Moving Beyond the Original Industrial Age, Britain Goes a Day Without Coal-Generated Electricity


Oli Scarff/Agence France-Presse

❝ Last Friday was the first full day since the height of the Industrial Revolution that Britain did not burn coal to generate electricity, a development that officials and climate change activists celebrated as a watershed moment.

The accomplishment became official just before 11 p.m., when the 24-hour period ended…

❝ For many living in the mining towns up and down the country, it was not just the backbone of the economy but a way of life. But the industry has been in decline for some time. The last deep coal mine closed in December 2015, though open cast mining has continued.

❝ Coal-fired power generation contributes heavily to climate change; burning coal produces twice as much carbon dioxide as burning natural gas. Reducing the world’s reliance on coal and increasing the use of renewable energy sources like solar and wind power have long been part of proposals to prevent the worst consequences of climate change.

Now on a path to phase out coal-fired power generation altogether by 2025, Britain, also the home of the first steam engine, is currently closing coal plants and stepping up generation from cleaner natural gas and renewables, like wind and solar.

Some countries have already left coal behind in power generation. In Switzerland, Belgium and Norway, “every day is a coal-free day,” Carlos Fernández Alvarez, a coal analyst at the International Energy Agency in Paris, pointed out.

❝ In the United States, where coal still accounts for about 30 percent of power generation, Vermont and Idaho are the only coal-free states, and California is close behind…

❝ Meanwhile, in the London Museum of Water & Steam, which has a heritage collection of coal-fired steam engines and railway engines, the operations manager, Edward Fagan, was planning for a future exhibition.

“Coal-fired power generation is very fast becoming a heritage item,” Mr. Fagan said. “One day we’ll have to add a power station to our collection.”

We can contribute wax replicas of the Koch Bros – exemplars of corporate barons trying to stop time, halt progress, save their death-filled fortunes. Oh, perhaps one of their pimps like Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell.

Trekkies married in Britain’s first Klingon ceremony

A Swedish couple married according to Klingon rituals Saturday at Britain’s first official Star Trek convention.

Josefin Sockertopp, 23, told The Independent she had never seen the Star Trek movies or television shows until she met her husband, Sonnie Gustavsson, 29.

“The ceremony was his idea. I thought about it a lot and then I said ‘let’s do it’,” she said. “It’s a once in a lifetime thing.”

The couple had a legal wedding ceremony in Stockholm on Thursday, the BBC reported. The Klingon ceremony was icing on the cake — including a cake made of three Borg cubes.

With fire and steel did the gods forge the Klingon heart,” the wedding registrar chanted. “So fiercely did it beat, so loud was the sound, that the gods cried out, ‘On this day we have brought forth the strongest heart in all the heavens. None can stand before it without trembling at its strength.'”

They must have forgotten to transport my invitation.

Out-of-date FDA bureaucrats rejected Salmonella vaccine

Faced with a crisis more than a decade ago in which thousands of people were sickened from salmonella in infected eggs, farmers in Britain began vaccinating their hens against the bacteria. That simple but decisive step virtually wiped out the health threat.

But when American regulators created new egg safety rules that went into effect last month, they declared that there was not enough evidence to conclude that vaccinating hens against salmonella would prevent people from getting sick. The Food and Drug Administration decided not to mandate vaccination of hens — a precaution that would cost less than a penny per a dozen eggs.

Now, consumers have been shaken by one of the largest egg recalls ever, involving nearly 550 million eggs from two Iowa producers, after a nationwide outbreak of thousands of cases of salmonella was traced to eggs contaminated with the bacteria.

The F.D.A. has said that if its egg safety rules had gone into effect earlier, the crisis might have been averted. Those rules include regular testing for contamination, cleanliness standards for henhouses and refrigeration requirements, all of which experts say are necessary.

However, many industry experts say the absence of mandatory vaccination greatly weakens the F.D.A. rules, depriving them of a crucial step that could prevent future outbreaks.

Salmonella bacteria is passed from infected hens to the interior of eggs when they are being formed. The salmonella vaccines work both by reducing the number of hens that get infected and by making it more difficult for salmonella bacteria to pass through to the eggs…

The F.D.A. said it considered mandatory vaccination very seriously. “We didn’t believe that, based on the data we had, there was sufficient scientific evidence for us to require it,” said Dr. Nega Beru, director of the agency’s Office of Food Safety…

Unfortunately, no one decided to look beyond the prelimary studies from 1999. That seems to be as much a political decision as anything else.

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Burn baby burn

This article’s about the UK; but, we’re pretty much in the same boat for mediocre recycling – and no doubt produce a higher percentage of waste.

Britain’s sitting on a waste time bomb – we must recycle more and bury less… and quickly. But there is a third option, which those models of eco-awareness, the Danes, don’t even blink at: burning it.

By 2020 the UK must more than halve the amount of rubbish it buries, to just 25% of its total waste disposal. Recycling will only go some of the way to ease the burden, but there is another alternative to burying – burning. So why don’t we..?

A government-commissioned review of the health effects of waste in 2004 found no link between modern incinerators, or as they are more commonly known, “energy from waste plants”, and health problems.

