The Long Fight Against Ash Dieback Begins


A recent, Swedish study in the Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research ( ) has revealed crucial information for horticulturalists in the UK, and in Northern and Central Europe, in their battles against the aggressive attacks of the Chalara fraxinea fungus (otherwise known as ash dieback disease) on mature forest areas. Results from the study are far reaching, encouraging governments to invest in ash breeding programmes that will all but eliminate the disease.

The study
• Ash dieback damage on 16-22 year old trees in Swedish orchards analysed
• Findings indicate that the disease is strongly genotypically controlled, meaning that it attacks ash trees that display the same or similar genetic properties
• Scope for introducing breeding programmes to produce ash trees with greater resistance to infection

The research is more important than ever. Yesterday, a ban on UK imports of ash trees came into force before reports from BBC News indicated that 100,000 trees had been destroyed in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease.

Governments in Sweden, the UK and other affected countries need to act now or they could experience the same disease deforestation witnessed in Lithuania over the past decade, where forested areas dropped from 53,000 hectares to 38,000 hectares in just eight years. In a Lithuanian observation of ash orchards, similar to that of the Swedish study, 90% of the trees died (2005-10), this in the country where the disease was first documented in the early 1990s.

British Prime Minister, David Cameron should take note. On the day where The Daily Express reports that his country could be footing a £37m a day bill to the European Union (a meagre £13.6bn each year), the £3m funding cut to the Forestry Commission – representing 25% of their overall annual budget – seems like a drop in the ocean.

The Forestry Commission Trade Unions announced their disgust in 2011, stating the “cuts will severely compromise the FC's ability to retain a properly resourced forestry estate with protected access and services, and to protect biodiversity, wildlife and the environment”. This opinion has now been realised with ash dieback sweeping the UK’s forest population.

Other findings
• Ash survival is strongly heritable
• Little known about H. pseudoalbidus (the disease-causing pathogen discovered in 2010) but genetic diversity will provide a buffer against new diseases
• Faster growing clones less susceptible to ash dieback as rapid growth restrains the disease
• 90% of ash trees died in a similar observation in Lithuania (2005-10)
• Forested area of Lithuania fell from 53,000 ha to 38,000 ha (2001-2009)
• Government investment needed to support ash breeding programmes

Mr Cameron and his counterparts across Europe must do something to stop this spread. The research suggests that this should be through financial action.

Did the £3m Forestry Commission cut lead to this problem in the UK? What will the eventual cost to the taxpayer be? Only time will tell. However, one conclusion that can be drawn from this research is that there is an answer to the ash dieback problem. Through stringent breeding programmes of stronger clones, ash trees with greater resistance to the disease can grow, meaning a reduced risk of a Chalara fraxinea fungus outbreak. For now, the government must deal with this problem but a sustainable plan for the future must be considered imminently.

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Dash for Gas Isn’t all it’s fracked up to be

The government should proceed with caution over fracking warns the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), in its new policy position statement ‘hydraulic fracturing of shale in the UK’. The statement reviews the potential environmental impacts of the use of hydraulic fracturing, known as ‘fracking’ to access natural gas reserves in shale rock, and discusses whether it is an acceptable method to produce gas in the UK.

Fracking for shale gas has the potential to cause significant environmental impacts from induced seismicity, degradation of landscape and amenity, water contamination and the release of fugitive emissions of methane. Robust regulation would see these risks minimised. In addition to the regulatory controls proposed, CIWEM is calling for Environmental Risk Assessment to be made mandatory for proposed shale gas operations.

This would ensure that each site is individually assessed, with the likelihood of a specific impact and its cumulative impact taken into account.

Many apprehensions over fracking in the UK are a result of the experience in the United States. There have also been mixed messages in the UK, with some touting shale as a long-term panacea for energy security, and others suggesting that energy prices will show a similar fall to those in the US. However, differences in geology and mineral rights, and stricter regulation in the UK would preclude a similar situation occurring.

Furthermore, there remains limited understanding about the commercial viability of shale gas reserves in the UK, despite rhetoric suggesting a potential new ‘dash for gas’. The government’s gas strategy needs to set out clearly the contribution that shale gas could make and how its environmental impacts will be limited.

CIWEM believes that shale gas from fracking should not be encouraged as a part of our energy mix until there is more evidence that operations can be delivered safely, that environmental impacts are acceptable and that monitoring, reporting and mitigation requirements are comprehensive and effective. It is time for sound, evidence-based objectivity coupled to a renewed and long-term government commitment to a renewables-centred energy mix.

CIWEM’s Executive Director, Nick Reeves OBE, says: “As a carbon based fuel shale gas is not a sustainable energy source. Onshore reserves estimated to only be capable of providing the equivalent to two years of the UK’s gas supply and fugitive emissions that could seriously undermine any carbon benefits of using shale gas over coal. Pursuing shale gas will make it more difficult to reach our climate change commitments and renewable energy targets; its development must not become a distraction from the necessary drive for energy efficiency and clean renewable energy.”

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) is an independent professional body and a registered charity, advancing the science and practice of water and environmental management for a clean, green and sustainable world

CIWEM’s recently published Policy Position Statement ‘Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of Shale in the UK’ is available from:

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

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service or company mentioned.

Ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea) in Britain

Already 100,000 Ash trees have been destroyed

by Michael Smith (Veshengro), RFA, Ecofor

After the devastation wrought by the New Dutch Elm Disease to the Elm trees of Britain, the Bleeding Canker in Horse Chestnut trees and the problems with Cameraria ohridella, the leaf miner moth in the same, and Sudden Oak Death, now the Ash trees of the British Isles are under threat by yet another – possible devastating – disease.

Ash trees make up almost one third of Britain's tree stock – there are 80 million of them – and they are under threat from a deadly disease which is sweeping the forests of continental Europe sand have now arrived in the forests of Britain.

After much clouding of the issue and pussyfooting from the side of the government, it now appears that a staggering 100,000 trees have already been destroyed in an effort to stop the spreading.1

The Ash is the fourth most common tree in the countryside so this poses a terrible threat to the UK’s forests and to trees growing in parks and gardens. The first cases were discovered almost eight months ago. They came on trees imported from the Netherlands.

But it has also been found on British ash trees and it is thought that it can also be carried by the wind or be lying dormant for years

Ash_DiebackPhoto source: Forestry Commission

The disease, called Chalara fraxinea, is a fungus that causes leaf loss and crown dieback in affected trees, and it can lead to tree death.

First found in Poland 20 years ago, the fungus has gradually spread across Europe, reaching Denmark in 2002. There it led to estimated losses of between 60 and 90 per cent of Denmark’s ash trees.

The disease will devastate the landscape because if it spreads the trees will either die and rot or have to be destroyed, leaving huge gaps in forests and harming the wider eco-system, as they provide homes for birds, insects and mammals. It is second only to the oak tree in its popularity in the British countryside.

For now, effective from Monday, October 29, 2012, all imports of the Ash tree have been stopped and also no further planting of the trees in public forests will take place. A commission has been set up to examine the whole matter.

The Woodland Trust says: “Ash dieback is only one of numerous tree pests and diseases in the UK. With more than 15 separate pests and diseases listed on the Forestry Commission website as already present in the UK, it is crucial that the wider issue is tackled. The government must set up an emergency summit bringing together representatives from all areas of forestry, plant health and conservation – because today it's ash, but tomorrow yet another of our precious native trees could be at risk”.

Of great importance is also to introduce proper bio-security measures and to ensure that only trees raised from seeds in the UK, under monitored conditions, are grown for planting. And the same must go for all other trees.

