Surviving the hot weather

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Everywhere in Northern Central Europe, including Britain, temperatures have been soaring in mid to end June 2010, to over 30C in some places and many people are, as usual, very ill prepared for this in body and mind.

Drinking as much water as possible is extremely important – and please note I did say water and not fluids, where I would be including coffee and tea, although they also play a part.

Another thing to ensure is that you get enough salt during these times for when you perspire you lose a great deal of the salt that your body needs to function properly.

This is a well known fact to everyone who has served in the military, for instance, and salt tablets were as much part of the water kit as were water purification tablets.

Tap water – despite from being chlorinated – is desalinated in most countries and hence a small pinch of salt with every glass of water you take is most advisable.

While it may sound great to open windows and doors you could create a through draft and ending up sitting in it. This in turn could create all kinds of sniffles to come your way.

Depending to the weather conditions leaving windows and doors open in such a manner can also, instead of cooling the house, bring in warm air and make things even worse.

However, forget the air conditioning. Just use a fan and put a bowl of water in front of it, if and where you can. This cools then by means of evaporated water and the air flow.

Nights during hot and humid conditions can be especially bad and lack of sleep, or sleeping badly, can make one irritable and grouchy and thus the next day is even worse the the one gone before.

Use only very light nightclothes or, better still, none at all, and only use a sheet or very thin blanket for a covering.

While it is sometimes suggested to leave windows open in the bedroom at night to cool the place down, you again could end up in draft, which might not help at all.

If need be without clothes on on the b ed without covering works great. That is how I have done it for years in such weather and never had a problem.

It has been found that children do especially well with that kind of regimen and you will find that, if they are given freedom, they will soon get themselves into such a sleeping position all by themselves.

It can be miserable in heat of 30C and more during the day and still have well above 18C during the night that every little helps, I think.

Once again, remember the old military adage of “hydrate, hydrate and hydrate again” and thins by,primarily, using water.

Have a water bottle with tap water (no need for bottled water, which is a waste of money anyway) with you wherever you go and also when you go to bed.

Have great and healthy summer...

© 2010

Supreme Court extends rights of gun ownership

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In a landmark ruling the US Supreme Court on June 28, 2010 has extended the gun rights of the American citizens by limiting the power of states and municipalities to restrict gun ownership.

Some cities like Chicago have strict firearms rules but the ruling of the US Supreme Court now has restricted the rights of state and city governments to enforce controls on gun ownership.

The United State's highest court ruled by 5-4 that a ban on handgun ownership in Chicago was unconstitutional with justices saying that the US Constitution protected the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense.

The ruling could potentially change laws on gun ownership in many of the US states. Debate over the exact meaning of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms has raged for years in the US.

The problem though, still is, that even the judges of the Supreme Court do not seem to understand the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution properly for the provisions made therein are about military firearms of the day and this would, in the spirit, extend to military hardware of today.

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” is what the Second Amendment states and when we thus remember that the militia was then the defense force for an area against enemies of all kinds in today's understanding it would mean that the people have the right to own (keep) and bear military firearms.

Two years ago, the same court ruled a ban on handguns in Washington DC to be unconstitutional – declaring that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess guns, at least for purposes of self-defense in the home.

But Washington is a federal city, with a unique legal standing. Gun rights proponents almost immediately filed a federal lawsuit challenging gun control laws in Chicago, Illinois, and its suburb of Oak Park, where handguns have been banned for nearly 30 years.

In June 2010's ruling on that challenge the justices said the Second Amendment right "applies equally to the federal government and the states".

Gun control proponents say the ruling will be seen as a blow to efforts to reduce the role of firearms in American life.

The justices seen as the more liberal – Stevens, Breyer, Ginsburg and Sotomayor – voted against the latest ruling and with Sotamayor's record that was rather obvious.

The case with reference to the gun restrictions in the City of Chicago was brought by four Chicago residents, as well as local firearms rights activists and the National Rifle Association.

The latest Supreme Court decision does not explicitly strike down the Chicago area laws, but it orders a federal appeals court to reconsider its ruling – leaving little doubt that the laws will eventually be overturned.

The NRA has welcomed the "landmark decision" of the court, and it's executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre said, “The NRA will work to ensure this constitutional victory is not transformed into a practical defeat by activist judges, defiant city councils or cynical politicians who seek to pervert, reverse or nullify the Supreme Court's McDonald decision.”

Too many people are afraid – especially in countries such as Britain – that gun ownership is a bad thing and some seem to see guns as “evil”. A trait they have begun, in the UK, to now attach to knives even.

This is utter stupidity and balderdash as neither a knife nor a gun can be evil; it is the person using it for evil purposes who is and if someone wants to get a gun in order to commit a crime he or she can and will.

On the other hand, legally owned and carried guns can prevent a crime and have done so in many instances, but such instances are never ever reported. Only the the bad sides get into the news and into reports.

Many a problematic situation can be defused with a kind word and many more can be done so with a kind word and the barrel of a gun. The gun reinforcing the word. It works.

In areas where concealed carry is legal in United States towns and cities violent crime like street muggings and such have dropped to near nothing. The reason: criminals are cowards and like their potential victims and bystanders to be defenseless. Armed civilians increase their risks and hence they move their activities elsewhere.

The Supreme Court ruling can be found here. This is a PDF file.

© 2010


2010 Grantham Prize Honors Excellence in Environmental Journalism

NARRAGANSETT, R.I., June 2010 – Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting has announced that Canadian author Alanna Mitchell is the winner of the 2010 Grantham Prize for Excellence in Reporting on the Environment. Mitchell, author of the extraordinary book “Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis” published in Canada by McClelland & Stewart and by The University of Chicago Press in the U.S., is the first book author to receive The Grantham Prize and the first Canadian entrant to win the $75,000 prize.

“We are proud to award Alanna Mitchell the 2010 Grantham Prize,” said Sunshine Menezes, executive director of Metcalf Institute and Grantham Prize administrator. “An engaging work, ‘Sea Sick’ clearly and eloquently explains the specific dangers facing global marine ecosystems. Mitchell faced her own demons to craft a story that showcases marine science – and scientists – in a balanced, accurate, and poetic fashion.”

The Grantham Prize for Excellence in Reporting on the Environment honors outstanding coverage of the environment, and recognizes reporting that has the potential to bring about constructive change. The prize was established to encourage high quality environmental journalism in all media, while drawing attention to the subject of the prize-winning stories, increasing public awareness and understanding of environmental issues. The $75,000 Grantham Prize is awarded annually to nonfiction work produced in the United States or Canada during the previous calendar year in all media.

Philip Meyer, chairman of the Grantham Prize Jury said, “Reading Alanna Mitchell convinces you that the ocean is at least as important as the atmosphere when we worry about climate change. You cannot put this book down without understanding that, for life on earth to continue as it is, the ocean from which we evolved must remain healthy.”

Alanna Mitchell is a Canadian journalist and author known for her ability to describe complex ideas in plain language. She was the science and environment reporter at the Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, for fourteen years until she left daily journalism to devote herself to writing on science. In 2000, she was named the best environmental reporter in the world by the Reuters Foundation and was invited in 2002 to undertake a guest fellowship at Oxford University. This led to her first book, “Dancing at the Dead Sea,” published in 2004. Mitchell, a native of Toronto, is an associate at the International Institute for Sustainable Development and is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer on environmental issues.

Published in Canada by McClelland & Stewart, “Sea Sick” was released in the United States by University of Chicago Press (October 2009). “Sea Sick” examines the current state of the world’s oceans – describing an urgent yet little understood ecological crisis. Mitchell penned the 2010 Grantham Prize winner “Sea Sick” while joining the research teams of leading scientists in nine of the global oceans’ hotspots to see firsthand what is really happening in the world’s oceans. Whether it’s the impact of coral reef bleaching, the puzzle of the growing number of oxygen-less dead zones, or the shocking implications of the increasing acidification of the sea, Mitchell explains the science behind the story in this engaging, accessible, yet authoritative account.

The Grantham Prize Jurors also selected three entries to receive Awards of Special Merit, each receiving a $5,000 cash prize. The three 2010 Award of Special Merit recipients are: Dan Egan of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for his ongoing environmental reporting on the Great Lakes; Cleo Paskal, author of “Global Warring,” published by Key Stone Books (Canada) and Palgrave Macmillan (U.S.A.); and the team led by Hedrick Smith, for the PBS Frontline documentary “Poisoned Waters.”