Denmark, a country synonymous for some with progressive environmental policies, is the poster child for incineration or energy from waste. It has 30 plants dotted around the country.

Just outside of the Danish capital, Copenhagen, I am at the top of the Nordforbraending incinerator where my guide, Jan Olsen, proudly shows me the houses, schools and shopping centre that surround the plant.

“They are free to come at any time,” says Mr Olsen. “We have a lot of school classes coming here, its quite an efficient way to teach the community we are not that dangerous.”

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UK faces conflicts between British law and Islamic justice

The woman in black wanted an Islamic divorce. She told the religious judge that her husband hit her, cursed her and wanted her dead.

But her husband was opposed, and the Islamic scholar adjudicating the case seemed determined to keep the couple together. So, sensing defeat, she brought our her secret weapon: her father.

In walked a bearded man in long robes who described his son-in-law as a hot-tempered man who had duped his daughter, evaded the police and humiliated his family.

The judge promptly reversed himself and recommended divorce.

This is Islamic justice, British style. Despite a raucous national debate over the limits of religious tolerance and the pre-eminence of British law, the tenets of Shariah, or Islamic law, are increasingly being applied to everyday life in cities across the country…

But ever since the archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, called in February for aspects of Islamic Shariah to be embraced alongside the traditional legal system, the government has been grappling with a public furor over the issue, assuaging critics while trying to reassure a wary and at times disaffected Muslim population that its traditions have a place in British society.

I’m not going to try to knock this article down into a coupe of paragraphs. The article is good. The topic is current and appropriate.

It focuses mostly on the UK; but, include the US and Canada, as well. RTFA, enjoy and analyze.

Online financial fraud up 20% in Britain

Cybercrime in the UK rose overall by more than 9% in 2007, according to a new report.

Online identity firm Garlik’s cybercrime report claims that more than 3.5 million online crimes were committed in the UK last year.

In 2007, the sharpest rise was in online financial fraud, with more than 250,000 incidents reported in 2007; a 20% rise on the previous year.

The report highlighted a growing professionalism among online criminals, with personal and credit details being traded online. Garlik said that the information black market had doubled, with more than 19,000 illicit traders identified…

I like the part where they speak of cybercriminals using “sophisticated and professional techniques”.

The #1 strategy remains – find someone gullible. There is no patch for stupidity.

Door thief, piglet rustler, pudding snatcher: Crime gone wild!

The number of extradition cases being dealt with in the UK courts has reached record levels, fuelled by a number of “trivial” requests from Europe that have exasperated the police and clogged up the system.

Up to 1,000 extradition cases are expected to have been dealt with by the end of the year, more than double the number last year, and four times the number in 2006 according to figures from the City of Westminster magistrates court, which handles all extradition hearings…

40% of all extradition cases dealt with by the Metropolitan police originated in Poland, adding that many of the offences were so minor they would lead to either a caution or no investigation at all in England and Wales.

In one case, according to Flood, a carpenter who fitted wardrobe doors and then removed them when the client refused to pay him, was subject to an extradition request by Poland so that they could try him for theft. In another case, the Polish authorities requested the extradition of a suspect for theft of a dessert. “The European arrest warrant contained a list of the ingredients,” Flood said.

Although Poland is not the only culprit – a Lithuanian was extradited last year on a charge of “piglet-rustling” – it has made the most requests by far.

The EU and their newfound family members in the East have actually found how to invoke a bureaucracratic morass greater than the Brits. I almost think it’s a matter of just desserts – so to speak.

Why injured athlete went to Switzerland to die


Better days

A 23-year-old who played rugby for England as a teenager has committed suicide in a Swiss euthanasia clinic after having become paralysed from the chest down in a training accident.

Nuneaton rugby club hooker Daniel James felt his body had become a “prison” and lived in “fear and loathing” of his daily life, his parents said last night, having accompanied him to Switzerland from their home in Sinton Green, near Worcester. He had attempted to kill himself several times since March 2007 when a scrum had collapsed on him and dislocated his neck vertebrae, trapping his spinal cord and rendering him immediately tetraplegic.

West Mercia Police have begun an investigation into his assisted suicide, which took place on September 12. Details were made public yesterday when police published a statement relating to an inquest in progress. Assisted suicide is illegal in the UK, and family or friends who help face up to 14 years in jail. Officers have questioned a man and a women in the case and are preparing to submit a report to the Crown Prosecution Service.

James’ parents, Mark and Julie, said last night that their son had been “an intelligent young man of sound mind” and “not prepared to live what he felt was a second-class existence“.

He is one of the youngest Britons to have travelled abroad for assisted suicide. Earlier this month, Dignitas, the centre for assisted dying in Zurich, said that 100 Britons have travelled to Switzerland to make use of its more liberal laws. It is thought James attended a clinic in Berne.

Regardless of the law, regardless of crap morality, I don’t justify suicide as a problem-solver. Oftimes, I think it’s a cowardly way out of tough decisions. Janis Joplin or Phil Ochs comes to mind.

But, I’ll be damned if society as a whole can justify taking away my right to make such a decision. And sanction those who help me.