We must, in fact, stop the importation of trees – all trees – and shrubs from abroad in order to ensure that diseases are kept at bay.

It would appear that New Dutch Elm Disease came into Britain with Elm lumber, imported as whole trees with bark on (lazy forestry practice), from the USA in the middle part of the last century after having first been exported with the same bad practice into the USA where the disease mutated in American Elms.

Sudden Oak Death also was brought into this country from abroad, and to all intents and purposes also from the USA, and in this instance via Rhododendrons.

It is, however, also true, as far as Ash dieback is concerned, the the spores of the fungus Chalara fraxinea are arriving in the UK on wind currents from the European mainland, such as from the Netherlands. Unfortunately there is little that we can do to protect against that kind of unwanted immigration.

Ash dieback is a reportable disease and anyone, especially woodland owners, managers of municipal parks, woodlands and open spaces, and in fact anyone else involved with trees, should immediately contact the appropriate authorities. The Forestry Commission research station at Alice Holt Lodge is the most central post of call in this case.

(C) 2012

1However, according to forestry sources in Germany felling and burning the trees will not prevent the disease nor lessen its impact as their efforts have shown. In fact, according to German forestry sources there is, basically, nothing that can be done.

Don't throw out your leaves!

Do-it-yourself leaf mold is great to improve your garden's soil

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Instead of raking the leaves in your yard and garden together, putting them into plastic bags and setting them on the curb to be picked up and added to a landfill, where most will end up via the municipal waste stream unless your council operates a green waste recycling scheme, turn them into leaf mold.

The dark, crumbly finished product of leaf mold is a great soil amendment and conditioner and if we are going to be dealing with droughts in our gardens in the future, which no doubt we will, increasing the moisture retention of our soils is important. Leaf mold is better still than wood chip mulch in this department as it improves the soil much better and quicker.

Finished leaf mold can be used as a mulch to suppress weeds and trap moisture, blended into the soil of garden beds, and added to container gardens and making leaf mold is, in fact, ridiculously easy. If composting seems too complicated and involved for you: give making your own leaf mold a try. All you need to create leaf mold is a space, leaves, water and time.

The easiest way of making leaf mold is to rake all of your leaves into a pile in the corner of your garden or yard. Once you’ve gathered the leaves into place, wet the pile down and keep it moist for the next six months to a year. If your leaf mold pile is at risk of being thrown about by kids, pets or the wind create pen to keep it in place.

Make a round or square frame out of chicken wire, reclaimed wood or similar to the DIY compost bins the designs of which you find all over the Internet. You can also put the leaves, ideally shredded, into black plastic bin liners, moisten them and then tie up the bags.

If you have a mulching mower you can speed up decomposition by riding over your leaf mold pile and shredding the leaves into smaller pieces.

A few years ago while watching one of those cable documentaries on the drug trade, I saw a cocaine farmer use a weed trimmer to shred cocoa leaves to process them faster. And you know what? It works! After you’ve corralled all of your leaves in place you can run a weed trimmer through the pile to break it down. Shredded leaves not only break down faster, but you have room for more leafs and taller piles.

All leaves you collect in autumn are good candidates for making leaf mold, though some are better than others when it comes to breaking down and decomposing. Smaller leaves, such as birch, alder and Japanese maples, can break down in as little as six months. Oak and hornbeam leaves similarly break down rather fast.

The bottom of your leaf mold pile can be ready to be mixed into your soil, used as a mulch, or mixed into your favorite container gardening soil mix in as little as half a year. Therefore, take some time this season to rake up your leaves – and those of your neighbors – to improve the soil in your garden. You will be keeping valuable organic matter out of landfills and preventing your neighbors from making burn piles this autumn.

The leaves have sequestered carbon over the year and this carbon is released into your soil when added to it and will feed your plants. So thus you should not waste it.

If you grow your own – vegetables that is – in the way that I do in “containers” of various sorts you can use the so-called lasagne gardening method and, in fact, add the leaf mold after six month to the bottom of the container and spread a thin, about four or five inches or so, layer of soil and compost above in which you sow your seeds or plant your plugs.

Waste not want not is the old adage and it applies also to those autumn leaves.

© 2012

Bulldog Tools Children's Spade & Fork – Product Review

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Garden tools for children that are built to last and which are, basically, adult tools 'in miniature'.

Forged to the same exacting standards at Bulldog's forge in Wigan and in the same way as spades and forks for the grown-ups. Well-balanced and looked after will last a lifetime.

While intended for use by youngsters those tools are also great for any adult gardener who is doing his vegetable gardening, like myself, in tubs and containers and in tall walled raised beds where ordinary tools of this nature are too long to be used properly.

Those spade and fork will also be of great use in a shrub border, for instance, where one may not be able to stand upright to use a full-size fork or spade.

When we consider that those tools are intended for use by children in primary schools, for instance, it is such a shame that, by law, disclaimer stickers have to be affixed stating: “This tool is NOT intended as a toy and is therefore not suitable for children under 10 years old. As a functional tool appropriate care should be taken”.

The government wants to encourage children, so officials keep saying, to learn gardening and environmental tasks but then they say that real tools are not to be used by anyone under the age of ten. This is another sign that they do not live in the real world.

I wonder what British government and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) would make of the forest kindergarten and -schools in Germany where five and six year olds use real saws. Axes and knives. They'd have a nervous breakdown I should think.

Now to some of the details of the tools:

Junior Digging Spade

4qgnryygfbgfdiesfwib3jgi4e-e7c2rb2n7uoyaiadkg2dbucj42ogj2k7-largeThis junior version of a traditional style spade is solid forged from one piece to give strength and durability in the garden.

Its key features are an extra small blade, a short handle with a plastic “D” grip. The blade is, like those of adult spades, forged from one piece and the handle is Ash, either from America or Germany from FSC certified sources. The head size 9" x 5.5" (230 x 140mm)

Price (ex VAT): £18.40

Product Code: 5673072510

Junior Digging Fork

7x3plq7xt5d3fpct2vtfvjvize-ubrzkalyvir6i2qsynlnh7i5hqiolsyh-largeLike the Junior Digging Spade this junior version of a traditional style fork is solid forged from one piece.

It has a 25" Ash handle, plastic "D" grip, one piece head design as strong as dad's Bulldog fork! Forged in Britain, like the space, with a head size 9" x 6" (230 x 150mm)

Price (ex VAT): £26.00

Product Code: 5788042510

Those tools – and the full set actually also includes a rake and a hoe – are great ones for any school garden project and other of similar nature. While the tools are not directly cheap they are of the highest quality and are very strong. More than which can be said for many a cheaper child's spade or fork and which are, all too often, used by schools and projects and which frequently fail, often resulting in injuries.

© 2012

The case for a state railroad

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Public transportation, in the same way as public utilities, should not ever be in the hands of (private) corporations. (Private) corporations will never ever work for the benefit of the customers but only for that of the owners and shareholders.

Recent British governments, ever since the Thatcher regime privatized the railroad system in the UK, and the utilities, keep trying to tell us that publicly run, state run, railroads and such do not work. However, the fact that they do can be seen in most other EU member states where, predominately, the railroads and other public transportation is state owned and operated.

It is true that British Rail did have its problems but all that is necessary is to look at how railroads are run on the continent to see that trains can be clean, on time, and the fares being reasonable low and thus affordable, when run by the state.

The private franchise system that is being operated in Britain means that trains are very expensive – it is, in fact, cheaper to fly to Birmingham from London than to use the train – and the operations still are costing the tax payer an arm and a leg.

Once upon a time we have a railroad system that was private, yes, before the service was nationalized, and, strangely enough, they worked well. But that was before the time when profit and greed came before everything else.

