon dioxide in one place, the more potential customers there are for a plan to capture the greenhouse gas and bury it far out under the North Sea.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) for electricity generation has not yet been carried out commercially and at scale anywhere.

But, for the UK government, along with many others, it is almost essential.

Many of the UK's coal and nuclear plants are due to be de-commissioned over the next 10 years as a result of old age or because they do not comply with new emissions regulations.

Big industry could also benefit from CCS

New nuclear plants have not even been started yet, while offshore wind is running behind schedule.

And the government has promised to completely de-carbonise electricity generation by 2050 - so any new gas or coal plants will be needing their carbon dioxide captured and stored.

"If you want to achieve the sort of carbon reductions we're talking about... either we can't do it without CCS or it would be much more expensive," says Malcolm Grimston, associate fellow at the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies.

The plan

Early efforts in the UK and around the world have so far yielded little.

The first UK project was meant to be under way at Longannet in Scotland. But the Treasury withdrew £1bn of support funding from the project when it became clear that it would not be enough to get the plant built.

Instead a range of projects are now turning to an EU competition - NER 300 - for money they hope will be matched by governments.

Three of them come from the Humber region. The owners of the giant coal plant Drax are joined by some less conventional proposals.

Private equity backed 2Co wants to build a new coal plant above the Hatfield coal mine and pump the gas to North Sea oil fields where it can be used for enhanced oil recovery.

The idea is that by pushing carbon dioxide in, you can get more oil out - so making money for the taxpayer.

Belgian firm C-Gen wants to build a gas-fired power station with carbon capture in Killingholme, North Lincolnshire.

And at Ferrybridge, Scottish and Southern Energy are to start a small pilot plant shortly, though they are not seeking funding from the NER 300 competition.

The pipe

All the proposals envisage a giant pipe starting with a coal plant, but then collecting carbon dioxide from anyone who will capture it before bringing it out to be buried under the sea bed.

The project is likely to be run by the National Grid and is designed to prevent high carbon industry leaving to avoid paying for their emissions - so called carbon leakage.

Capturing the Carbon Dioxide from coal plants makes them less efficient

"There is the issue of carbon leakage for companies such as steel firms that compete on a global basis," admits Tata's Dr Bruce Adderly.

Tata is keen for the pipe to be built, but hasn't yet offered to pay for it.

One way to force coal and steel plants to pay would be to make carbon so expensive that paying to bury it makes sense.

But that may not work.

"The problem with that is you push industry into an uneconomic state and you would lose jobs - the last thing we want to do is lose our industry and then try and decarbonise something that doesn't exist," says Jim Ward, head of CCS at the National Grid.

Funding shortfall

Instead, the coal plants in the region are bidding for European and UK government funding.

But the economic sands have shifted beneath them.

The EU funding comes in the form of carbon credits, which they can sell.

However, the value of those credits has fallen significantly since emissions reduced around Europe during the economic downturn.

"The recession has meant the price of carbon has plummeted, and means that anyone who has any money to do anything doesn't want to - a lot of these projects are not going to happen," says Mr Grimston.

Projects will be built, he says, and the cost of doing so will fall - but first there must be a negotiation with government.

And not only is CCS expensive to build, unlike conventional coal and gas, it is also expensive to run, unlike wind and nuclear.

Currently separating out the CO2 reduces the efficiency of the plant by about 20-30%, as you need to burn more coal or gas to produce the same power.

"You can't compete with anyone," says Mr Grimston.

From his perch in a helicopter above one of Europe's most polluting regions, these concerns don't seem to deter Dr Brown.

Enhanced oil recovery, for example, could yet help the sums to add up, or the cost of carbon could rise, increasing the subsidy.

For Yorkshire and the Humber, along with other industrial parts of the UK, it may well be CCS or bust.

Slow paracetamol overdose warning

 Taking slightly more than is recommended can cause significant damage over time Taking slightly too much paracetamol day after day can be fatal, experts have warned.

