UK Parliament Speaker of the House bans Trump over racism and sexism

❝ U.S. President Donald Trump must not be allowed to address the U.K. Parliament during a state visit to Britain, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said.

❝ Prime Minister Theresa May invited Trump to visit the U.K., but there have been calls by lawmakers not to give the president the honor of addressing both houses of Parliament after he introduced a ban on people from some majority-Muslim countries traveling to the U.S.

❝ “Before the imposition of the migrant ban I would myself have been strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall; after the imposition of the migrant ban by President Trump I’m even more strongly opposed,” Bercow told lawmakers.

“I feel very strongly our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons.”

❝ Bercow said he has a veto over a speech in Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the Houses of Parliament, and would block one. And it would be a breach with tradition if Trump spoke in the Royal Gallery behind the Lords without his name on the invitation, he said.

“An address by a foreign leader to both houses of Parliament is not an automatic right, it is an earned honor,” Bercow said. “There are many precedents for state visits to take place to our country that do not include an address to both houses of Parliament.”

Now, we just need to get Congress up to the same standard.

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Brits’ new Surveillance Law will be a global model – for repression

Civil rights advocates are up in arms over a sweeping new digital surveillance law in the United Kingdom, and not just because they say it intrudes on the privacy of people in the U.K. Some worry that the law sets an example other democratic nations will be tempted to follow.

The legislation…is called the Investigatory Powers Act (or, by its critics, the “Snooper’s Charter”). It enshrines broad new authority for U.K. law enforcement and intelligence agencies to conduct online surveillance, hack into devices deemed relevant to investigations, and make technology companies provide access to data about their users — even by forcing them to change the design of products. It also gives investigators the authority to use these powers in “bulk,” meaning they can access large data sets that may include information about people not relevant to investigations. They can even hack into devices owned by people who are not suspects in a crime.

…The most high-profile fight is over a new authority for the government to compel Internet service providers to retain “Internet connection records”—including websites visited or mobile apps used, the times they were accessed, and the duration of use — for up to 12 months for all their customers. Investigators won’t need a warrant from a judge to access this data. “There is no state in the Western democratic world that has anything similar,” says Eric King…former deputy director of Don’t Spy on Us, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations that advocates for surveillance reform…

Brazil and Australia have also recently instituted data retention laws. The U.S. has not, but the U.S. Department of Justice has advocated for mandatory data retention before, as have members of Congress. After the Snowden revelations, President Obama issued a policy directive limiting bulk data collection by the federal government itself. But Donald Trump could rescind that or work with Congress to require Internet service providers to retain data so investigators could access it later—a step that would be modeled on the U.K. legislation. “If the Trump administration wants to expand its surveillance powers, or seek sanction for more aggressive use of its existing powers, it could unfortunately point to the U.K.’s new law as precedent,” says Camilla Graham Wood, Privacy International’s legal officer.

RTFA for a peek at the brave new world brought to us in part by fools who vote for phonies like Donald Trump. That doesn’t exempt the chickenshit Establishment of Democrats and Republicans who roll over and stick all four feet into the air every time some surveillance pimp prattles about fear.

First London-bound freight train departs China

The first freight train from China to London set off on Sunday on a journey that will cover a staggering 7,456 miles.

It departed from Yiwu West railway station in Zhejiang Province, China, and will arrive in Barking, London, having been trundling along for 18 days.

Its route will snake through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium, France and finally Britain.

The service is being run by the China Railway Corporation. Britain is the eighth country to be added to its list of destinations, with London its 15th city.

The new route is set to boost trade ties between the UK and China with goods such as clothing and bags delivered along the re-established Silk Road, connecting Europe and Asia, according to The Indian Express, which cited a report from Xinhua news agency.

The focus on strengthening trade by expanding China’s railway infrastructure and network is part of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy, announced in late 2013.

I don’t think anyone asked Donald Trump for planning permission. Or ever will.

Chris Porsz snapped photos in the 1970’s and 80’s – tracked folks down and recreated the originals


Click ONCE or TWICE to enlarge

Paramedic Chris Porsz spent hours walking around the city of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire (Great Britain) in the late 1970s and 80s, taking candid shots of punks and policemen, siblings and sweethearts, traders and teenagers. More than three decades later, Chris has reconstructed a handful of his favourite photos from his collection. He spent the last seven years tracking down the people in his pictures and persuading them to pose once again. His hard work paid off and he has now published his photos in a new book, “Reunions”.