The American railroad system also was, until it was destroyed to favor the automotive and trucking industry, private railroads that ran, however, for the benefit of the people, with the real income being made from freight traffic. Now the US virtually has no viable rail services left and Amtrak is, basically, a joke.

But state owned and operated railroads do not have to be bad and a joke as British Rail of old and the European services show. Public transportation that is being run by corporations are never run for the benefit of the passengers and that can be seen with all the operations in the UK, including underground services and buses.

When it comes to other utilities it is the same but that is not the subject here. It is also just not good practice to have any utilities and public transportation run by companies that are foreign. Most other EU countries don't allow that but Britain claims that it has to as it be thus mandated by Brussels. We can see where the truth lies in those claims for sure.

With the disasters that have been in the railroad privatization in Britain – and I am not talking here about accidents – when the company that dealt with the tracks caused grief the taxpayer had to take over and the same had to be done already with some of the lines also.

The privatized railroad system in Britain costs the taxpayer dearly and thus we might as well have British Rail, a state owned and operated railroad system, back. It would hardly be worse that the state of affairs today.

The government talks about wanting people to use alternatives to the car but with fares on the railroad as high and unaffordable as they are this is not going to happen on long distance travel. As long as a return ticket for peak hour travel from London to Birmingham is £200+ when bought on the day from a ticket office (and while it is true that cheaper tickets can be had they restrict the services you can take and the time you can travel) people are not going too travel by train, aside from commuting.

© 2012

Brits still not switched on to energy saving, new study shows

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Despite ever-increasing fuel costs, the British public just can’t seem to get motivated on energy saving, regardless of our good intentions.

Thirty-per-cent-of-energy-is-losAccording to a new study, while 94% of us say we want to become more energy efficient, only 37% of us currently rate ourselves as such – and it’s the basics that are still eluding us.

With energy costs at an all-time high and four of the ‘big six’ energy firms putting up their prices again recently, it is surprising to learn that 40% of us still leave the heating on all day and a third of us leave windows and doors open when the central heating is on.

Two thirds of people say they leave the TV on when they’re not in the room and almost half leave it on standby overnight, while 63% leave their mobile charging all night. Almost half of those asked say they still leave the tap running unnecessarily when brushing their teeth or washing up.

Although rising energy prices are quoted as being one of the biggest concerns for UK homeowners, almost a fifth of us still don’t have energy saving light bulbs, 29% overfill the kettle when boiling it, and only 46% of us would use extra layers of clothing or blankets when it gets cold instead of turning up the heating.

The study, which was conducted by Anglian Home Improvements to mark Big Energy Saving Week (22-27 October 2012), found that 40% of us still don’t have energy efficient windows or doors, even though around 30% of a home’s heat is lost through windows and doors, and only 44% of us have an energy efficient boiler.

Yet 82% of people say if they could make one simple change to become energy efficient they would, and 88% say that if making that change would be guaranteed to save them money over the next five years, they would do it.

TV presenter and environmental science expert Philippa Forrester has championed environmental issues for many years. She says, “In light of the latest news about rising energy costs, heating our homes and using electricity is going to cost us more and more. How high do prices need to get before we think about making fundamental changes to the energy efficiency of our homes? We can all stop money leaking out of our roofs, windows and doors and by reducing our energy consumption, we’re also reducing our bills and our carbon emissions, so we should all try to make it a top priority. Saving energy and saving money – it’s a win-win situation.”

Melanie McDonald, Head of Marketing and Communications at Anglian Home Improvements, says, “The cost of running a household is radically increasing due to rising energy prices and food inflation. So as we head into the winter months and energy consumption increases, it’s more important than ever for people to look at ways they can improve their energy efficiency. There are lots of quick, easy things we can all do straight away and there are also many ways in which homeowners can improve the efficiency of their property for the longer term. Installing the best thermal windows on the market, for instance, will ensure they get the maximum return on investment and benefit for many years to come.”

While in other countries homes by now at least have double-glazing, if not even triple-glazing, in the UK single-glazed windows are still the norm, and the councils and housing associations are lagging behind to upgrade their housing stock to enable those least able to afford wasting money on energy, namely social housing tenants, to afford to heat their homes. And when it comes to other forms of insulation the same is the case.

However, it is also true that the great majority of people are themselves, at times to blame, for wasted energy, as they have the heating running at 25C and more, but this is not just the case in homes but very especially in the offices and especially those of local and central government. In the very places where those that work there keep telling the people to turn down the heating to save energy.

It would appear that Britain still has a long way to go as far as energy-efficiency is concerned, and it is the same in so many other ways of going green.

Anglian Home Improvements is an Energy Saving Trust Recommended supplier and offers a broad selection of stylish and energy efficient products, including windows, doors conservatories, roof trim, solar panels and much more. For more information and to view the full product range, visit

The research for Anglian Home Improvements was carried out online by Opinion Matters between 14/09/2012 and 28/09/2012 amongst a panel resulting in 1,160 respondents UK based home owners. All research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines. Opinion Matters is registered with the Information Commissioner's Office and is fully compliant with the Data Protection Act (1998).

Established in 1966, Anglian Home Improvements is the UK’s leading home improvements company, responsible for the employment of 4500 people. With more than 45 years’ experience of providing UVPC double-glazing windows, Anglian ensures it is ahead of the competition with a continuing research and development programme. Anglian offers an extensive range of home improvement products, including double glazing replacement windows and doors, conservatories, driveways, solar products, garage conversions and roof trims.

© 2012

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

Intelsat blocks Iranian channels in Europe

State censorship at its finest

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

satelliteInternational satellite services provider Intelsat has blocked Iran’s official broadcast channels in Europe, a company spokesman confirmed on Thursday, October 25, 2012. The company, however, would not confirm or deny an Iranian report that it did so at the order of the US government.

“Intelsat confirms that we took IRIB (Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting) channels off the satellite,” Alexander Horwitz, a spokesman for the Washington-based company, told AFP.

“Our business is a dynamic one, in which the customers’ requirements and our available capacity are constantly changing, and thus the start and stop of services on our satellites is routine

He did, however, decline to identify the IRIB channels that were affected by Intelsat’s move.

According to Press TV, an Iranian satellite broadcaster not affected by the action, Intelsat was ordered to take the action by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the economic and trade sanctions arm of the US Treasury Department.

A spokesman Treasury, when questioned about the report, declined to comment.

Horwitz said that Intelsat still holds a license, amid sweeping US sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, to provide certain broadcast services in Iran. Intelsat also transmits the Farsi language program of Voice of America.

“Intelsat adheres strictly to the US sanctions requirements with respect to the services it provides in Iran,” Horwitz said.

Iranian authorities protested publicly on October 16 against European satellite operator Eutelsat, accusing it of illegally taking off the air Iranian public television channels.

Last week, European Union foreign ministers agreed tough new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, which the West says is aimed at building an atomic bomb but which Tehran insists is for peaceful ends only.

When Mr. Horowitz states that Intelsat's business is a dynamic one, in which the customers’ requirements and Intelsat's available capacity are constantly changing, and thus the start and stop of services on our satellites is routine, he was talking, as our Australian cousins would say, bull dust, and he knows it.

The truth, blatantly obvious to all that are prepared to see is that it is not in the interest of the US regime and neither of Intelsat and its backers to have opposing news to that which they want to convey, coming out of Iran, for instance.

So, in order to combat that threat simple censorship is being employed; a step that they would immediately denounce should Iran do it.

