Surviving climate-change… Call it “refocussing”, Sajid… The EU needs to make an example of Hungary, and fast… The Wit and Wisdom of Donald J Trump #27… GW: and the heat goes on… The water no works – a personal reflection (May contain embarrassing medical details).

 

Surviving climate-change 

Near where I live is an unspoilt bay, and behind the beach is a low-lying, reclaimed estuary, from where in the 1850s the river was diverted away along the coast to deliver more water to the harbor.

Separating the two is just a shingle bar.

And living in a blue, two-room tent on the land side of the shingle bar, protected by a fence made from driftwood and stuff in garbage bags, is a homeless man.

He’s been there since last autumn.

He seems to bear a charmed life, as every spring-tide and storm surge now washes right over the barrier into the river and the fields behind. How the waves don’t wash him away, seems like some kind of miracle.

Truly he’s an inspiration to us all.

 

Home Office News

Call it “refocussing”.

“94 year old South African Myrtle Cothill visited her only daughter Mary, aged 68, in the UK in 2014. Whilst in the UK, Myrtle’s health deteriorated and her family were told that if she left she would be at greater risk of death within months of her return to South Africa. After a huge public outcry Myrtle was granted leave (to stay) on human rights grounds in 2016. But she is left to pay the fees to extend her visa every 2.5 years. It’s a huge financial burden as Myrtle obviously cannot work, her 68-year-old daughter Mary lives on a small pension, and Mary’s 62-year-old husband David (who suffers from Parkinson’s) battles on working part-time as a cashier in a supermarket.” – Petitioner, Jan Doerfel

Yes, the Home Office is once again threatening to order their barely sentient G4S goons to wrestle a 94-year-old blind woman with health issues onto a plane back to South Africa, where she has no living relations, her only daughter being British (a former nurse, and a registered carer).

But if she bungs the government twelve hundred quid, she can hang on for another couple of years.

Are we really that hard up, we have to start blackmailing vulnerable elderly couples caring for their aged parents?

Have we really become so intolerably nasty, cruel, miserly and grasping a nation? The sixth largest economy in the world? For why?

Oh, right. No room for foreigners, eh? When 6 per cent of the land mass of Britain is categorized as “developed”, we clearly have a problem finding space.

Except in Myrtle’s case, obviously. She’s living in her daughter’s house. The house is already there. So the problem doesn’t arise, does it.

Oh, well, what about Resources, eh? She’s non-productive and eating up our taxes demanding NHS healthcare for complex issues.

So am I (see below). And I get paid the State pension for doing it. Pay me £100 thousand and I’ll leave tomorrow. Cheap at the price.

And by the way, I doubt she qualifies for free NHS care, after only two years on a temporary residency visa.

But she’s not like us, she’s a funny color!

Actually not. She looks just like your grandma. And mine. But she does have a funny accent, so let’s send her back to bongo-bongo land.

Mrs May’s big election manifesto promise was to take care of the “Just about managing” lower-middle class. A promise totally, some might say cynically, abandoned as she teeters helplessly this way and that atop a fence of her own making over her party’s irreconcilable divisions on Brexit strategy, a crisis that has subsumed all other policy delivery and thwarted the functions of responsible governance.

Millions of people like “Mary” and “David” are living under this Toryshambles in conditions of worrying borderline poverty, many of them elderly first-generation migrants, a small step from potential disaster, watching their tiny incomes and benefits shrink while their costs of living rise inexorably. The coming reprise of the banking crisis will destroy them.

Conditions, one has to add, entirely brought upon themselves by the “Just about managing” class voting (twice, at least) in what seems like total ignorance for this historic blunder: the double-whammy of an inept minority Tory government buoyed up by Irish bigots, and Brexit.

Against this background runs an undercurrent of xenophobic resentment encouraged by the media targeting the same demographic, that has infected the bureaucracy so deeply that only root and branch reform can weed it out. And who can be bothered?

With so many injustices piling up as a result of Theresa May’s “Hostile Environment” policy on immigration (clergymen’s daughters are the worst, ain’t they?), the unthinking autocrat’s political solution to competent humanitarianism, the Home Secretary clearly has some Home Work to do over the holidays, don’t you, Sajid?

Call it “refocussing”? It’s enough to make you tear your hair out.

Er…. Oh.

 

“Europe is entering a new dark age. But it is already too late. They have no idea how dark the age is going to get”

The EU needs to make an example of Hungary, and fast

Or, then, you could consider the case of Hungary.

In 1956, a student protest escalated into a fullscale revolt against communist rule and the government fell. The Soviet Union sent tanks into the capital. “On 4 November”, recalls Wikipedia, “a large Soviet force invaded Budapest and other regions of the country. The Hungarian resistance continued until 10 November. Over 2,500 Hungarians and 700 Soviet troops were killed in the conflict, and 200,000 Hungarians fled as refugees.”

To cement his position in power, here in July 2018 the ultra-rightwing nationalist demagogue and one-time liberal protégé of George Soros, President Victor Orban has pushed through legislation, among other things criminalizing NGOs that provide aid to legitimate asylum seekers in his country. Hungary is barring its doors to refugees in open defiance of the UN Convention and EU law, to secure the popularity of this calculating thug among his white supremacist bigots re-running old battles against the Ottomans.

Open Democracy reports:

“The new laws target individuals and groups who provide assistance – including legal advice – to asylum seekers. Those convicted face up to 1 year imprisonment. NGOs that provide advice and assistance to refugees also face a potentially crippling tax of 25%.

“The legislative changes were labelled the ‘Stop Soros‘ laws. George Soros is a Hungarian-American billionaire financier and philanthropist. He has given large sums of money to immigrant and human rights groups over the years. He has also long been the target of far-right and antisemitic conspiracy theorists, including in his native Hungary.”