Click through to the article and enjoy. Aside from the photographic journey, the snaps are a gas of a record of 40 years ago almost anywhere in workingclass England.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Arctic crossing planned for autonomous sub


Click to enlargeBritish Antarctic Survey

❝ The UK’s favourite new yellow submarine, Boaty McBoatface, is in training for a grand challenge…Scientists plan to send the long-range autonomous vehicle under the sea-ice of the Arctic – from one side of the ocean basin to the other.

It is a journey of at least 2,500km – and while nuclear subs might routinely do it, the prospect is a daunting one for a battery-operated research vehicle…The trip could happen in 2018 or 2019.

❝ “It represents one of the last great transects on Earth for an autonomous sub,” said Prof Russell Wynn, from the National Oceanography Centre, Boaty’s UK base…“Previously, such subs have gone perhaps 150km (horizontally) under the ice and then come back out out again. Boaty will have the endurance to go all the way across the Arctic.”…

❝ “One of the things we’re going to do is teach Boaty to read a map,” said Prof Wynn. “You give it a map of the seabed in its brain and then as it travels it uses sonar to collect data that it can compare with the stored map. This should tell it where it is. It’s a neat concept but it’s never been tested over thousands of km before.”…

❝ Schools will be able to apply for education packs centred on ocean and polar topics. And STEM ambassadors will also be working with children to bring these subjects alive.

Beaucoup information, anecdotes, discussion-worthy goodies in the article. No doubt there will be online tracking much like that following the recent solar round-the-globe adventure. Looking forward to Boaty’s travels.

Milestone: UK’s red telephone boxes to be replaced with wi-fi kiosks

❝ Many of the UK’s iconic red telephone booths may not be around for much longer. Starting next year, BT will start replacing London telephone booths with WiFi terminals. These sidewalk kiosks will allow people to charge their phones and access high-speed wireless internet for free. Intersection, the company behind the LinkNYC WiFi kiosks, is collaborating with BT and Primesight, a UK outdoor advertising company.

❝ Learning from the experience with New York’s terminals, BT has opted not to make it possible for users to browse the internet on the kiosk itself. After complaints that people were monopolizing the New York kiosks for long periods of time, whether listening to music or viewing pornography, the browsing feature was disabled…

❝ In addition to WiFi and charging capability, the kiosks will provide users with local maps and services, directions, and free phone calls. The devices will be funded by advertising revenue from the digital displays. 100 of the kiosks are expected to be installed next year, with 750 planned for the next few years.

Nostalgia freaks will snap up the old red boxes in a London minute. Cripes, I’d get one if I thought they might ever be affordable.

I spent a fair piece of time in the Highlands & Islands of Scotland in or near villages where one of those boxes was the only landline to the world outside.

Not always a bad thing.

Eight Things to Know About the U.K. Vote — by Barry Ritholtz

brexit
Hat tip to Ian Bremmer

Well, the Brits have really done it now. All the experts told us people in the U.K. were smart enough to see that voting to leave the European Union was a mistake — but not to worry because the referendum was going to lose…

1. London, Get Used to It

It was a back and forth between New York and London in the bidding to be the capital of capitalism. That race just ended. This may be good for New York and Hong Kong in some abstract way, but more likely the center of European financial gravity will shift to Geneva or Brussels or Frankfurt; or maybe no one city replaces London and financial power is scattered all over Europe.

London’s ambition to be the world’s most important city is now over. Expect it to become more like Colonial Williamsburg: A tourist trap that attempts to depict what life was like in the not-too-distant past.

Barry goes on from there. My favorite Recovering Republican, damned good economist and sufficiently cynical to function as a real financial analyst in a world full of phonies.

Please click the link and enjoy it all.

Hope for reversing type 2 diabetes


Allan Tutty on the beach in SunderlandRobert Ormerod/NYTimes

Many experts believe Type 2 diabetes is an incurable disease that gets worse with time. But new research raises the tantalizing possibility that drastic changes in diet may reverse the disease in some people.