A dangerous dose might just be a few pills too many taken regularly over days, weeks or months, they said.

Researchers at Edinburgh University saw 161 cases of "staggered overdose" at its hospital over a six-year period.

People taking tablets for chronic pain might not realise they were taking too many or recognise symptoms of overdose and liver injury, they said.

The researchers told the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology that this life-threatening condition could be easily missed by doctors and patients.

Doctors may not initially spot the problem because blood tests will not show the staggeringly high levels of paracetamol seen with a conventional overdose, where someone may have swallowed several packets of the drug.

Patients who have taken a staggered overdose tend to fare worse than those who have taken a large overdose, the study suggests.

Dr Kenneth Simpson and colleagues looked at the medical records of 663 patients who had been referred with paracetamol-induced liver injury to the Scottish Liver Transplantation Unit at the university hospital.

The 161 who had taken a staggered overdose were more likely to develop liver and brain problems and need kidney dialysis or help with their breathing. They were also more likely to die of their complications.

Dr Simpson said: "They haven't taken the sort of single-moment, one-off massive overdoses taken by people who try to commit suicide, but over time the damage builds up, and the effect can be fatal."

Professor Roger Knaggs of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society said patients should heed the warning.

Continue reading the main story Take paracetamol as directed on the packet or patient information leaflet that comes with the medicineEach tablet usually contains 500mgAdults can take 1-2 tablets of paracetamol 4-6 hourly, up to four times a day This means you should not take more than 8 tablets (4g) in a 24-hour periodIf you accidentally take an extra dose of paracetamol, you should miss out the next dose so that you do not take more than the recommended maximum dose for a 24-hour period. If you are concerned or you feel unwell, contact your GP or call NHS Direct on 0845 4647"If people experience pain and paracetamol doesn't help, rather than thinking a 'top up' dose may work, they should consult their pharmacist for alternative pain control or referral to someone who can help with the cause of the pain.

"The message is clear: if you take more paracetamol than is recommended, you won't improve your pain control but you may seriously damage your health.

"At this time of year people should also take care with combination cold and flu products which may have paracetamol as one of the ingredients. It's easy to take more than intended, so if in doubt consult your pharmacist."

Meanwhile, researchers at King's College London and Lund University in Sweden say they have discovered precisely how paracetamol works in the body. It is via a protein on nerve cells called TRPA1, says Nature Communications.

Now that they understand this principal mechanism, scientists can start to look for molecules that work in the same way to effectively relieve pain, but are less toxic and will not lead to serious complications following overdose.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The cute Christmas boy

If your heart hasn't been melted by The Long Wait then it is made of flint, and Scrooge-like you deserve to be visited by every ghost going.

Remember, out of the mouths of babes and all that. The child in question is seven-year-old Lewis McGowan, who in the ad spends 10 days counting off the hours, minutes and seconds until Christmas. Not so he can indulge in a frenzied present-opening fest, but so that he can experience the joy of giving his parents a special gift of his own.

See, it's better to give than to receive - that's the twist, and it took a child to point that out. This is John Lewis focusing on core family values, in these economic belt-tightening times. And it has captured the public mood.

The ad first launched on Twitter and YouTube, allowing time to generate chatter before it landed in the nation's front rooms during ITV's The X Factor two weeks ago.

In fact, this is less of an ad, more of a mini-film continuing a theme John Lewis rolled out a few years ago.

Continue reading the main story

Please Please Please started life as merely the B-side of William, It Was Really Nothing but is as beloved of Smiths fans as any of Morrissey and Marr's better-known songs.

In its original form, it's barely longer than the John Lewis ad - two short sparse verses embellished with a dainty mandolin riff.

Versions of the track have been used on soundtracks. In Ferris Bueller's Day Off, an instrumental version underscores three school truants staring at canvases by Seurat and Kandinsky in the Art Institute of Chicago. The Smiths original plays under Maggie and Andy's estrangement in the Christmas episode of Extras. A version by Clayhill is at the end of Shane Meadows' This Is England.