Established in 2005, The Grantham Prize for Excellence in Reporting on the Environment is funded by Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham through The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment and is administered by the Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting. The Grantham Foundation supports environmental research and conservation programs internationally, while Metcalf Institute provides journalists with resources, tools, and field education to accurately report on scientific news and environmental issues.

This year marks the fifth anniversary of The Grantham Prize. Past winners of the prestigious Grantham Prize for Excellence in Reporting on the Environment are: The Record (Bergen County, NJ) in 2006 for “Toxic Legacy”; the Los Angeles Times in 2007 for “Altered Oceans”; The New York Times in 2008 for “Choking on Growth”; and USA TODAY in 2009 for “The Smokestack Effect: Toxic Air and America’s Schools.”

Source: Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting

Growing herbs indoors

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Herbs do enhance many a dish and many herbs have a lot of health value and benefits to boot.

If you live in a northerly climate, whether in Europe or the USA, however, growing herbs is, theoretically, limited to growing them outdoors in warm weather.

But, there are a number of herbs that do well indoors during the cold winter months.

There are some herbs that – unfortunately – do not well indoors, according a to experts in a variety of extension services, and will either shed their leaves or go into dormancy.

Some of the herbs you should not attempt to grow indoors, they say, include lemon verbena, sweet basil, summer savory, and tarragon. However, as far as lemon verbena, aka lemon balm, is concerned, which is a cousin to the mint, and seeing the voraciousness in which it grows I should take this advice with a pinch of salt. Trial and error may be called for here.

There are plenty of varieties of herbs, though, that will do definitely well indoors, especially if they are placed on a south-facing window sill.

When herbs are grown indoors they can be started from seeds or from cuttings.

Some herbs that are great candidates for indoor growing include Aloe, Basil, Borage, Calendula, Chervil, Chives, Ginger, Hyssop, Lemon Balm, Lemongrass, Marjoram, Mint, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Scented Geranium, Sweet Bay, and Thyme.

Popular herbs such as parsley, sage, thyme, and oregano can be easily grown in small containers and harvested as needed for cooking and thus are ideally situated in the kitchen windowsill. Mine, alas, is north-facing so I will have to see what is going to happen with the poor plants.

Herbs can be grown indoors in many different kinds of containers. Terracotta pots are ideal, but some look-alike plastic planters are much, much cheaper than terracotta and will retain water better. There is also the traditional long, narrow window box, and those also can be inexpensive enough. Other containers too can be used, as long as drainage is fine.

Remember that certain herbs such as rosemary and sweet bay, for example, will need more space in which to grow.

One of the most important things to remember when growing plants indoors is the need for good lighting. Most indoor herbs will need about six hours of sunlight each day from a south or east facing window and, of course, the south facing windows are best.

Please also remember to give each herb container a quarter-turn once each week so all sides will get more or less equal sunlight. This will result in a more even growth and a healthier plant.

If you have only an east or west facing window, some herbs that can be tried include; mints, such as peppermint, spearmint, and lemon balm.

They say that the soil you use for indoor herbs is also an important factor and that you should never use garden dirt and only good quality potting soil with organic fertilizer mixed in. However, once again, I rather use my own homemade compost mixed with good topsoil from my garden, especially the stuff that the mole brings up.

Water herbs thoroughly when the plant is dry. Don't over-water but don't let the plants wilt. The water should never be ice cold but neither should it be hot. Fill your watering container ahead of time and let it get to room temperature.

Over-watering will do more damage than a little too much as long, as said, the plants don't actually wilt. Alan Titchmarsh, the garden guru of the BBC, has said more than once that more plants are killed by over-watering than by not being watered enough, and I have seen that more than enough myself.

And speaking of temperature, the ideal temperature for growing your herbs would be to have the room at 70 to 75 degrees in the daytime and 55 or 60 at night. It can be hard to regulate, but try to keep the temperature as close to this temperature range for best survival and growth of the herbs.

Besides the herbs mentioned, chives, onion sets, and garlic can also be grown indoors using some of the same pots and methods used for the herbs.

Plan well ahead. Do not wait until winter to get your indoor herbs started. Start in the fall and let the plants settle in before the really cold weather kicks in.

You could also start them in spring, put them out in their pots in summer, and then bring them indoors again before it gets too cold for them out of doors. That way you have all year round herbs for cooking and medicine.

© 2010

Taking the green consumer to the cleaners

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Where we look at green and ethical online stores (an oxymoron on both counts) we see one attempt after the other to fleece the eco conscious shopper.

There are first of all the gadgets that really do nothing, such as the Eco Button (still being touted as a great thing), the reinvented glass bottle to carry your tap water, and the bamboo clothing and such which are not green at all. Then there are organic cotton jeans at £64 (US$90), a juicer at £549 (US$800+) and cotton tote bags at £15 (US$22). And this is only a small list of things.

I mean, I could carry on about the wall hooks made from tree branches at £35 each and similar such stuff.

The more we look at it the more we must come to realization that consumption of the ordinary kind has been replaced by greensumption. At least the green stores try to do that and in the process insist on taking the customers to the cleaners.

Greed is not ethical and it does not matter how one happens to dress it up and it is amazing that people actually fall for this.

But then, at times, it is, yet again, not surprising for so many green media outlets are in, what would appear to be, cahoots with the makers and vendors of those goods.

The Eco Button had such glowing reviews and then I had the opportunity to test one myself and what a load of rubbish, literally. Still, however, the Eco Button is being given rave reviews and I still wonder as to whether any of the reviewers has the slightest idea as to what they are reviewing or whether they actually ever have tried out that gadget.

And this, it would appear, is not the only one product that has been hyped like that. Bamboo flooring and bamboo clothing is yet another and while bamboo is a great material when goods are made from it in traditional methods, as they have always been in countries where bamboo is being used, bamboo fabric and bamboo flooring is not green and environmentally friendly at all.

I always thought that the idea of being environmentally friendly and green was also to mean that we would reexamine a lot more than just how much we derive our cars or how high we put our thermostat at home or in the office, etc.

Reduction in consumption, I thought, was to be part of this too and changing the way we used things. But we have now gone from general consumption to greensumption, the green version of shop till you drop and this just cannot be right.

And there are also many makers and vendors who are trying very hard to cash in on the “green” wave.

When we have recycled products such as the “belt lace” for something around seventy Pounds, which is basically money for old rope, literally, or thirty-five Pounds for a bit of tree branch made into a coat hanger, or the reinvented glass bottle for carrying your tap water for around twenty Dollars, etc.

We seem to be going just from one kind of consumption and ripping off consumers to another. It is still all about making a quick buck.

This, to me, is all wrong.

© 2010

Small Island Nation Leads Push for Biggest Climate Opportunity of 2010

Goal is up to 209 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent, Nearly 10% of total mitigation needed to stay below 2˚C tipping point

Geneva, Switzerland, June 2010 – For the fourth year in a row, the small island state of Micronesia (FSM) has taken the lead to combat climate change by fighting to phase down the production and use of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol ozone treaty.

Phasing down these super greenhouse gases could lead to over 200 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent in mitigation by 2050, according to calculations by Dr. Guus Velders of The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency based on a paper published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The high point of the meeting was an inspirational speech by Micronesia’s negotiator, Tony Oposa, which received a rare ovation from participants agreeing with the importance of urgent action on controlling HFCs under the Protocol and destroying ozone- and climate-warming gases left in “banks” of old equipment that will otherwise vent into the atmosphere.

“Who do you call if a house is burning and the fire truck is far away – with the firefighters arguing over what to do – and a volunteer brigade is already at the scene, ready and able to put out the fire?” This is the question Mr. Oposa asked the rest of the delegates during his presentation. He made the point that the Montreal Protocol (the “volunteer brigade”) is ready and able to put out the “fire” that HFCs would cause with regard to climate change, and that the world cannot wait for the Kyoto Protocol (the “firefighters”) – where HFC emissions are included as one of the six gases in the basket – to take action. “We are not faceless diplomats meeting to talk, but climate firefighters trying to save our children and their Earth home.”