People think that, in the West (and I am sure everyone knows which countries are included there), the media is free and governments and service providers will not stoop as low as censorship, but the truth is a different one.

Freedom of speech only applies to those that toe the government line and we have seen that more than once by now in the actions of the governments against posts on Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, etc., that did not fit into their agenda.

© 2012

Sweden to import garbage as supplies of trash run dry

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

As other nations across the world struggle to cut the amount of waste piling up in their landfills and marring the landscape, Sweden is facing an entirely different sort of challenge. Sweden has run out of trash and now they are forced to import some more.

The Swedish people, you see, are among the Planet's least wasteful people. They recycle on average around 96% of the garbage that they produce, which is rather impressive.

And for that what is left, after recycling and composting, they have found also a way to use it, having implemented a world-class waste-to-energy incineration program capable of providing electricity sufficient to power hundreds of thousands of homes.

Their hyper-efficiency, however, has led to a unique problem: namely a trash shortage that could threaten the country's energy production capacity.

Now, in order to overcome this strange shortage that other countries can but envy, according to Swedish officials, the notoriously tidy nation will begin importing garbage from their neighbor Norway; about 80,000 tons of it annually, in fact, to fulfill their energy needs.

Perhaps the best part of all is that, in solving their problem, Swedes actually stand to profit from this endeavor twofold. First they are able to continue (and even expand) their waste-to-energy program and second the Norwegians are going to pay them to take their waste, proving quite succinctly that one nation's trash can truly be another's treasure trove.

Should this not be a lesson to other countries, including the UK and the USA that there does not have to be waste and that it can become a source of energy and pride.

But all we hear in the UK is that it cannot possibly, while it works in Sweden (and other places), work in Britain. Why not? Because it would mean investing in infrastructure for such programs first and the British authorities are looking for profit from waste rather than anything else.

If we really want to reduce waste then we have to look to countries where it works – and also to the ways of the past as far as reuse and doing with less are concerned – and learn from those.

© 2012

TX attorney general says OSCE election monitors not permitted at voting stations in TX

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Texas FlagTexas Attorney General Abbott Tells says Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has no jurisdiction over Texas elections

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has advised the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe – a United Nations partner – that groups and individuals from outside the United States do not have jurisdiction to interfere with Texas elections and has apparently threatened to arrest international monitors sent to watch US election.

In response to the request to look over the American presidential election, the Vienna, Austria-based organization agreed to deploy 44 monitors to the United States earlier this month to watch for any wrongdoing, but those auditors are being told that Texas won’t stand for any interference from abroad.

Texas governor and former Republican Party candidate for president Rick Perry wrote through his Twitter account that any monitors or inspectors from the United Nations would be barred from taking part in anything involving the election process in the Lone Star State, commending the Texas secretary of state for “swift action to clarify the issue.”

Voters in Texas historically elect GOP electorates during the presidential election, and currently Republican Party candidate Mitt Romney is slated to be the expected victor next month according to the most recent polls.

One can but wonder what the Texas government has to hide. Then again,

if recent issues with the voting machines, the company which makes them is, strangely enough, associated with the GOP's presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, are anything to go by a great deal.

In some of the recent pre-election day voting – some US States vote, in truth, before the main Election Day – a majority of votes that were cast, according to those that voted, for Obama were returned as being cast for Romney.

It was claimed then that that was just a hiccup with the machines but there are many who believe a different tack and wonder as to whether the machines are rigged.

One can but wonder as to why, therefore, Texas wants no international election observers at its voting stations while they are the first to demand that elections in other countries are monitored by observers by the selfsame organization.

May the reader be the judge...

© 2012

How homeschooling could help the Planet

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Homeschooling could be of great benefit to the Planet, not to speak of the children.

As far as the Planet if concerned the fact is that if every child would be homeschooled millions of school bus journeys and even more car journeys in a day would become history.

Those journeys alone pump much pollution into the atmosphere, and I include the always exclusively CO2 emissions in the work pollution, often unnecessarily, as many children could walk or cycle to school.

The public school system, or let me rephrase that, the government school system, which should really be called brainwashing facilities, do not give children the chance to develop their individuality as should be their right. Instead they mould them, as is their task, into little slaves of the government.

Aside from the savings for Planet and pocket in not having to get the kids carted to school if they are being educated at home there are those savings of clothes and other things, including text books, exercise books, etc., as much of the writing the child needs to do can be done on waste paper, such as single side printed stuffs.

A child educated at home does not have to dress in a dress code appropriate manner and he or she can either be schooled wearing his or her play clothes or even his or her birthday suit and thus, once again, there are savings for the Planet and the parents' pocket, as no special school clothes or even school uniform will have to be purchased.

At home a child can also have a hairstyle that suits them and their parents and if that means that a boy has long hair and wants to have long hair, something that often does not go down well at all with the school, then he can and again a saving as no barber costs (unless one would cut the children's hair oneself).

The more children who are being homeschooled the less cost would be incurred by the local authorities as well as there would be no need for facilities, for school buses, for heating of school rooms, etc., and in many ways that also means another saving for the environment.

The fact is that homeschooling is legal in most if not indeed all of the USA and also in Britain. It is, however, illegal in Germany, while it would appear that some other EU countries have a much more lax approach to children being educated at home by their parents.

In the UK the minimum daily schooling a child must receive if being taught at home is two hours per day and I should think that that is possible for most people to achieve and it is also not necessary to follow the national curriculum.

This means that any child can develop at his or her own speed and is not being held back nor unduly pushed by targets and quota and all that jazz.

Homeschooling is a win/win for all including the Planet.

© 2012

School: daytime jail for children

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In the government brainwashing institution that is called public school no regard is given to the wishes of children that are being taught.

A state bureaucrat decides what they will learn, and when, and without having ever considered the needs of any of the children. A stranger they may or may not like will then teach them and shape their personality, and often this is done by forces, including physical force.

This system sees the individual child not as an individual with individual specific needs but as part of the group and thus will ensure that any individuality is suppressed.

The child want to learn geography? Sorry, they are being told that they are learning fractions right now. He or she wishes to carve wood or practice swimming or cook an omelet? Well, sorry, out of luck. They have decided they'd best learn about the French Revolution. And they will show an interest in the state-approved curriculum or they will be labeled a troublemaker.

Also, going to the bathroom without permission is a no, no. The child will just have to learn to hold it until it's convenient for the teacher. And that kid who calls him or her names everyday and pushes him or her on the bus? The attitude of the school generally is that they best get used to him or her because he or she be sitting next to him or her all year and, maybe, next year, too.

If the child get hungry during the day, then he or she is just out of luck there. The children are eat when they tell them and if they miss their family they are told to stop being a baby. We know what's best for you.

They will have to come and go as the teachers and the authorities see fit. They are forced to learn what they tell them. They are forced to be still and quiet and are allowed to speak only when permission is granted. And they are forced to become orderly, compliant, and obedient, if they know what's good for them.

And should there be an emergency then the school will go into lock-down and the parents will not be able to come and get them. The authorities will take the children to a “safe place”, one that they have decided that is “safe”, and they may, or may not, tell the parents of the kids where that is. Great place, isn't it? Well, welcome to school. Or shall we call it what it really is?

Jail. Yes. Jail. School is a daytime jail for children.

School is a brainwashing institution and daytime jail for children and some are worse than others, as we know, but still, in the main, they are all the same.

They are there to create robots, obedient slaves to the state and, as we have seen from history in many countries, are often used to spy out dissident adults by getting the kids to reveal this or that.

In the USA this has been tried not so long ago in some schools by asking children in questionnaires as to whether there were guns in the homes and whether the parents had political views and which they were and many more.