The John Lewis version, by Slow Moving Millie, is one of many in the fragile, breathy style currently in vogue among advertisers. Other artists to sing the song include the Dream Academy, Muse and Deftones.

Alan Connor

It arrived with much hype - almost every major newspaper has devoted column inches to the launch and to the fact that heartstrings had been successfully tugged (apart from Charlie Brooker writing in the Guardian who states that anyone who cries at this is "literally sobbing IQ points out of their body").

For those who take a less "bah humbug" view, the young Scottish actor's family has been interviewed, assuring us that Lewis is really as thoughtful as the lad in the ad.

Interest was sparked ahead of launch with the news that a song by the Smiths was to be covered - and with the blessing of singer Morrissey. Fans took to Twitter to criticise their idols.

But there was a bigger debate to come. The online ad has been viewed by more than two million people, with the viewers who left messages on the YouTube page divided over whether it is genuinely moving or simply mawkish.

Launching The Long Wait online first clearly paid off. It topped Campaign Magazine's Viral Chart at the end of last week (Friday, 18 November) with more than 183,000 shares over seven days. It had also been mentioned in 192 Facebook updates, 10,000 tweets and 190 blog posts.

Capitalising on the interest, John Lewis this week launched a charity album of covers used in this and previous ads, with some of the proceeds of the sale going to Save the Children.

True to anything that becomes an instant hit on the web, the ad has already spawned a number of online spoofs. The most popular take has been to keep the ad but change the music to something from a chilling movie. There is the "Shining" version which features spooky organ music, and the Se7en version which is accompanied by dialogue from the 1995 thriller.

John Lewis chiefs don't appear too bothered by the spoofs - after all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Christmas can't come quickly enough

The mini-films technique has been one that John Lewis has been honing for some time.

"It has been using storytelling to take the viewer through a long-form ad for a few years. It is a successful strategy," says Marketing Week retail reporter Rosie Baker.

"[The Long Wait] is engaging on an emotional level - having a character that we can relate to."

It's not always been without the occasional glitch. Remember last year's ad, which featured a Christmas scene with a less than happy dog living in a kennel outside surrounded by snow.

This year's action takes place in a nondescript family house - this could be any family, from any part of the country.

But for many families, the festive reality is more likely one of Horrid Henry-like children merrily troughing their way through pounds of chocolate. More importantly, which child hops out of bed as late as a few minutes before eight on a Christmas morn - like our protagonist?

Survey reveals showering habits

 The survey challenged assumptions about how long people spent showering each day A survey, using innovative technology, has offered an insight into people's showering habits.

The average shower lasted eight minutes - much longer than previous studies suggested, using almost as much water and energy as the average bath.

The information was compiled from "data loggers" that recorded 2,600 showers by 100 families over a 10-day period.

The survey was carried out by producer Unilever, which wanted to find out how people were using their products.

According to the data, an eight-minute shower used 62 litres of hot water, compared with an average bath's 80 litres.

And, it suggested, that if people were using a power shower - an appliance that adds extra pressure to the water flow - then an eight-minute shower would require twice as much water and energy as a bath.

Hilde Hendrickx, a behavioural scientist in Unilever's R&D department, said that the company decided to carry out the survey because "quite a large proportion of our (products') environmental impact occurred when people used them".

Referring to shower and bath products, she added: "We know that 95% of the associated greenhouse gas emissions are related to people [using] our products because they have to use hot water."

Coming clean

Previously, data on showering behaviour had been collated by asking households to complete questionnaires. But this approach had a number of drawbacks, Dr Hendrickx explained.

The data logger (attached to shower pipe) recorded the flow and temperature of the water

"The problem with that is that people do not often have a very good insight into their behaviour because it is a habit and they may not be very aware of what they are actually doing," she told BBC News.

"When it comes to time perception, most people are not very good at estimating at how long it took them to do a particular activity."