“This would be a major victory for the world, and especially for vulnerable nations like Micronesia that need fast, near-term climate mitigation to survive,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, who attended the Montreal Protocol’s meeting in Geneva last week. “Opportunities for progress under the climate negotiations this year are uncertain, but we know the ozone treaty is ready to deliver. The Parties have the chance to solve a big part of the climate change problem by taking action to phase down HFCs this year, virtually eliminating one of the six greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol.”

The Montreal Protocol Parties discussed the Micronesia proposal and a similar proposal submitted by the US , Canada , and Mexico . Although HFCs – used as coolants in air conditioning, refrigeration, and foam-blowing applications – only account for about 2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions today, they are growing so fast that they could become up to 45% of global CO2 emissions by 2050 under a scenario that stabilizes CO2 emissions at 450 ppm, according to the Velders paper.

“The Montreal Protocol is a unique treaty, because all the delegations here this week are used to taking action and working together to move forward on protecting the environment,” said Oposa. “We island countries need all the help we can get to avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change, and the Montreal Protocol is in a position to deliver the goods today, now. The Montreal Protocol helped create the problem of HFCs when we directed the accelerated phase-out of earlier chemicals – HCFCs – under the Montreal Protocol. We clearly have the responsibility to help.” HFCs were developed as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances (ODSs), HCFCs, which are rapidly being phased out under the Protocol.

The Parties made steady progress at the meeting, though issues remain. There was broad agreement by all but a few developing country Parties (namely China , India , and Brazil ) on issues of funding, fair access to technology, HFC-23 mitigation, and resolving cooperation and coordination with the Kyoto Protocol and UNFCCC process. Developed country Parties expressed near-total agreement on issues of funding and the initial control schedule. Parties agreed to discuss the issue further in the coming months before the November Meeting of the Parties in Kampala , Uganda , when final decisions on the proposals will be taken.

Avoiding HFCs today by making the transition from HCFCs into low-global warming potential (GWP) alternatives, can avoid having to make another transition in the future. “If we can leapfrog over HFCs into ozone- and climate-friendly alternatives, it will save us from what will be an inevitable transition out of these potent greenhouse gases,” said Yahyah Pathel from Mauritius . Mauritius , another island nation vulnerable to the near-term impacts of climate change, announced that it would officially co-sponsor FSM’s proposal.

A complicating factor in the HFC proposal deliberations is the current discussion taking place under the UN Convention on Climate Change regarding HFC-23 credits under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The windfall profits firms are getting under the CDM are providing a perverse incentive to produce HCFC-22 solely to destroy its by-product, HFC-23, which has 12,000 times the warming potential of CO2. Its high GWP means CDM credits can be obtained for its destruction, even though the actual process of destroying the gas is relatively inexpensive.

The HFC proposals under the Montreal Protocol call for mandatory destruction of by-product HFC-23, without providing the windfall profits – a likely reason that China and India (who profit most from destruction of HFC-23 under the CDM) expressed opposition to the proposals.

The Parties also discussed the “banks” of ODSs, with most Parties agreeing to the importance of addressing the problem. Remaining issues include financing and destruction certification. Unfortunately, while the Parties continue to debate the banks issue, the banks are leaking more and more ODSs and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere with no way to recover them.

With the accelerating climate emissions, and the growing risk of passing thresholds for abrupt and irreversible impacts from climate change, the question is whether the most successful environmental treaty will be asked by its Parties to phase down the high-GWP greenhouse gases it originally promoted to replace CFCs and HCFCs.

“ Micronesia started this round of leadership, and Mexico , Canada , and United States joined that leadership. Now there are dozens of countries urging the use of Montreal to protect climate, afraid that any further delay may push Earth toward tipping points of dangerous ecological and atmospheric impact” added Zaelke. “The big push is to

find the fast action that can save Earth.”

The time is now. The treaty is Montreal.

ip.access and AlertMe demonstrate femtocell-enabled home energy management solution

Cambridge innovators enable energy saving and convenient control of home appliances via the mobile phone

Cambridge, June 2010 – ip.access, the leading developer of femtocell and picocell solutions, and, the pioneer in home energy management systems, have created a demonstration showing how femtocells can be integrated into smart home energy management solutions.

With femtocell integration, the AlertMe Energy service can automatically detect when phones enter or leave the house and can therefore power down lights, televisions and other home appliances automatically when the house is empty. The service can also switch the services back on again when the residents return.

The ip.access femtocell powered service also enables mobile phones to control electrical devices in different parts of the house using a series of commands and automatic triggers.

Smart energy metering and control is the subject of extensive EU regulation over the coming years, and services such as AlertMe Energy, which allows electrical appliances in the home to be controlled via the Internet, are set to become a part of everyone's lives in the near future.

ip.access has combined the AlertMe Energy service with its own femtocell technology. The solution works by allowing electrical appliances to switch on and off automatically in response to the presence or absence of phones in the home. The “presence” information is routinely gathered by the femtocell but is normally only used to route cellphone traffic and set tariffs.

The AlertMe integration enables this presence information to be used to set personalised light and power preferences which are activated automatically when a subscriber arrives at home. Pre-set electrical outlets can also switch off automatically to save energy a few minutes after the last person has left the house.

The demo also shows how supplementary services codes on the phone can be personalised through the femtocell when the phone is at home, allowing the phone to be used to switch appliances on and off remotely. For example, a subscriber could type *1# on their phone to switch off the downstairs lights and power after retiring upstairs to bed.

“One automatic trigger could be to switch the kettle on as soon as you arrive home,” said Dr Andy Tiller, VP Marketing at ip.access. “But there is a lot more to this than just tea and convenience.

“Using a femtocell to personalise supplementary services codes is a new and unique idea,” he said. “It enables the mobile phone to become a powerful controller for all kinds of applications in the home. And because it’s a network-enabled feature, it works with any h and set – there are no applications to install.”

According to founder Pilgrim Beart, “The mobile phone is increasingly the remote-control for your life. Most people carry their h and set everywhere they go, making it an ideal control device for the AlertMe Energy service. And because everyone already has a mobile phone, there is no extra cost involved.”

The demo also shows how the AlertMe Hub (the central device that receives instructions via the Internet and controls the electrical plugs in the home) can be integrated inside a femtocell Access Point, receiving its power and Internet connection through the femtocell. In this way, a mobile operator could offer a smart home energy management solution as an integrated option to its femtocell subscribers.

Based in Cambridge , UK , ip.access ltd ( is a leading manufacturer of cost-effective picocell and femtocell infrastructure solutions for GSM, GPRS, EDGE and 3G. These solutions bring IP and cellular technologies together to drive down costs and increase coverage and capacity of mobile networks.

ABI Research ranks ip.access as the world’s number 1 picocell vendor; its nanoGSM® and nano3G™ solutions provide 2G and 3G coverage and capacity for offices, shops and (using satellite backhaul) passenger aircraft, ships and remote rural areas. nanoGSM is the world’s most deployed picocell, with live installations in more than 50 networks around the world and growing.

ip.access is also the company behind the multi-award winning Oyster 3G™ femtocell technology, which dramatically improves the user experience for 3G services at home. Oyster 3G is the core femtocell technology in AT&T’s 3G MicroCell.

ip.access counts Scottish Equity Partners, Rothschild Gestion, Intel Capital, Amadeus Capital Partners, ADC, Cisco, Qualcomm and Motorola Ventures among its shareholders.

Founded in Cambridge UK in 2006, AlertMe provides simple and affordable home energy management systems to consumers both directly and indirectly through their energy provider enabling them to manage and reduce consumption, save money and reduce their carbon footprint.

The company is private and venture backed by Good Energies, Index Ventures, SET Venture Partners, and VantagePoint Venture Partners. For more information please go to

Source: NeonDrum

Young adults revitalise cycle paths and career paths

Young adults across England are back in work thanks to a scheme to revitalise the National Cycle Network.

Sustrans, the UK ’s leading sustainable transport charity, is working with the Future Jobs Fund to enable unemployed young people to enhance routes for walkers and cyclists.

Trainees will get the opportunity to train to use diggers and other machinery to renovate ageing paths, and create new sections of the charity’s flagship project.

The 182 trainees, aged 18 to 24, have all been unemployed for at least six months, and have been taken on for a six-month period.

Teams are located in Bideford, Barnstaple, Taunton , Bath , Swindon, Chester, Liverpool, Manchester , Whitehaven, Lincoln , Rotherham, Leeds and Consett.