Some school districts make it illegal to talk evolution and they teach strict creationism – and those are US state schools and, theoretically there should be a separation between religion and state – and any child that has differing views will soon be told to shut it.

Just a little over a century ago schools in Britain and in the Prussian school system in Germany literally flogged children of the working class for wishing to “better” themselves and wanting to become teachers, or doctors, lawyers or politicians.

Don't have ideas above your stations, they were told, and then beaten into submission. The son of a farm laborer had to have no other ambition than to become a farm laborer like his father and the best that a girl of such a family could hope for was “to go into service” at the household of her betters.

The task, by law, so it would seem, of the school is to create puppets of the state and slaves to the system and no dissent is permitted.

However, there is an answer to that, at least in many countries and that is homeschooling. In the UK it is, probably, one of the easiest systems despite the fact that the authorities always try to tell parents that the law states that parents have a duty to send their children to school. In fact the law states no such thing. It states that parents have a duty to educate their children, and this can be at school or otherwise and is the latter that we must look at in that case, and even the national curriculum does not have to be followed and the child only needs to have a minimum of two hours of schooling.

Now, someone tell me again they can't school their own child or children. Get them out of jail and keep them out of the daytime jail of school is you want to raise children that question and who are equipped for a lifetime of learning.

© 2012

City may sue developer who spent $20,000 to remove 40 tons of trash from vacant lot

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

A business developer in the Philadelphia neighborhood of Point Breeze is facing legal action after voluntarily cleaning up more than 40 tons of trash from a vacant lot neighboring his local business.

As the old adage goes, no good deed goes unpunished.

A_Lot_webOri Feibush says he visited the local offices of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority four times, sent in seven written requests and made 24 phone calls to the agency asking them to take care of a major eyesore: an empty lot next to his coffee shop was home to more than 40 tons of debris.

Not only did the agency fail to act but it also denied Feibush's offer to clean up the mess himself.

But Feibush went ahead with his plans anyway, reportedly spending more than $20,000 of his own money not only to remove the trash but also to level the soil; add cherry trees, fencing and park benches; and repave the sidewalk.

"This was a lot of garbage," local resident Elaine McGrath told the paper. "Now it's gorgeous. I'm excited."

However, the city agency was less excited, demanding that Feibush return the vacant lot to its previous condition and saying it is considering legal action against him.

"Like any property owner, the authority does not permit unauthorized access to or alteration of its property," Paul D. Chrystie, director of communications at the Office of Housing and Community Development told the paper. "This is both on principle (no property owner knowingly allows trespassing) and to limit taxpayer liability."

And the situation is not without irony. Feibush says he received a citation in August 2011 from the city for litter on the same lot that the city now points out is not his property.

Nonetheless, the city's request puts Feibush in an unusual position. In theory, he committed a good deed, investing his own time and money to improve the condition of his neighborhood when city authorities refused to step up to the plate. But he also knowingly did so after the city refused his request to intervene.

The situation is almost like a reverse case of eminent domain, in which a private owner is attempting to revitalize a piece of public property.

For his part, though, Feibush thinks the city agency is jealous, and this is the way it would appear, I am sure, to most onlookers.

"For a private developer to create a garden, it's a question of who gets credit. To do it without their blessing, you're basically insulting them," he said. "I'm not looking for a thank-you, but I'm not looking for a big F.U."

One could probably say here “only in America” for I have yet to hear of this from any other country. Although I am not sure I am almost convinced that local authorities in the UK would react different and in other European countries too. A medal might be the result and not a telling off and the demand for compensation.

© 2012

City of Toronto Workers destroy free Community Food Garden amid growing food crisis

Occupy Gardens plants in Queens Park destroyed without harvesting food

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Amid a growing food crisis, on the morning of Friday, September 28, 2012, workers from the City of Toronto were ordered by City of Toronto Parks Director Richard Ubbens to remove all live plants and food from the People's Peas Garden in Queens Park.

occupy_toronto_gardens_destroyed_webThey were ordered to take the plants and food to the dump and lay sod over top of this most beautiful free community food garden, without warning, without a chance to remove the rare heirloom plant species or harvest the food.

The garden was planted by Occupy Gardens and allies on May 1st, in defense of local and global food security. While the garden has been growing undisturbed for nearly 5 months, with the help of hundreds in the community, the city deliberately decided to have it removed upon the eve of the Autumn Jam: A Harvest Party and celebration of sharing, community and free local food, which was going to happen on Saturday from 12-6pm at the garden in Queens Park (northwest section).

The reason? The people did not have permission to grow free food on public land. I come from a city and country where one does not need permission to do the right thing. We are experiencing a "glocal" food crisis, where more and more people are lining up at food banks for kraft dinner and peanut butter, waiting lists for community gardens are growing, food prices rising, and our leaders are nowhere to be seen. Rather they are hiding behind their desk ordering the workers to destroy whatever hope we have left.

We need help sharing this story far and wide.

We will be having our Autumn Jam harvest party/vigil tomorrow as scheduled from 12noon-6pm in the northwest section of Queens Park.

On Monday, September 17, 2012 gardeners had traveled to Ottawa on a Peas Keeping mission for national, global food security, where they planted a free heart-shaped food garden on Parliament Hill, at which point the RCMP stomped on the plants and threatened to arrest people, so the people present removed the plants and relayed the sod.

While it, to an extent, the action of the Parks Authorities are understandable as, in case the same law as in the UK might apply then parks and open spaces are, in fact, not public spaces but are private property, owned by the local authorities, with public access granted and thus the action of the occupiers were and are unlawful.

However, in the UK the ideas have been floated to create – though it has not happened as yet – community gardens in the (public) parks and in some parks in Germany this has, indeed, happened. And in the latter case people are welcomed to help themselves to the food grown for free.

We need more community gardens of this kind where people (in need) can grown and get food for, basically, free, and not have them ripped up.

© 2012

Anglian launches Energy Smart Kids activity booklet to get kids switched on to energy saving

Winter is an expensive time for families, with Halloween, fireworks parties and Christmas all on the horizon, while the colder temperatures and darker days mean our energy consumption is on the increase. That’s why Anglian Home Improvements has launched a fun Energy Smart Kids activity booklet to help get your children switched on to energy saving and become more energy aware.

Anglia kids book_webThe latest round of energy price hikes mean we’ll all be watching the pennies more than ever this year, so the sooner you can start cutting your energy bills the better. Getting children to understand the importance of switching the lights and television off when they’re not using them can make a huge difference to your bills as well as the environment.

Anglian’s activity booklet is full of fun energy saving puzzles and games to help young children understand why energy saving is important, as well as keeping them occupied for a few hours at no expense over a dreary half term or chilly weekend. It can be downloaded free of charge from the Anglian website,

And while they’re busy solving the word searches and puzzles, why not spend some time thinking about some of the more fundamental changes you can make to the energy efficiency of your home? With around 30% of a home’s heat being lost through windows and doors, energy efficient windows should be high on your Christmas list this year.

Anglian Home Improvements is an Energy Saving Trust Recommended supplier and offers a broad selection of stylish and energy efficient products, including windows, doors conservatories, roof trim, solar panels and much more. For more information and to view the full product range, visit the Anglian Home Improvements website.

Established in 1966, Anglian Home Improvements is the UK’s leading home improvements company, responsible for the employment of 4500 people. With more than 45 years’ experience of providing UVPC double-glazing windows, Anglian ensures it is ahead of the competition with a continuing research and development programme. Anglian offers an extensive range of home improvement products, including double glazing replacement windows and doors, conservatories, driveways, solar products, garage conversions and roof trims.