Hence the need to find a different way to record it, she said, but the challenge was getting reliable data on a private activity.

"People would not take too kindly to someone standing next to them with a clipboard."

In order to overcome this, the company's R&D department developed a data logger that they called a "shower sensor".

"It is based on acoustics and temperature, so it basically picks up the noise of the water as it runs through the pipe," Dr Hendrickx explained. "It also picks up the change in temperature."

She added that by using algorithms, researchers were able to extract the necessary information about people's showering behaviour from the raw data.

The findings, she said, challenged some long-standing assumptions, such as people showered, on average, for five minutes.

'Fascinating peek'

Paula Owen, an independent environmental consultant, said the survey gave a "fascinating peek into the bathroom-related habits of the British public".

"Most people have now got the message that, generally, taking a shower is more environmentally friendly than a bath, but what this research shows is this is not necessarily the case," she told BBC News.

Dr Owen, who produced "eco action trump" cards to help people understand the environmental and economic impact of everyday activities, said that she recommended that people took four-minute showers.

"Unfortunately it seems that message is not getting through," she said.

"The results here show that the average time spent in a shower is double that. This wastes not only water, but also the energy needed for heating the water too.

"People always consider the running costs of cars and phones, but no-one considers the running costs of everyday appliances such as showers, washing machines and TVs."

The survey suggested that taking eight-minutes showers would cost an average UK family £416 a year; using a power shower would see the annual bill soar to £918.

But Dr Owen said there were a number of options available to people who wanted to cut their water and energy bills.

"Water companies often give away timers that help you limit your time in the shower and attachments are available to fix to your shower head that will reduce the flow but not the bathing experience," she explained.

"If you are partial to singing in the shower, pick a short pop classic to shower to; and when lathering up think about turning the flow off until you are ready to rinse."

Dr Hendrickx acknowledged that the survey was not representative of the entire nation, but added that there were plans to conduct more surveys in the future.

Two teams battle for City Garden

 Two designs for Aberdeen's Union Terrace Gardens are being assessed Two designs called Granite Web and Winter Garden will go head-to-head to win the competition to transform Aberdeen's Union Terrace Gardens.

An international contest was held to find a design for the high-profile £140m City Garden Project, which saw six teams shortlisted.

The teams behind the two favourite designs have now been asked to clarify the costs and viability.

A decision on the winning design is expected to be made in January.

BBC Scotland revealed one of the two favoured designs earlier this month.

Malcolm Reading, of Malcolm Reading Consultants - the organiser of the international design competition, said: "The jury was faced with six designs of exceptional and consummate design quality.

"The jury's unanimous decision at this stage is that further clarification work should be done by two design teams."

'World-class solution'

John Stewart, chairman of the City Garden Project management board, added: "The complexity of the project and the importance of the development to the people of Aberdeen deserve further consideration.

"We are confident that either scheme can provide a world-class solution and further exploration of these two designs will enable us to select the right design for Aberdeen."

A decision on a possible referendum is expected in December.

Aberdeen oil services tycoon Sir Ian Wood has pledged £50m of his own money for the City Garden Project.

During a previous public consultation process, 55% of those who took part said they did not support the new development.

However, councillors backed taking the plans to the next stage.

If the project proceeds, Aberdeen City Council believes construction could be finished by 2016.

Swinney hits back at UK minister

 Danny Alexander and John Swinney have been rowing over the independence issue Scotland's Finance Secretary John Swinney has accused the UK government of hysteria when it comes to the independence question.

The comment followed a letter to the SNP government from Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.

In it he said uncertainty over Scotland's future was damaging the UK economy as a whole.

Mr Swinney said he was happy to have an evidence-based debate, but there was no evidence coming from the coalition.

In an interview on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Swinney said: "The United Kingdom government is now becoming ever more hysterical in how it responds to this particular issue [independence]."

The SNP minister's response is the latest in a series of political comments on Scotland's economy.