Dad of one Paul Nelson, aged 24, from Halton Moor, Leeds , said: “I’d been out of work for a year and training isn’t available so it’s been really hard trying to support my young boy. But now I can get some qualifications behind me and look towards getting a gardening or landscaping job.

“We’ve met some genuinely friendly people walking and cycling along the paths, so it’ll be really satisfying to improve the area for them.”

Thomas Last, aged 18, from Middleton, Leeds , already has a job lined up providing he can train to use dumpers and mini diggers.

He said: ”I’ve only found casual work since I left school but this experience will give me the tickets I need.

“It makes you feel better to look at the work you’ve done and think ‘somebody can enjoy this’, whether they’re cycling up and down or walking their dog.”

The Department for Transport will invest £1.5 million with match-funding from Sustrans, which has secured some other funding from local authorities.

Simon Talbot-Ponsonby, Sustrans Future Jobs Fund Manager, said: “It’s moving how enthusiastic all the trainees are about having a real job. Some were really emotional when they were taken on, and the hardest thing we have had to do was turn away so many other good people who also needed a chance to get back into work.”

Sustrans is the UK ’s leading sustainable transport charity. Its vision is a world in which people choose to travel in ways that benefit their health and the environment. It is achieving this through innovative but practical solutions to the UK ’s transport challenges.

Source: Sustans

SACK O'VEG – Product Review

Reviewed by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Big bag for storing root crops
Natural Jute allows air to circulate.
Drawstring closure to keep out light
Dimensions: 30" x 20" / 75cm x 51cm approx
Price: £2.90

While we may, theoretically, be just in the middle of summer right now the harvest season will be in full swing soon.

Just in time for the first root crops to be coming on stream, so to speak, from Nether Wallop Trading Co., home of the Paper Potter, comes the SACK O'VEG sack.

This is the big bag for storing your root crop, whether potatoes, carrots, swedes, or others.

The SACK O'VEG is made from natural jute which allows the air to circulate while the drawstring closure at the top keeps vegetables safe from the light. This is the same material from which coffee sacks are made and also, nowadays, may reusable shopping bags.

The sack has also got two strong handles which are equally well suited for carrying as they are for hanging the sack with the vegetables up off the ground and should definitely be large enough to store a good deal of root crop produce. At the price, however, why not get more than one; get a pack of three and save £1.20 in real terms.

© 2010

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

Recycled Plastics Make Environmental Sense

ROCHESTER, MI, June 2010: A new Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) study indicates that significant reductions in energy consumption, solid waste generation, and greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved by aggressively recycling two of the most common plastics used for beverage and many household bottles: PET and HDPE. Franklin Associates, a respected life cycle assessment firm, performed the research. The study took a cradle-to-grave approach, scrutinizing the steps from raw material extraction through recycling and disposal.

According to Bob Lilienfeld, Editor of The ULS Report and an acknowledged expert on waste prevention, “This study gives scientific credence to the widely held belief that it’s better to recycle these types of plastics than to send them to landfills.

It’s a call to action for consumers, businesses, and municipalities.” He added that, “The best way to reinforce the value of plastics recycling is for consumers to experience and use products made from recycled resins. Businesses should highlight this use on their products and packaging.”

The ULS (Use Less Stuff) Report is published monthly. The ULS web site is rated #1 by Google, Yahoo! and MSN for searches relating to waste prevention and source reduction. The full study described above is available at

Source: Use Less Stuff

Your gift of $24 becomes $48, good for TWO round-trip bus tickets from NYC to camp

Make a gift before June 30th – and two inner-city children's lives will be changed forever!

The Countdown to Summer 2010 is on and The Fresh Air Fund is in need of host families. If you or someone you know is able to host, please sign up now.

In 2009, The Fresh Air Fund's Volunteer Host Family program, called Friendly Town, gave close to 5,000 New York City boys and girls, ages six to 18, free summer experiences in the country and the suburbs. Volunteer host families shared their friendship and homes FOR up to two weeks or more in 13 Northeastern states from Virginia to Maine and Canada.

The Fresh Air Fund relies on donations to provide memorable summers to NYC children.

The Fresh Air Fund needs hosts for the summer of 2010.

More than 65% of all Fresh Air children are re-invited to stay with their host family, year after year.

Thanks to host families who open up their homes for a few weeks each summer, children growing up in New York City’s toughest neighborhoods have experienced the joys of Fresh Air experiences.

Fresh Air Fund Host Families

"It is rewarding to see the smile on our Fresh Air child's face as she enjoys the simple things we take for granted..."

Friendly Town host families are volunteers who live in the suburbs or small town communities. Host families range in size, ethnicity and background, but share the desire to open their hearts and homes to give city children an experience they will never forget. Hosts say the Fresh Air experience is as enriching for their own families, as it is for the inner-city children. There are no financial requirements for hosting a child.It should be Volunteers may request the age-group and gender of the Fresh Air youngster they would like to host for up to two weeks. Stories about real Fresh Air host families and their New York City visitors are just a click away!

Click here to learn more about becoming a host or call (800) 367-0003!

Fresh Air Children

"We made s'mores and hot dogs over the fire. I've never cooked outside before!"

Fresh Air children are boys and girls, six to 18 years old, who live in New York City. Children on first-time visits are six to 12 years old and stay for either one or two weeks. Youngsters who are re-invited by the same family may continue with The Fund through age 18, and many enjoy longer summertime visits, year after year. A visit to the home of a warm and loving volunteer host family can make all the difference in the world to an inner-city child. All it takes to create lifelong memories is laughing in the sunshine and making new friends.

The majority of Fresh Air children are from low-income communities. These are often families without the resources to send their children on summer vacations. Most inner-city youngsters grow up in towering apartment buildings without large, open outdoor play spaces. Concrete playgrounds cannot replace the freedom of running barefoot through the grass or riding bikes down country lanes.

Fresh Air children are registered by more than 90 participating social service and community organizations located in disadvantaged neighborhoods in the five boroughs of New York City. These community-based agencies are in close contact with children in need of summer experiences in rural and suburban areas. Each agency is responsible for registering children for the program.

What do Fresh Air children enjoy?

* Playing in the backyard

* Laughing in the sunshine

* Catching fireflies

* Riding bicycles

* Learning to swim

* Running barefoot through the grass

* Gazing at the stars on moonlit nights

* Building sandcastles

* Making new friends

* Simple pleasures of life away from the inner-city

Donate Now:

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

Toronto gets ‘secret’ arrest powers ahead of G20 protests

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Just in time for the big talking shop gathering of the G20 Toronto gets secret arrest powers for its law enforcement agencies.

A government changes a law to allow police to arrest people without probable cause. It does so without any legislative debate. Then it keeps the change a virtual secret, until someone is arrested under those new powers.

Where? Germany in the 1930s? The Soviet Union circa 1950? No; Canada, June 2010.

Civil liberties advocates and political activists are up in arms after it emerged Friday that police in Toronto have been given special powers to arrest anyone near the site of the G20 summit if they fail to identify themselves.

What's more, the government of the province of Ontario, which green-lit the new powers, didn't tell anyone about it until after someone was arrested under the new powers.

Thirty-one-year-old Dave Vasey was arrested near the G20 perimeter security fence in downtown Toronto Thursday afternoon after refusing to identify himself to a police officer.

Only with Vasey's arrest did it emerge that Ontario secretly changed its Public Works Protection Act to allow police officers unprecedented powers of arrest. That law allowed police to arrest people if they fail to identify themselves to a police officer when inside a government building or near a "public works" project. It has now been expanded to include the area around the G20 summit, meaning a significant portion of downtown Toronto.

Toronto Chief of Police Bill Blair, who reportedly requested the arrest powers, denied Friday that it had been done in secret.

I would say though that, considering no one seems to have known about these new powers of police officers and “security guards”, secret would be the right word to use.

Maybe Police Chief Bill Blair (another Blair, yikes) should reread the Oxford dictionary or such reference as to what constitutes “secret” and what is not secret.

The entire set of new powers have not been approved at local, province or federal government level and seems to have simply been introduced rather arbitrarily.

It would appear that legal protest is suddenly becoming illegal the world over, and especially in countries of the so-called free world when hosting economic summits and eco ones.

In the latter case I refer to the actions of the Danish police in Copenhagen at the Climate Summit in December of 2009 where they went with brutal force against peaceful protesters and even delegates from NGOs.