This press release is presented for your information only.

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

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service or company mentioned.

Anglian announces competition to win energy saving windows during Big Energy Saving Week

Win during Big Energy Saving Week

Big-Energy-Saving-Week-logo_smlAnglian Home Improvements has launched a competition that will see one lucky homeowner win £7,000 of energy efficient windows just by sharing their top energy saving tips online.

Announced to mark the start of Big Energy Saving Week, which runs from 22 to 27 October, the competition offers a perfect way to improve the energy efficiency of your home, keeping your house warmer and your bills lower at a time when energy prices are on the increase yet again.

In a recent survey by Anglian Home Improvements, 94% of UK homeowners asked said they want to become more energy efficient, yet only 37% currently rate themselves as such. Despite the fact that around 30% of a home’s heat is lost through windows and doors, 40% of us still don’t have energy efficient windows or doors – so here’s a perfect opportunity to put that right.

To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is share your top energy-saving tips with Anglian via Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest using the hashtag #BESW, or post them on the Anglian blog. Your ideas, gadgets and designs can be original, creative, unusual or downright quirky. A selection of the tips received will be showcased on the Big Energy Saving Week page of the Anglian Home Improvements website so you can pick up some useful hints and ideas there too.

Anglian’s energy saving, industry leading windows offer superb performance. They are completely draught-free when closed and keep heat loss to a minimum, which means the amount of energy needed to keep your house warm is reduced – and that’s good both for the environment and your bank balance.

The competition is open to UK homeowners and full terms and conditions can be found on the Anglian Home Improvements website.

Established in 1966, Anglian Home Improvements is the UK’s leading home improvements company, responsible for the employment of 4500 people. With more than 45 years’ experience of providing UVPC double-glazing windows, Anglian ensures it is ahead of the competition with a continuing research and development programme. Anglian offers an extensive range of home improvement products, including double glazing replacement windows and doors, conservatories, driveways, solar products, garage conversions and roof trims.

This press release is presented for your information only.

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

This article is for your information only and the GREEN (LIVING) REVIEW does not (necessarily) approve, endorse or recommend the product, service or company mentioned.

Secular democracy on the march in the Muslim world?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The short and most simple answer to this question would be to say “hardly” but that might be as little too short.

The truth is, however, that it is a myth that secular democracy is on the march in the Muslim world and, in fact, it would more appear that the countries that experienced the so-called “Arab Spring” now are on the brink, and almost all of them, of being run by Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood and similar.

However, whether we like it or not, if that be the will of the people of those countries we do best not to interfere and to stay well clear of it. Not that America will do that, nor some other countries, as they just tend to decide what is best for the people.

The USA has the attitude that only American-style democracy – forgetting that the US is not even meant to be a democracy but a constitutional republic – is what people are allowed to implement.

This could be seen with the elections in Nicaragua and that returned Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega as president, which independent observers, including President Jimmy Carter, declared cleaner more democratic than the US elections. The US government at the time of that election wanted to declare it null and void as, according to them, Ortega should not have become president.

While the US and NATO countries may have helped to “liberate” some of the countries that were involved in the “Arab Spring” uprising that still does not give us the right to interfere in how the people decide they wish to be governed. Nor, however, should our governments try to give the world the impression, and especially their people, that those states are becoming secular, western-style, democracies. They are not. Simple as that.

Time and again, however, it would appear, the powers that be in the US and the UK, etc., treat their people like imbeciles and small children and intend to tell us fairy tales. This shows how those that are supposed to be leaders of our countries – not that we should have any in the first place – perceive the people.

It is also amazing that they scream about freedoms for people in foreign countries, a free press and a free Internet in countries such as Iran, etc., while, at the same time, they are curtailing the very same freedoms they demand for others in their own countries.

We must allow the people of other nations to make their own decisions without corporations such as the USA and the UK and their masters interfering in those peoples' affairs and whether the form of government that they chose is not the one that the West would love them to chose then that is neither here nor there but it is the choice of the respective people and for them to deal with.

It is time that the West (and I think most readers will understand the countries that are involved in that list) stopped interfering in other countries' affairs and that our military dealt with the job it is tasked to do; defending the realm. Afghanistan and Iraq are not part of that realm. The realm is the country and dependencies but no more. It would make the world and our countries too a safer place.

© 2012

Every citizen should be a soldier

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

When Thomas Jefferson said: “Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state”, he did not, as some people claim, refer to all Americans being responsible for upholding and defending the original vision, values, and fabric of the United States – and being ever-vigilant against those who might try to co-opt it for their own advantage over the will of the people. And neither to everyone being soldiers in the day by day struggle to keep our country free and strong and uncorrupted by special interests or the powerful elite.

What he was referring to was about not having a national military, but local militias and that is what the Second Amendment to the US Constitution is all about, namely a citizen army. He knew the problems of having a large standing military. The latter is, in fact, outlawed by the very Constitution.

And not only was he talking about local militias, but he favored the government issuing a weapon to any man who couldn't afford one himself and we are here not talking about hunting guns but military firearms.

Switzerland works with a citizen army and is doing nicely, thanks, and if the task of the military, as in Switzerland, is only, as it also should be according to the US Constitution, the defense of the country in case of an attack, then a militia of minutemen could do the job much better than any (large) standing army.

Switzerland does have conscription of all young men age 18 and all (able) males remain citizen soldiers until age 55 and that too is compulsory. However, the way it was with the original militia it would simply mean that it will be the requirement for all citizens – and why should women be excluded – to be minutemen and -women.

The ancient militia law in Britain required, once upon a time, that every male above the age of 12 trained with a longbow every Sunday after church and while the requirements changed the law remained and in the end the requirement was for every male above 12 to keep and maintain a firearm and, in fact, all gun laws in the UK are, theoretically, not valid as the militia law was never repealed.

A militia of all citizens is all that is required for the defense of the realm. There is no need for a standing army to defend the country, though a coast guard may be something that might be required in order to ensure that the territorial waters of the country are safe.

A army of citizens would be a serious deterrent to any invading force as people who know their localities and who know how to use insurgent tactics, as the Swiss military would operate, would be a force that could not be conquered except by wiping, basically, everyone out in the country.

It would also save a lot of problems and money and would, if every country would work with a militia only, do away with wars and suffering around the world.

© 2012

The myth of paperless

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Time and again misguided and misinformed environmentalists try too tell us that we should all ditch paper for digital and go paperless and they claim that that would save millions of trees and the rainforests.

But, just pause for a moment and think. Where does most wood for the paper mills come from? No, not from “virgin” forests and not at all from the tropical rainforests. The wood of the latter is hardwood which is unsuitable for paper pulp, for starters.

Most wood for paper pulp comes from softwoods, and this also includes, in many places one or two deciduous tree species, such as birch and poplar. The great majority of trees grown for paper, if not indeed all of them, come from managed sources and the great majority from forests that are owned and manages by the paper companies.

If we would all stop using paper what would happen to those trees? It is a little like people believing that we all would become vegetarians or even vegan that all those farm animals currently raised for meat would have such a great life. Like the animals who would be destroyed if all the world would turn vegetarian or vegan those trees would be grubbed out and the land would be used for other purposes if there would no longer be a demand for paper and paper products.

There are millions of acres of trees worldwide that are grown with but one purpose, namely the production of paper. And those millions of acres of trees, when felled for paper pulp, are replanted and this constant rotation provides some of the best carbon sequestration possible.

The fact is that if all of us would go paperless and thus there would no longer be a market for paper products, be those books, newspapers, magazines, or what-have-you we would be the poorer for it as far as forest cover is concerned.