Recently, a small clinical trial in England studied the effects of a strict liquid diet on 30 people who had lived with Type 2 diabetes for up to 23 years. Nearly half of those studied had a remission that lasted six months after the diet was over. While the study was small, the finding offers hope to millions who have been told they must live with the intractable disease…

It is not the first time that people have reversed type 2 diabetes by losing a lot of weight shortly after a diagnosis. Studies have also shown that obese individuals who have bariatric surgery frequently see the condition vanish even before they lose very much weight.

But the new study, published in Diabetes Care, proved the reversal after diet can persist for at least half a year as long as patients keep weight off, and can occur in people who have had the disease for many years.

Another conclusion that losing weight and exercising is good for you.

The researchers followed the participants after they had completed an eight-week low-calorie-milkshake diet and returned to normal eating. Six months later, those who had gone into remission immediately after the diet were still diabetes-free. Though most of those who reversed the disease had had it for less than four years, some had been diabetic for more than eight years.

❝ When Allan Tutty, 57, learned five years ago that he had Type 2 diabetes, he asked health care providers if there was a cure. “It was a case of, look, you’ve got it, deal with it, there’s no cure,” said Mr. Tutty, who manages a home for people with brain injuries in Newcastle.

Later, Mr. Tutty spotted a notice recruiting volunteers for a diabetes study that asked, “Would you like the opportunity to reverse your condition?”

Mr. Tutty said he jumped at the chance, becoming one of 30 men and women ages 25 to 80 to sign up. Mr. Tutty was one of 13 participants whose fasting plasma glucose dropped, and during the six-month follow-up remained below the seven millimole per liter (or 126 milligrams per deciliter) that defines diabetes. Although Mr. Tutty completed the study nearly three years ago, his fasting blood sugars continue to range from 5.2 to 5.6 mmol/L, he said…

Going on a very-low-calorie diet may allow the body to use up fat from the liver, causing fat levels to drop in the pancreas as well. That “wakes up” the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, normalizing blood glucose levels.

While some previous studies have shown that blood sugars can normalize after significant weight loss, endocrinologists said they were impressed by the persistence of the lower blood sugar levels for months after the diet.

The participants in the Newcastle trial, who ranged from overweight to extremely obese, were told to stop their diabetes medications and start a 600- to 700-calorie-a-day diet, consisting of three diet milkshakes a day at mealtimes and half a pound of nonstarchy vegetables a day.

Mr. Tutty, who weighed about 213 pounds before the trial, lost a little more than 30 pounds, the average weight loss in the trial. The people in the study most likely to respond to the treatment were in their early 50s on average and younger than the nonresponders, and they had had diabetes for fewer years…

Good news is good news even when it hasn’t yet been carried forward to a point when more generalized conclusions may be made.

Good news for many folks in this trial. Especially those who learned a new “normal” diet and maintained exercise.

Tree-planting project helped Yorkshire town miss winter floods


Click here for the project blog — Heather bales impeding gully flow

Tree planting and other natural approaches have prevented flooding at Pickering in North Yorkshire over Christmas, at a time when heavy rainfall caused devastating flooding across the region.

An analysis of the Slowing the Flow scheme published on Wednesday concludes that the measures reduced peak river flow by 15-20% at a time when 50mm of rain fell on sodden ground in 36 hours. The scheme was set up in 2009 after the town had suffered four serious floods in 10 years, with the flooding in 2007 estimated to have caused about £7m of damage.

The work included planting 40,000 trees, 300 “leaky” dams and the restoration of heather moorland, all intended to slow the flow of water into the river and reduce its peak height. A new flood storage area was also set aside in fields near Newtondale. The project cost the government £500,000, significantly less than a proposed flood wall in the town.

The report concludes that the scheme prevented flooding that would otherwise have occurred to homes and the town museum. The work supports the calls for a more natural approach to flood risk management that followed a series of serious floods in recent years.

Not a be-all and end-all, the fact remains that utilizing natural defenses can prevent a significant portion of flood events – and serve the public interest by diminishing the effects of extraordinary events.

That the plantings cost significantly less than measures proposed by a government doing their level best to spend less and less on public needs is praiseworthy. This also increases the odds of getting such projects past Tory beancounters.