The G8/G20 in London also comes to mind where many of the Metropolitan Police had removed their identification numbers by, it would appear, order of superior officers.

Having myself overheard some conversations of police officers and sergeants together on the way to the events in London it was obvious that the police were wanting a fight. Not something they would admit though.

What we are seeing here at each and every one of those events now, whether in Canada, UK, Denmark or in Germany – in the latter case the Bundeswehr (German Army) was unconstitutionally used as policing force as well – appears to be an incremental attempt to get people used to the police state.

Something that we all must be aware of and fight against.

© 2010

Sheriff Arpaio conducts another workplace raid sending employees into dumpsters and over fences

Seven Suspects Arrested at El Mirage Business

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Deputies pulled suspects out of dumpsters and down from barbed wire fences during a workplace raid conducted on the morning of Friday, June 25, 2010, in El Mirage, Arizona.

Deputies served search warrants after a six month long identity theft investigation at two separate locations of Parks and Sons Inc., a trash collection business located at 11629 NW Grand Avenue, El Mirage AZ and 11217 West Nevada Avenue in Youngtown, AZ.

Deputies learned during the execution of the search warrant that just minutes prior, a cell phone call tipped employees off spooking them to flee from the worksite diving into dumpsters and climbing over barbed wire fences to escape.

Seven suspects were taken into custody. Of the seven, two were identity theft suspects of the investigation who are suspected of living and working in the country illegally, one had an outstanding warrant, and four others were suspected of being in the country illegally and turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Sheriff Arpaio says “A lot of critics and politicians seem to forget that in these identity theft cases, we have real victims who have had some form of their identification stolen. They always throw up the argument that illegal immigration is a victimless crime; ask those who are victims of identity theft about that”.

Investigators have learned through information given by a manager of Parks and Sons Inc. that the company contracts with the city of El Mirage, Arizona for trash collection.

The investigation will continue as sheriff’s deputies are still looking for several other employees that are suspected of engaging in identity theft. The investigation was initiated after two anonymous employees of Parks and Sons Inc. reported the illegal activity to the sheriff’s office.

Sheriff Arpaio stated that his office is not only arresting illegal aliens engaging in identity theft during these investigations, but they are also creating job openings during tough economic times.

This case marks the 36th investigation that has led deputies to the workplace seeking suspects who have used false identification to gain employment, a class four felony. During those investigations, 415 suspects have been arrested, 277 of which for identity theft.

Arpaio says that his office will continue to enforce all federal and state illegal immigration laws and plans on conducting a large scale crime suppression operation at the end of July when the new state immigration law takes effect.

Source: Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office

Planto’s new products go down a storm at Chelsea

Wellington and Barrow teamed up with Rivelin Glen Products at Chelsea Flower Show and the Planto new items proved to be very popular, with more products having to be taken down to restock.

The innovative Arm Protectors and matching Canvas Apron were particularly well received:

Canvas Arm Protectors

The one-size heavy duty, canvas protectors fit around the thumb and snugly around the arms with independently adjustable Velcro straps. They will not ride up and can be worn with any kind of glove. They are machine washable and are produced using an environmentally friendly dying process. Perfect for protection from brambles, thorns and nettles. £24.99

Canvas Apron

A warm brick red colour gardening apron made from 100% cotton canvas with a leather trim. The apron has an adjustable neck strap and three deep pockets with gussets designed to retain the contents even when bending over. An environmentally friendly dying process has been used. Fully machine washable and one size fits all. £24.99

Source: Wellington and Barrow

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

Grow a Healthy Family Together with Amber’s Garden

Planting Seeds for Life!

CARLSBAD, CA – June 2010 – It's summer, the perfect time for children and parents to get outdoors, enjoy the sunlight, plant a garden, and spend time with loved ones.

However, children are increasingly staying indoors, and spending over 44 hours per week staring at some kind of electronic screen. Children can identify up to 1,000 corporate logos, but fewer than 10 plants or animals native to their backyard.

Fortunately, this summer, Connie Henderson, an inspirational mother and founder of Amber’s Garden, is offering ideas for bringing parents and children together in their own backyard.

“As a busy working mom, I was inspired by my daughter Amber to find ways to encourage parents to spend time with their kids and get in touch with nature,” says Amber’s Garden founder Connie Henderson. “I am excited to share the following activity ideas that Amber and I enjoy during summer.”

Grow A Vegetable Garden Together: Amber’s Garden ready-to-plant vegetable garden mats are a great and easy way to grow a healthy family together. Pre-seeded veggie mats take the guess work out of what to plant and how to plant it, making gardening fun and easy for everybody. Soon, families can enjoy their own homemade and homegrown gourmet salads, vegetables, herbs, and salsa!

Make A Rain Gauge: Making a rain gauge is easy, and it makes a summer thunderstorm a lot of fun! All you need is a clear jar or bottle, tape and a paper ruler. You can make your own rain gauge; you may want to wrap your ruler with plastic wrap so it doesn't get smeared in the rain. Just line the bottom of the ruler up with the bottom of the jar, and attach it with a few pieces of tape. Set it out a storm, and you can measure exactly how much rain falls!

Make A Scarecrow: Hammer two narrow boards in a cross. Use one of your old shirts, pants, shoes, mittens, and accessories for the body. Head can be an old t-shirt stuffed and rubberbanded.

“My passion is to create simple ways for families to grow together, and educate their children about where food comes from and how to eat healthy. This is important for all of us,” says Henderson.

Amber’s Garden was founded by Connie J. Henderson and inspired by her daughter, Amber, in an effort to increase awareness for children about the impact they have on the earth, and help them understand where their food comes from. Ready-to-plant vegetable garden mats were created to enhance the outdoor living experience with complete vegetable kits that take the guesswork out of planting with seed packets. Educating kids about the importance of recycling, conservation and the reduction of waste creates an environment ripe for activities such as gardening, cooking and learning how to eat healthy. Pre-seeded veggie mats are a great lifestyle fit for busy families, novice or elderly gardeners, or those who have limited space. We want everyone to dig in the dirt!

Pre-seeded vegetable garden mats take make gardening fun and easy for everybody, with no transplanting necessary. Each mat comes with seeds already spaced, enveloped in a material that is 100% biodegradable and acts as a weed barrier for the first 8-10 weeks. Simply place mats in a sunny spot of amended garden soil (or cut mats into sections to fit perfectly in patio containers) cover as directed with top soil, and water according to directions. In as little as 3-5 days veggies begin to sprout, and harvesting begins in as little as 30 days – lasting all summer long!

Amber’s Garden offers several varieties of vegetable kits – Asian, Herb, Salsa, Pumpkin, Salad, Rainbow Crop, and Summer Crop. Large mats measure 6’ x 14” and small mats measure 18” diameter. Amber’s Garden products are available in retail stores Murdoch’s Ranch Home Supply, Plow and Hearth, Teak, Wicker and More, Bricklewood or on-line at,, and The suggested retail prices ranges from $9.99 to $19.99.

Source: Amber's Garden

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

Stand up for Lawn and Order

June 2010: June brings to mind tea on the lawn, but does your lawn have the edge? One task that makes any garden look perfectly manicured is tidying the edges of the lawn.

A crisp sharp finish not only looks good, it is a practical way to prevent grass and weeds from spreading to and from lawn borders.

Edging the lawn used to be back breaking work done by kneeling your way round the edge. The design team at Fiskars, well known for their use of technology to make gardening easier, have solved this problem.

Fiskars Lifestyle Long Handled Edging Shears take the back ache out of edging by allowing the gardener to stand comfortably.

The hardened steel and coated blades cleanly slice through grass and resist the build up of residue, preventing sticking and rusting. The designers clearly had comfort in mind when they selected lightweight tubular hollow steel shafts to keep the weight to a minimum, and soft grip handles for ease of comfort and control. The final touch of the bumper to prevent any jarring in the cutting process, makes edging the lawn a pleasure and not a chore. The benefits of edging are more than just a neat lawn. Maintaining lawn parameters makes for easier mowing and reduces the spreads of weeds and grass seeds.

Keep the blades close to the edge of the lawn, carefully cutting the overhanging growth rather than the roots or soil. By not exposing too much of the grass root you can prevent sunlight encouraging unwanted weed growth.

If a lawn has uneven edges, a light tapping with the back of a spade should help regain order. It is a good idea to create a narrow gully at the edge of the lawn to help with drainage and aid easy maintenance.