It is true, however, that it would be best if many of those forests grown for paper would be converted to mixed deciduous woods where possible as those give us much better forest products in the end than the conifers that are grown for paper pulp.

Then again there are marginal lands that can grow that kind of timber well while they cannot support broadleaved trees or agriculture.

Paper, whether for writing or for books will remain whatever certain people would like to think and hope and this is a good thing. But, we must not waste this either and when it comes to paper there are other plants that can provide a better pulp material still, such as hemp and, though I do not think that it has been tried as yet, maybe even stinging nettles.

Stinging nettle is a fibrous material that was used in days gone by, including the First World War to make canvas and other cloth. The clothing used by the British Iceni tribe during the time of the Roman occupation of the British Isles. Thus it may be suitable, though, as said, I do not know whether it has been tried as yet, to use it for the making of paper. Hemp, we all know, has been used for paper before.

In fact there was a time when it was reckoned that hemp could be used to replace the base material for the making of paper instead of wood pulp but then some bright spark decided to, basically, outlaw the growing of hemp as it is cannabis sativa and I believe that that answers the question as to why.

Going paperless will not save trees, to be honest. The opposite rather might be true. There are always two sides to a story and it is good to see both sides.

© 2012

Growing up without much in way of material possessions

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Growing up we never had the best house, the best car, or the most money, but we were surrounded by people who loved us, took care of us and taught us things.

We also had a sense of valuing everything that we did have, by way of materials things, instilled in us and also how to make things that we wanted from almost nothing.

In fact, coming from Romany-Gypsy background, a house was not the initial residence of mine in the first place. It was caravan and tent. Though there were times that we lived in houses, often on farms, and other places, that were not the finest of palaces for sure. It did not matter, however, for material things, we were taught, did not make you happy, and neither money.

Having very little in my childhood probably has turned me into a pack rat ever since I have been settled as I tend to keep anything and everything that might be of use. I still don't worry too much as to those status symbols of society, that is to say a nice house and a car. The latter would be to be about as useful as teats on a boar, as I do not drive.

Having learned as a child to make things from almost nothing I have retained this mindset and look at everything that I find and almost everything that is regarded as trash with a view of reusing, repurposing and upcycling it.

Anything that has a chance of being repaired will be retained and tinkered with to get it going again and, as I don't drive and thus cycle, every abandoned bicycle that I come across – well almost – is taken home and used for rebuilding bicycles and often this is a case of out of three make one or thereabouts.

Growing up the way I did taught me to value things and to look after what I have. Thus I am not the greatest for getting the economy going. I try to make things last and also make my own things as much as I can, be those my own notebooks, my own pencil bins, reusing glass jars as drinking vessels, or whatever.

When I was a child clothes were at a premium as well as where shoes and we would wear clothes that were hand-me-downs and that had patches and repairs almost everywhere and they were worn until we had grown out of them and then they might still be used by younger siblings or cousins.

To make the clothes last even longer we would often end up – and this would be most of the summer – going sans clothes, especially the boys, and it definitely did us no harm. It was much easier and cheaper to wash us than our clothes.

© 2012

Doctors in UK refuse to give prescriptions unless people take flu shots

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

It would appear that the new approach of doctors in Britain is that unless the patient will take the flu jab they are being refused any prescriptions, especially as regards to colds and the flu.

There is no compulsion for taking the flu jab in Britain despite what some doctors may have begun to infer. No vaccination is compulsory, period; at least not as yet, by legislation and any general practitioner or any other doctor refusing to treat a patient if he or she does refuse to take the flu vaccination should immediately be reported to the British Medical Association and also the patient should contact his or her Member of Parliament. Such behavior amongst doctors must be weeded out.

Don't get bullied, not even by your GP.

© 2012

Simple hand washing could reduce more than 80% of the world's diseases

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

According to Pillar Banza Moreno, Public Health Officer & Coordinator, Maban, South Sudan, the small and simple act and practice of regular hand washing could reduce more than 80% of the world's diseases.

665145_538612929485469_361419722_oHowever, most of the poor in the developing world do not have access to soap and good water. The issue with soap is a simple one and there are some charities that are taking the small soap bars from hotels that have been used often only once and convert this into bars of soap to be distributed in the Third World countries.

Simple washing of hands with soap and (hot) water not only can prevent and reduce the diseases in the Third World countries but also can prevent MRSA and other super bugs in the hospitals in the First World.

The reason for those super bugs is always being claimed to be the fact that we have become resistant to antibiotics due to its overuse in animal husbandry.

The truth, however, is, and often they try to keep it hidden, that nurses (and doctors) do not actually wash their hands, as used to be common, between dealing with patients.

Even when nurses use surgical gloves they, more often than not, go from patient to patient wearing the same pair of gloves and do not, as they should, dispose and done new between patients.

Often the nurses claim that they simply do not have the time to do that but that, in my opinion, is no excuse and just is not valid. Changing gloves takes but a few seconds and while washing hands takes a little longer it can and does save lives.

Let's get soap and water back into use and prevent diseases.

© 2012

British police mistake blind man's white cane for Samurai sword

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Police officers in Chorley, Lancashire, have tasered a blind man because the mistook his white cane for a Samurai sword.

It would appear that British police officers cannot be trusted with a taser guns as they seem to be incapable of distinguishing between the white cane of a blind person and a Samurai sword.

And this is not an isolated incident for sure. There have been a number of taser uses where one should never have been drawn such as the incident when an autistic youngster was tasered by a cop some months back.

It is only good that British police officers, in fact, do not want to carry firearms for we can just imagine how that would turn out.

It has been said that a person has more chance being killed by a cop than by a mugger and it would appear that this is beginning to become the case for sure.

The predominant reason for this is that too many officers of the old school have left the forces and there seem to be too many trigger happy cops, many of them young and never having been teamed up with a real old-style beat bobby, who think that they are the law and not just law enforcement officers.

This attitude is not all that new having encountered a police officer from the Metropolitan Police some thirty years ago who exclaimed when asked to do his job “I am the law” and had to be put right by being told, “No, officer, you are not the law, you are a law enforcement officer (and so am I, but from a different service)” and having a badge waved in front of his face.

We have had before, that must me said too, also fatal encountered between members of the public and armed police such in the case of an old man who carried, for some reason, a table leg which firearms officers mistook for a shotgun.

One can but wonder whether the training of front-line officers needs to be seriously upgraded so that they can learn to act and react properly in stress situations.

© 2012

Switzerland prepares its Army for Euro Zone Fallout

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

With anti-austerity protests across Europe resulting in civil unrest on the streets of Athens and Madrid, the European country famed for its neutrality is taking unusual precautions.

In September 2012 Switzerland launched the military exercise "Stabilo Due" to respond to the current instability in Europe and to test the speed at which its army can be dispatched. The country is not a member of the European Union nor is it among the seventeen countries that share the Euro.

Swiss newspaper “Der Sonntag” reported recently that the exercise centred around a risk map created in 2010, where army staff detailed the threat of internal unrest between warring factions as well as the possibility of refugees from Greece, Spain, Italy, France, and Portugal.

Switzerland's armed forces are not a professional nor a standard conscripts force. It is, in fact, a citizen militia and every Swiss male between eighteen and fifty-five years of age is a citizen soldier; literally a Minuteman, ready to defend the country at a moment's notice.

The Swiss defense ministry said that it does not rule out having to deploy troops in the coming years and a spokesperson for the ministry continued: "It's not excluded that the consequences of the financial crisis in Switzerland can lead to protests and violence. The army must be ready when the police in such cases requests for subsidiary help."