Last week, the Chancellor George Osborne claimed instability caused by the planned referendum on independence was damaging investment in Scotland.

Mr Alexander has continued the war of words between Westminster and Holyrood by sending a letter to Mr Swinney in which he said the SNP's core policy commitment was causing "real uncertainty".

In an interview with BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Alexander said both City Group and CBI Scotland had expressed concerns about the "uncertainty" created by the issue of an independence referendum.

He added: "Most strikingly of all last week we heard from Transport Scotland, which is one of the Scottish government's own quangos, saying that they thought they would have to issue shorter rail franchises in future because of the constitutional uncertainty.

"The reason why governments are moving towards longer rail franchises is because that is the way to get more investment in railways, it is the way to keep fares down and so it is quite extraordinary in a sense that you've got one of the Scottish government's own organisation themselves saying they see this as an issue."

Mr Alexander told presenter Gary Robertson that he thought Scotland was a "brilliant place to invest and we all need to see economic growth across the whole of the UK".

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury added: "If Scotland exceeds it helps the whole of the UK. If Scotland is dragged down by this uncertainty then that affects the whole of the UK too."

Finance Secretary John Swinney, speaking on the same programme, said: "What I asked the chancellor was a simple set of questions about what had motivated him to put out a message that tried to sabotage the Scottish economy.

"I didn't get a reply from the chancellor, I got a set of other answers from the chief secretary to the treasury, who cannot possibly know what the chancellor was thinking about when he set out his views.

"I think at the very least the chancellor should reply directly to the accusation that I put to him."

The SNP has pledged to carry out a referendum on independence in the latter part of its five-year term.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Tory students burn Obama effigy

 The university said it was aware of "very understandable concerns" about the Obama effigy An effigy of US President Barack Obama was burned over the weekend by members of the Conservative student association at St Andrews University.

The incident is understood to have taken place on Friday evening on the town's East Sands beach.

One of those who attended told the BBC that members of the association had "no input" and were "surprised" to discover Obama was on the bonfire.

The St Andrews Conservative Association apologised for any offence caused.

Continue reading the main story
It was a stupid thing to do and we apologise for any offence caused”

End Quote Matthew Marshall St Andrews Conservative Association The university said it was aware of the reports and was seeking clarification.

Suggestions that the effigy was also wrapped in an EU flag have been denied.

In a statement, the university said it had asked to meet the president of the society to discuss "very understandable concerns".

A spokesman said it would be inappropriate to comment further.

It is understood that the university's discipline officer will be present when the meeting takes place.

Matthew Marshall, president of the St Andrews Conservative Association, said: "President Obama is an important ally to the British government. It was a stupid thing to do and we apologise for any offence caused."

'Closest allies'

A former chairman of the university's Labour society described the burning as "disgraceful".

James Mills said: "I can't imagine any other student activists of a major political party would behave in this manner.

"It's disgusting and I hope the Conservative Party and the prime minister completely come out and condemn this obscene act."

He added: "The last thing a truly modern party should be doing is burning an effigy of anyone let alone the first black president of the USA, one of our closest allies."

The same society has burned effigies of Gordon Brown and former South African president Nelson Mandela in the past, along with one of Mr Mills.

'Act of hate'

A St Andrews Students Union spokesman said: "As students we believe in political debate, with engaging those who we disagree with us and that all students at St Andrews have a valid opinion to contribute.

"While it does not violate any laws, we believe that the burning of political or public figures in effigy can be an act of hate, stifles productive engagement and can be offensive.

"We believe that St Andrews students should hold ourselves to a higher standard and actively demonstrate that we are ready to engage with, and respect, the opinions of others.

"As such we deplore the burning in effigy of political or public figures regardless of sex, race, political persuasion or any other distinction. "

Sam Fowles, St Andrews Students Union vice president, said: "I do not believe this was a racist act but I don't believe that makes it any less disgusting. Tonight student representatives have shown that the vast majority of St Andrews students are much better than this sort of puerile and offensive behaviour."

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