Your Fiskars Edging Shears are also great to keep grass from encroaching on ground cover and bedding plants. These ‘no bend’ shears can be used to trim areas where the mower doesn’t reach such as edges close to walls and fences or around pots.

Fiskars Long Handled Edging Shears have an RRP of £34.99 and comes with a 10-year guarantee.

Founded in 1649, Fiskars is one of the western world's oldest companies and is the global No. 1 for hand operated garden tools. Fiskars have long been recognised for superior quality, design and innovation.

Source: Fiskars

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

GreenStock™ Concert & Expo Series With Stage And Exhibitor Booths Powered By Alternative Energy Announced

Tickets Are Now On Sale At ProTix.Com!

MESA, AZ, June 2010: Premier Media Services, Inc. and have announced Tickets for their GreenStock™ Concert & Expo Series powered by alternative energy are officially on sale today for September 17th, 18th, and 19th, 2010. The GreenStock™ Concert Series features Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, Gin Blossoms, The Blues Traveler, and The Guess Who. This exciting three day music event powered by alternative energy sources, allows the community to come together and share new ways of eco-friendly living, healthy family fun, and today’s greenest education all in one place.

GreenStock™ kicks off Friday night with various local bands and headliner Roger Clyne and the

Viewers are encouraged to come Saturday evening for performances by the incredible Gin Blossoms and critically acclaimed The Blues Traveler. To add to the amazing lineup, GreenStock™ is thrilled to announce legendary The Guess Who for Sunday night!

GreenStock™ Concert Series’ goal is to bring awareness of the Green Market Place to our socially responsible investors and consumers. GreenStock™ is saving the Earth and giving back to the community. A portion of the proceeds from the concert are going to the local non-profit agency “A New Leaf,” who has dedicated its services to “Helping Families…Changing Lives” for over 30 years. GreenStock™ corporate sponsors and exhibitors will be providing energy savings with green products for use in A New Leaf’s homeless shelters and residential treatment centers. viewers can not miss out on this once in a lifetime event! This is about helping local and global communities while having fun. General admission prices are $20 a day, $30 dollars for three day passes, or $95 dollars per day V.I.P. that includes a food/beverage package.

Visit to purchase your tickets now! looks forward to seeing you this September and don’t forget to go to for our green news broadcasts, articles, and the latest concert information.

Source: Premier Media Services, Inc and

Full Disclosure Statement: The GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW received no compensation for any component of this article.

Use of the military abroad

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Our armies, air forces and navies should never ever be used outside the borders of the country they are tasked to DEFEND.

Most of the departments in the governments are no longer called “War Department” but “Defense Department” or “Ministry of Defence”, as it is in the UK, and defense is what they are for and not offense.

In Britain the navy was originally the only standing military service and its task was the defense of the borders and maritime areas though later used for colonial expeditions.

There never was a standing army until much later and all was a militia and men were required to be archers and pike men. But some would have just rallied to the defense of the country with pitchforks, axes, and whatever other tools.

The brief of the armed forces of our countries is that of deference, defense of our countries and that on the borders and not somewhere else. Entering someone else's country, under whatever pretenses, is an offensive action, an act of aggression and not defense.

Our military should return to its roots. We are not defending our country in Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever else. It is all about oil in those instances.

You want to make cuts in government spending, Prime Minister, then bring our troops home and do it now. They are not defending our security over there. That is a lie. It was a lie when Blair and Brown said so and it is one when the new Prime Minister David Cameron says so.

The powers-that-be tells us that the government debt needs to be reduced and because of this government services will have to be reduced and cut and some of the poorest will suffer, and considering the debt the UK, for instance, is under expenses need to be cut.

When it comes to cutting debt if the troops be brought home to do the job the really should do, defending our country, our borders, there would be lots of savings.

However, the military-industrial complex, the “defense” industry, is such a powerful lobby that this is hardly going to happen.

The original role of the military is the defense of the realm and nothing else. Since when, however, the realm includes Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iraq, beats me.

I guess somewhere along the line I missed it that Britain took on some new colonies together with the USA and the EU and NATO. Really must have missed something.

The German federal government even went as far as to change parts of Germany's post-war constitution, which made it illegal for German soldiers to ever serve outside the country in war or policing actions, in such a way as to make this possible. This action also make me, as a Gypsy, worry that Germany, once again, may have designs that it should never ever entertain again.

Defense of the realm, of the country, is one thing and is one that we all, I should think, can agree with, but the military of our so-called free and democratic countries has no right to be anywhere else having a nice little war.

Defense of the realm mean defense of the country at the country's borders and, in case of an aggressor, as in the case of the Nazis during World War Two, push a little further.

In general, however, the defense of the realm ends at the borders and that, folks, is it. Our forces have n o right whatsoever to be in those countries they are involved in conflicts in at present.

I rest my case...

© 2010

Some common mistakes in backyard gardening

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

There will always be mistakes that will have to be remedied and there will always be new lessons to be learned out in the garden. However, here is a list of some common errors that you can easily avoid with some slight adjustments in the way that you go about your daily gardening activities:

Stocking up on weed seeds: It's bad enough to deal with your own weeds without inviting outsiders into the mix. But many gardeners do just that by leaving their soil bare, allowing weeds to grow unchecked within range of the garden, and by importing compost or mushroom soil from weedy sources.

Stressing over bugs: Rather than focus on trying to eliminate every bug in sight, keep in mind that most insects are there to help out in the garden. Pollinators and predatory insects should be welcomed and protected for all the good that they do. Also encourage insect eating birds.

Growing an orderly garden: There is absolutely no need whatsoever to line everything up in neat rows or in practicing monoculture with all of your varieties grouped together. Mix things up to make life more enjoyable for your plants and confusing for destructive insects.

Feeding plants instead of the soil: Healthy soil is just as alive as the plants that grow in it. Nourish the fungi, bacteria, and other micro-organisms by increasing organic matter and decreasing chemical use and all that soil life will go to work at freeing up nutrients to feed the garden's plant life.

Plant foods, aka chemical fertilizers do not increase the productivity of the soil. On the contrary; they destroy beneficial bacteria and other good influences.

Wasting water and wasting time: Many gardeners waste time and water by irrigating the garden shallowly every day when watering less frequently would be better. Shoot for less frequent and deeper soakings that saturate the root zone and are much more efficient than shallow surface watering.

Poorly timed plantings: You will get the best production from plants that can grow unchecked from the time they germinate until they mature and bear fruit. Avoid starting or setting plants out before conditions are just right for the crops you're growing.

On the other hand, starting seeds indoors or in the greenhouse can put you weeks ahead of others that sow into the soil direct.

With the right protections you can grow outside before and after the official time as well.

Tilling, tilling, and yet more tilling: Nothing good comes from over tilling the soil, unless, that is, you want excessive weed growth, compacted soil, a ruined soil structure, and disruption of the valuable soil life we looked at earlier in the section on feeding plants and soil. Consider implementing raised beds instead, or lasagne gardening in containers and give the rototiller some time off.

Tilling or digging again and again will also release valuable soil carbon which will add to the CO2 already in the atmosphere and thus adding to the grief caused. The same is true for agriculture where too much plowing is being practiced.

© 2010

Proprietary software 'a waste of money', says EU commissioner

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

EU commissioner slams the European public sector's use of proprietary software, saying government bodies must embrace open source

The European Union's Internet Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, has criticized European public sector organizations that spend buy licensed software systems when cheaper, open source alternatives are available. In fact, if no support required, Open Source is free, even for businesses and government.

Speaking at the Open Forum Europe conference, Neelie Kroes criticized governments' habitual purchase of proprietary technology. Instead, Kroes advised that public sector organizations instead consider "software that you can download from the website and that you can implement without restrictions".

Such free open source alternatives include operating systems distributed under the Linux banner and document and spreadsheet package OpenOffice.

"Many authorities have found themselves unintentionally locked into proprietary technology for decades and after a certain point that original choice becomes so ingrained that alternatives risk being systematically ignored," she told attendees. "That's a waste of public money that most public bodies can no longer afford."

Kroes added that public sector organizations which implemented proprietary software should have a "clear justification to do so".

In her previous role as the EU's antitrust chief, Kroes oversaw the investigation into Microsoft's practice of bundling in web browser software with its Windows operating system. The software giant was eventually fined hundreds of millions of dollars and forced to sell a browser-free alternative.