Some 2,000 troops were part of the drill exercise in eight different towns across the country. Infantry soldiers were used as well as the Air Force and special forces personnel in an assignment that took years to organize.

As a neutral country Switzerland is probably one of the best defended countries of Europe and has one of the highest number of legal gun ownership and -possession in Europe also.

In spite of this high gun ownership and -possession, or maybe because of it, it has one of the lowest crime rates of all the European countries, nullifying the claims by so many countries that have strict gun laws that unless guns are out of the hands of civilians there will be mayhem and crime.

Some Swiss that I know actually believe that the very fact that every man in Switzerland has almost instant access to a gun and is legally permitted to defend himself, his family and home accounts for the low crime rates.

Seeing the state of preparedness that the country is putting itself into with regards to the Euro Zone and possible fallout should the currency collapse should, maybe, tell us all something.

The truth is that the Euro has always been on very shaky ground although no one in the governments of most of the EU members states and especially those that use the Euro have been willing to understand and admit that.

Any default of Greece with regards to the bailout that it has been given from the European Central Bank could topple the dominoes that make up the rest of that zone and the fallout will – it is not a might – affect not just the countries of the Euro Zone and also not just the states of the EU. Its repercussions will be felt on the entire continent of Europe and also much further afield.

Thus, maybe, the Swiss are right to ready themselves and I guess we best follow their example.

© 2012

Australian school children left hungry – report

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Health and social experts say thousands of Australian children are suffering at school because their parents cannot afford to properly feed them and the same is true also for the UK and for many other developed countries today.

A report released on October 16, 2012 by Anglicare Australia estimates about forty-fivefold-thousand households accessing its emergency relief services do not have enough money to adequately feed their families and of this group, twenty-two-thousand go without food for a whole day ... at least once a week ... and almost one in ten are children.

According to the agency's executive director some parents are keeping their children home from school on days they cannot afford to put food in their lunch boxes.

To that that this is a sad state of affairs and even that it is a a grave indictment is putting it rather mildly and it shows how far we have sunk, as countries, when this is happening, once again.

Countries, as much as corporations, and then again most countries are, nowadays nothing but corporations, are putting profit before people and this proves, once again, how broken the system is, and society.

We need a news system, not a new government. A system where people once again count and where people and the Planet are in the center of things and not profit and dividends for shareholders.

© 2012

Germany tries to make professional salvagers illegal

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

In fact since June 2012 the scrap metal of private individuals/households is regarded as household waste and thus it belongs, would you believe it, to the municipalities as soon as it becomes obsolete and a scrap metal dealer is committing a crime, even when the person calls him to pick it up, when he picks up say the old washing machine.

SchrottWhat this law is trying to do is to make the trade of the “rag and bone man” illegal simply because they, the governments, see that there is money to be made in scrap metal and thus they want to get the stuff rather than allowing someone else to make a living by collecting it.

The private person can no longer even decide as to whether he or she want to put her old radiators, washing machine, cooker, or exhaust pipes, into the hands of a professional salvager or into the municipal bulk waste containers. By law such scrap now has to go into the municipal bulk waste collection and it is a felony, so it would seem, to do otherwise.

They talk about creating jobs in the green economy while at the same time destroying the old trades of the salvager and others. It would appear that the jobs are to be created by government and must be filled by employees. The independent salvager is not considered.

This law could – no will – put thousands of independent small scrap metal dealers and scrap yards and salvage yards out of business. Thus, instead of creating jobs the government manages to create unemployment.

Most of those scrap metal business in Germany and elsewhere are operated by people from the Gypsy community and forcing them on welfare seems to be the reason for creating such laws. Once they are on welfare they are no longer independent and can then be forced into the system.

One of the reasons given for the creation of this law and for making the calling for scrap illegal are the thefts of (scrap) metal but it would appear as if a real shoot in the foot may be the result here.

The world has gone mad and it is time to breathe some sanity back into it.

As said, we don't need a new government, we need a new system...

© 2012

US Military about to take away guns from veterans to stop suicides

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The US Military has revealed a plan to take way the guns of veterans to supposedly stop suicides. However, as far as I am concerned, and I doubt that I am the only one, another reason for this appears much more likely.

The most likely reason for wanting to remove guns from the hands of the veterans is that veterans are the main people in America who will defend the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic and it is the veterans that also have the skills to do so.

It is that which in truth has the US government so very worried and it is for that reason, more than any other, that they want to get those guns. The veterans, as I said, could just be THE people who would defend the country against excesses of the government.

Under the guise of being concerned to prevent veterans, possibly, killing themselves (and others) after coming back from the illegal wars and conflicts in which the US and NATO allies are involved in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and soon, more than likely, Syria and Iran, the US authorities want to disarm the very people that could be dangerous to them should they, the government, move against the people.

If they really would be concerned about the veterans' mental health then (1) they would provide them with proper post-operations counselling, etc. and (2) would also be considered about their access to drugs with which they could kill themselves, knives which which they cut cut their arteries, etc. But no, it is the guns in the hands of those veterans that the US government is only concerned about.

I guess anyone who is not wearing rose-tinted glasses or blinkers would be able to see the direction from which the wind is blowing as regards to this issue.

Beware of governments... they are far from benign...

© 2012

De Dopper Reusable Water Bottle – Product Review

De Dopper, the perfect bottle for tap water.

Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

De DopperDe Dopper, or the Dopper (depending on language), is the perfect tap water bottle. It is sustainable, practical, and fashionable.

The Dopper is an initiative for the promotion of tap water and the reduction of plastic waste. For this purpose, the Dopper has introduced the perfect tap water bottle; durable, convenient and nicely designed.

Using a Dopper bottle means that you will no longer need to buy so-called “spring” water in disposable bottles, which will reduce plastic waste.

I was given a Dopper bottle as a promotional freebie (thank you very much indeed) by a company exhibiting at the 100% Design Show 2012 that I attended at Earls Court. I was so taken by the design of it that I decided to review it and let the readers know about it.

Trust the Dutch and the Danes, and in this case it is the Dutch, to come up with a great design and concept for a reusable tap water bottle.

Best of all is that it is not just designed in the Netherlands by Rinke van Remortel but it is also manufactured there with a zero carbon footprint, is free of BPA, as it is made of Polypropylene, and supports drinking water projects in Asia and Africa.

The best part of the bottle, and that's where there design comes in, is that it disassembles into three parts, the bottle, the cup (yes, a cup, as long as you leave the cap in place), and the cap.

This also makes is easy to hygienically clean the bottle by either using the dishwasher (the bottle is dishwasher-safe) or, and that is my recommendation, using a dishwashing brush with hot soapy water.

This three-part design is the best that I have so far seen in any reusable water bottle and it enables, as said, to really clean the bottle. Many others just cannot be cleaned properly as the size of the neck does not allow for good access.

I have rarely seen a reusable water bottle that well thought out and designed (and no, the company is not paying me to say this).

Polypropylene, while being a plastic, does not contain BPA and can also, should it ever be necessary that you want to dispose of the Dopper bottle, be recycled (almost) everywhere.

This bottle would fall under the “good plastic” as it is a plastic bottle that can safely be used time and again probably for a lifetime and its use does away with the one-way use PET bottles with the so-called “spring” water which also costs a fortune to buy.

In the Netherlands alone every day at least half a million of plastic (water) bottles are thrown away. Most of those, regardless of recycling schemes, end up on the rubbish dumps, on the street, in the rivers and finally in the sea.

Tap water can be had for almost nothing and many cities around the world do have free public drinking water fountains where you can fill up a bottle such as the Dopper.

Great design and great bottle...

© 2012