In the UK, both the previous Labour government and the current Conservative-Lib Dem coalition have endorsed the use of open source software in Whitehall.

This suggestion by the EU commissioner for the Internet is rather funny seeing that the EU websites, especially anything interactive, cannot, for instance, be used properly with browsers other than Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

It is time that they sorted that one out if they want to be true advocates of Open Source and not just want to sound good. They do say that actions speak louder than words and in the case of most of the EU ICT use they are still tied in to proprietary software and here, primarily, Microsoft.

However, it is true that Open Source software works, is free, and who wants to pay $100s to MS for an office suite when OpenOffice comes free and with basically everything that Microsoft Office has. I certainly don't.

I have been using OpenOffice for years now and would want to go back. It is just such a shame that some software is still written to only interact with MS Office, such as Avery's label making templates.

That is something else that need sorting out in the same way that encryption engines for hardware encrypted USB drives and such need to be made to work across all platforms, directly.

Even though many manufacturers state that their drives work on Linux and Mac so far I have found none, even of those claiming that they do, that actually do, and that includes Ironkey, unfortunately.

© 2010

Making your garden tools last longer

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

One of the best ways to live more sustainably is by keeping the things we have as long as possible. This means also to “look after” them to actually extend their very lives.

A "green" product is not just one that's made with the best materials or the best manufacturing practices or from recycled materials; it also should be something that is well-made, so it can last as long as you need it.

Garden tools are a perfect example of something where it really makes sense to choose based on quality and always try to buy the best that you can afford or even save up for the best ones.

Once you have chosen something well-made, be it garden tools or whatever else, it is, obviously, up to you to take good care of them.

Here are some tips for keeping your garden tools in perfect shape.

Wooden handles on garden tools need regular maintenance. Once a year or so, wipe the handle off and use fine sandpaper to gently smooth the wood. Clean off the dust, and rub in some “care” oil, letting it soak in.

Some people recommend linseed oil but not everyone likes working with it and it is also not necessary to use it; it is expensive after all. Cooking oil will do – I use it for the wooden handles on the knives that I make – and does as well as linseed oil.

Keep rubbing the oil in until the wood stops absorbing it. After about an hour, wipe off any remaining oil.

Metal parts of tools can be cleaned off with a wire brush once a year. The wire brush removes dirt and light rust; if there's more serious rust, try soaking the tool in vinegar or using steel wool. Cutting tools should be filed to keep them sharp.

Sharpening of cutting tools is a skill that is well worth learning properly and some tools, such as pruners, should be sharpened before every use (and may need to be during use, much like scythes do).

If your tools are stainless steel wash them after every use and wipe them dry with a cloth. Then store them safely in a dry place.

If they are not stainless steel clean after each use with water, fry well, and oil them.

To clean the blades of pruners and garden shears and remove any sap and other “debris” of the blades use a cloth soaked in oil and kerosene or, better still, use some baby wipes. Yyou do not have to use, for instance, the expensive “Sapex” or similar products.

The oils penetrate the sap and other cutting “debris” on the blades and thus remove those while at the same time oiling the blades.

Cutting blades of secateurs, pruners, and such should always be oiled before use as this will prevent things from sticking to the blade.

The larger tools such as spades, forks, rakes, and other such should always be hung up so that they do not come into contact with the ground and any moisture that might be there. Also, it stops us falling over them in the shed. Small tools should be on shelves or, if possible, fitted with lanyards, hung up too.

Fitting out a shed with the appropriate hanging facilities for the tools could be one of those jobs for the winter period when most of the activity in the garden has ceased.

Look after your tools and you will be enjoying them for years to come. Quality (garden) tools, well cared for, can and will last for generations and not just a few years.

© 2010

Protect the Earth: Take action on the other half of Climate Change

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Carbon dioxide may be the primary culprit when it comes to climate change, but it’s still only half of the problem: black carbon soot, ground-level ozone, methane and HFCs (a group of super greenhouse gases with hundreds to thousands the global warming potential of CO2), are some of the non-CO2 gases and pollutants that make up the other half of climate change.

And we must also think of the word of “pollutant”. Pollution is the greatest problem and the black carbon soot is what is responsible, for instance, for the melting of the Himalayan glaciers rather than any warming.

The benefit of addressing the non-CO2 side of climate change is not insignificant – taking action now may very well save the world from the most damaging and perhaps irreversible effects of climate change that may be only decades away. This is because cutting non-CO2 climate forcers will produce big climate benefits in a much shorter period of time. Black carbon, for example, only stays in the atmosphere for a few days to a few weeks; CO2 emissions can linger for decades. Reducing short-lived greenhouse gases and pollutants now helps protect the Earth in the near-term while global leaders continue to negotiate the best strategy for cutting CO2.

“The world is short on time when it comes to climate change,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “It is essential that we start focusing on non-CO2 now, so that we actually have a fighting chance to win the long-term battle.”

Solutions and technologies are already available to overcome the non-CO2 challenge: black carbon soot can be significantly reduced with clean-burning cookstoves and filters for diesel vehicles; ground-level ozone can also be addressed through measures that reduce transportation pollution; and HFCs (used in refrigeration and air conditioning) can phased down under the successful Montreal Protocol ozone treaty, potentially avoiding an astounding 100 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent by 2050. Expanding biochar production to sequester carbon is another strategy that can help to limit temperature increases to 1.5˚C and bring CO2 concentrations back down to safe levels.

We must also, as I indicated in the beginning, get methane out of the atmosphere as methane is regarded 20x more dangerous a greenhouse gas over CO2. Methane is being vented off from many landfill sites and sewage works – though some of it on sewage works is being flared off – and methane is also given off, together with CO2 via the misguided practice of habitat piles in woodlands, forests and parks.

Reducing black carbon and ground-level ozone emissions will also produce big benefits for public health: both contribute to air pollution which kills several million people each year.

“There is no doubt that world leaders need to take aggressive action on carbon dioxide, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore the other factors that contribute to climate change,” added Zaelke. “If we hope to avoid the impacts of abrupt climate change, we need to take action on the fast half of the problem now.”

We must also concentrate on other aspects of pollution in order for us to get this Planet cleaned up, and that is pollution other than air and atmospheric. The issue with the oil incident in the Gulf of Mexico is just one example.

© 2010

Is your council is watching you?

Privacy group warning against Big Brother-style surveillance by local authorities

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Hundreds if not thousands of covert operations have been carried out on unsuspecting members of the public by councils across Britain using anti-terror laws that were never designed and intended for use by councils in this way.

Authorities have authorized more than 430 RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) investigations in the past two years to spy on the residents of the country of Kent alone.

Powers permit councils to use bugging devices, informers and cameras to spy on the public, allowing them to check up on people they suspect of wrongdoing. RIPA also gives authorities the power to follow people.

Out of all those warrants issues in the county of Kent alone only 28 prosecutions followed as a result of such surveillance.

Critics argue rightly that if an alleged wrongdoing is serious enough to warrant covert surveillance it should be a police investigation.

Some of the council's spokespeople, however, give the flimsiest of excuses for the misuse of powers that were intended only to be used against terrorist threats and such like and not in the way that they are being used.

While the issue such as fly-tipping and cold callers may not always be a police matter neither is also a matter for the RIPA 2000 legislation.

The use of the RIPA powers in this way are to be stopped under proposals by the new coalition government, unless they are signed off by a magistrate and used to stop serious crime.

Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, said if an alleged wrongdoing is serious enough, it should be in the hands of the police. “Now that the absurd and excessive use of RIPA surveillance has been revealed, these powers have to be taken away from councils,” he said. “That the coalition government plans to force councils to get warrants is good, but doesn’t go far enough.” Nationally, 8,500 covert surveillance operations on members of the public were carried out in the past two years.

And that, folks, is only the ones that they tell us about.

While the RIPA legislation may have its place in the fight of serious crime and the threat of terrorism it has no place to be used for spying on residents as to whether they put out their trash cans at the right time, or the right bins at the right day, or whether someone is selling alcohol to underage kids. The latter is what Trading Standards is for and the police.

The RIPA legislation has made councils power crazy and they need to be taken away from them again, once and for all.

© 2010

Is Britain becoming deforested?

By Michael Smith (Veshengro), RFA

Latest national tree planting figures show a continuing decrease in the rate of woodland creation, whilst trees and woods are being lost across the UK

Tree planting figures released by the Forestry Commission show the rate of woodland creation in the UK continues to fall despite recent calls for increasing woodland cover from within and outside government. From more than 12,000 ha of new planting in 2004, levels had halved to less than 6,000 ha last year and have fallen further to 5,000 ha in the last planting season.

It should be evident to all but the most blind that the UK has been losing and is losing woodlands and hedgerows and hedgerow trees at a rate of knots with little if any replacement.

Responding to the announcement by the Forestry Commission, Sue Holden, chief executive of the Woodland Trust, the UK's leading woodland conservation charity which is now encouraging planting on other people's land, said: "These figures are truly worrying, but should be seen as a clarion call to us all to reverse the downward trend as a matter of urgency.

“Woods and trees are not a luxury but essential for our future quality of life. They are a key component in delivering a wide range of environmental benefits, such as carbon storage, air quality control, shade and shelter, surface flood water management and soil conservation, which are all the more pressing if we are to adapt to a rapidly changing climate.

“They also provide vital habitat for some of Britain’s most important wildlife, produce home-grown timber and wood fuel, have a proven ability to alleviate human mental stress and specific physical health problems and enhance our landscape.

“Trees are in many ways a highly cost effective way of tackling some of the major policy challenges of this government. This is why the Trust's pre-election manifesto called for a doubling of native woodland cover in the UK over the next 50 years.”

At the election the Conservative manifesto called for a national tree planting campaign – reiterated in the coalition agreement – and also highlighted the need to create green spaces and 'plant many more trees'. The Liberal Democrats on their own went even further calling for a doubling of woodland cover.

The benefits of woodland creation already feature in the UK's Low Carbon Transition Plan published last summer and the 2009 ‘Read Report’ on the role of UK forests in combating climate change. Most recently, under Defra's Climate Change Plan a designated Woodland Carbon Task Force will work out how to encourage large scale private sector investment in woodland planting.

The Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly have both made far-reaching commitments to increase woodland cover.

The UK is already one of the least wooded countries in Europe, with half the European average for tree cover.

Referring to the pressures on currently forested areas, Sue Holden continued: "We fully support the Forestry Commission's policy on restoration of open habitats and the restructuring of plantations, but are concerned that with new planting rates so low the net result may be a loss of woodland cover in the UK, at a time when increasing it is essential. The Government's own figures show a loss of over 9,000 ha of woodland between 1999 and 2008 for England alone which may well be an underestimate.

"There is an urgent need to compensate for these losses with large scale woodland creation elsewhere, and we are doing our bit by supporting the planting of native woods and trees through innovative schemes such as MOREwoods ( and through partnerships with companies, schools and communities.

"We want to help government achieve its ambitious plans, but we need to see real commitment to support woodland creation."

Meanwhile there is evidence of significant loss of trees outside woods in hedgerows and fields, as old trees die or are felled for safety reasons, but not replaced. Forestry Commission research has shown that between 1980 and 1997 England suffered a 64% decline in individual trees.

Planting and growing trees and woodlands is one of the best ways of averting the impact of CO2 on climate change but there are many who seem to not understand this and do not appear to be getting the message.

There is a lot of conflicting material out there, sometimes claiming that only old trees store carbon. In fact it is the growing tree, the young tree in his most vigorous growth period, that absorbs most carbon as it is a prerequisite for the tree's growth.

The equation is, basically, the more trees, growing trees, more carbon is being absorbed and stored by them. Old trees, in fact, as they start to slowly decay while standing, release carbon back into the atmosphere.

It is for this very reason that forestry, managed forest and woodland use, with using trees for the many different purposes when trees have reached their proper commercial maturity and then re-afforesting, that is to say replacing the trees felled, three for one, as used to be the good practice, is actually good for the planet.

We need trees and woodlands and we need well managed woods and forests for the good of the country and the good of the Planet.

© 2010

Cooking and conserving in the kitchen

I cook some meal from scratch nearly every day with a few exceptions when I am working very late and have no intention even having a cooked meal at that time of the day.

While cooking your daily meals there are also some very simple ways to cook up some conservation too not over-consuming energy and resources. At first glance it may not seem like much, but it adds up over time and you have also cooked up some conservation.

Here are some simple tips to dome some conservation in the kitchen:

Do not bother preheating the oven – if you are roasting, broiling or baking for an hour or more, do not preheat. It simply is not necessary and is a waste of energy. You can also shut off the oven 5 minutes before your cook time is complete… the oven still holds the heat and keeps on cooking.

If you use electric stove top then the same is true for the hobs. Electric hobs can be turned off several minutes before you want to finish cooking as they carry on cooking even if turned off.

Another good way is to change from using the oven for some cooking of oven dishes to using a crock pot, a so-called slow cooker, and also, if you bake your own bread, and you definitely should, use a bread machine instead of the oven. It is cheaper by miles.

Use the right size pots and pans – small pots and pans on large burners or electric hobs waste energy and resources.

Use lids: A covered pot of water reaches boiling point much quicker than one that is not covered. And crank it up (as long as the flames aren’t escaping the sides). Water does not need to slowly reach a boil, so get it to a rolling boil fast.

Use the microwave: Whenever the microwave can be used for cooking or to do the early steps, then use it. Microwaves use 4-5 times less energy than does your oven and despite many concerns microwave ovens are safe. It is not dangerous nuclear radiation but the same that is used on microwave transmission antennas.

Prepare only what you need (unless you are cooking for a day or more ahead as well): While cooking up a tremendous batch of whatever you are serving may sound like a good idea at the time but if it is not actually all getting eaten it will end up in the garbage and that means the food and the resources to cook it have all been wasted.

With a little forethought you can cook great meals and at the same time conserve energy in the kitchen.

© 2010

British firm cuts ties with Israeli company over flotilla incident

A good start finally. A total boycott is needed.

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

RedRat has decided that, due to Israel's Gaza policy, it can no longer work with long-standing clients Disk-In Pro but does hope to renew cooperation in future.

British company RedRat announced to Israeli company Disk-In Pro that despite years of cooperation, it would no longer work with the Israeli company because of Israel's policy in the Gaza Strip.

RedRat Ltd., based in Saffron Walden, in the county of Essex, in the UK, specialize in computer based infrared remote control.

"A few days ago we received an email from RedRat which said they would not continue to work with us because of the flotilla events," Dana Levinger, marketing manager at Disk-In Pro, states.

"We are a planning company which also sets up visitors centers. RedRat sells us external cards that enable control of televisions and projectors, and we have worked with them for seven years," Levinger continued

"We contacted them to order equipment about two weeks ago and didn't get any reply," she continues. "Then we get this mail, written by someone whom we don’t usually work with. In reply, we sent a mail expressing our regret that they mix politics and business and see only one side. We can easily buy their equipment, even now, from a sister company in France, but in light of that email, we don't want them to profit from us."

When told to go to hell the Israelis, as per usual, get smug as if it is all someone else's fault and not theirs. This attitude is not one that should make them friends but, alas, they do have friends in high places rather, and I am not talking about G-d.

RedRat said that they currently have no other Israeli business partners, but that if they had, they would cease working with them too.

At least one British company is happy enough to cut their ties with companies working in Israel and Israeli companies and it would be good to see a total boycott of Israeli goods and services, whether in the field of computer, agricultural produce, or whatever else.

The Israelis now try to say that a “conscience-stricken” British person and company is not allowed to boycott an Israeli company as, after all, Israel has a free trade agreement with Britain, and a company cannot just decide independently to drop all connections with Israel for political reasons.

I must be hearing things... A “free” company can do as it likes in regards to dealing with another company in another country, whether for economic or political reasons.

In some quarters the decision of RedRat, unfortunately so far only a single company that we are aware of, to cease cooperation with an Israeli company as antisemitism.

Antisemitism it is for them each and every time that someone says something about their actions in the Middle East and their oppression of another people who, and maybe they have forgotten that, are also the offspring of Abraham and hence, guess what, in all theory, Semitic and blood-brothers.

Israel needs to be given a serious reality check by the world but, alas, the governments of Britain and the USA will hardly play ball in any actions against the Zionists state.

I must say that it would not surprise me if the British government should not reproach RedRat for its stance.

What are our trade unions doing in the UK as regards to the issue in Israel and the Zionist piracy on the high seas? So far I have seen nothing from the likes of Unison, nor any other of the unions.

© 2010