For the Orwellian fanatics beginning their assault on European democracies, it’s essential to have a hate figure, and for the expediently anti-Semitic, Islamophobic Orban the Hungarian-born Jew, Soros, who once paid for him to go to Oxford university, will do; just as Turkish voters are being taught by the clearly insane President Erdogan that his former friend and colleague, the exiled cleric Fetullah Gülen, is responsible for their ills; almost all of which have been brought about by Erdogan’s own economic incompetence and dogwhistle isolationism.

Was this Hungarian refugee kid maybe you, Orban, you miserable, ungrateful little fucker?

Clearly, this overbearing item, Orban has no grateful recollection of the events of 1956. I do, I remember my grandmother, an officer in the Red Cross, being dispatched to Vienna to process his terrified refugee family – at least, those like them who perhaps did not collaborate – and bring them to safety in the UK.

(That was the year after my grandfather, a postwar economic adviser to the Hungarian government and senior wartime MI6 executive, met a suspicious death in 1955 while ‘on holiday’ in neighboring Yugoslavia.)

We took in 27 thousand Hungarians, and if the Home Office were doing its job it would now round up any surviving refugees and their “British” offspring and intern the whole fucking lot in a camp on the Isle of Man, to remind Hungary what the outcome of their beloved leader’s pro-Russian fascist policies will inevitably be.

Buit they won’t, because I feel sure there is some not-so secret admiration in the British government for Orban’s hardline stance on immigration.

If Orban does vaguely connect with the events that must have affected his family 62 years ago, it has moved nothing in his black and empty soul, other than a hatred of the left, of anti-authoritarianism. It goes without saying, this shitty fucker needs to be expelled from the European Union, and fast.

Nothing in his expedient regime meets the rules and higher aspirations of the Union, so he should take his Ruritanian rutted feudal demesne, get on his ox-cart, and leave, now. Let him serve the Russian Tsar. We should not waste another tax cent on the bastards.

What ambitious pigs like Orban, Austrian vice-president Strache, pretty-boy Wilders, the Le Pen Addams family and Italy’s curiously not-quite Prime Minister, the n’drangheta mob-sponsored Salvini – not to mention Rees-Mogg, Johnson and the rest of the Brexit cunts – are not noticing, is that they have almost no time left in which to work their shitty little power-plays.

It’s over.

We’ve fucked the planet. Something entirely new and different from the 1930s is needed now, and they ain’t got it.

Europe is entering a new dark age. But it is already too late. The current crop of rightwing hopefuls have no idea how dark the age is soon going to get for them and everybody else.

 

The Wit and Wisdom of Donald J Trump #279

Speaking at a veterans’ fundraiser in West Virginia, Trump solemnly informed the gathering that coal is the best form of energy for “national security” because it’s “indestructible”. You can’t bomb it, like you can a pipeline, and it’s not affected by rain…. (Yes, he said that!)

Mr Trump has previously imagined at a rally last year that “clean coal”, a scientific term referring to storing carbon emissions from coal-fired power stations underground, an expensive technology still at the experimental stage, meant you wash the dirt off before burning it. Seriously.

We can only imagine that Mr Trump’s fascination with coal derives from his gratitude to some of his biggest donors, Koch Industries and Murray Energy.

Meanwhile, investigations are focussing on Mr Trump’s relationship with Fox News, which, it now appears, may have made $15 million-worth of undeclared campaign contributions to his election campaign in 2016 through hours of free advertising masquerading as serious reportage.

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GW: and the heat goes on

Japan: “Flooding and landslides have killed at least (76) people and left dozens missing in western areas of Japan. Most of the deaths have occurred in Hiroshima prefecture, which has been hit by torrential rain since Thursday. Hundreds of homes have been damaged. About 1.5 million people have been ordered to leave their homes and three million more advised to do so. Authorities say it could potentially be the worst weather disaster Japan has seen in decades. … In the town of Motoyama, 600km west of Tokyo, 583mm (23in) of rain fell between Friday morning and Saturday morning.” – BBC News, 08 July

Pakistan: “Severe weather, including dust storms and heavy rainfall, has affected parts of Punjab Province in Pakistan over the last few days. At least 6 people died after flooding in Lahore, capital city of Punjab province, on 03 July. Local media reported record levels of rainfall in the city. Further heavy rain fell in other areas of the province the following day. … a further 7 people have died and 29 injured in different areas of Punjab Province since the flooding in Lahore.”

Nigeria: “Local media are reporting that at least 8 people have died in flooding in Niger State. At least 2 others are still missing.”

USA: “Heavy rain caused surface flooding in Houston, Texas, on 04 July. Some central areas recorded 7.8 inches (in 24 hrs). Several bayous, including the White Oak Bayou, broke their banks. 3 southern Minnesota counties have declared a state of emergency as flooding caused by torrential rains washed out roads and damaged property.” – Edited from Floodlist reports.

“Thousands were forced to leave their homes in Santa Barbara County, Ca. on Saturday as a fast-moving wildfire driven by strong winds and triple-digit temperatures destroyed 20 homes and other buildings, and officials declared a local emergency. The Holiday Fire, one of more than three dozen major blazes burning across the US west, broke out on Friday evening and raced through the seaside foothills. The flames forced more than 2,000 people to flee their homes, and left thousands more without power.” – Guardian, 08 July

Italy: “As much as 130 mm of rain (5 in.) fell in under 4 hours on 03 July in the town of Moena and surrounding areas in the province of Trentino, northern Italy. The torrential rain caused rivers to overflow and sent mud and flood water raging through Moena’s streets. Other areas of the province also saw severe weather, including thunderstorms, lightning strikes and strong winds.”

UK: Our heatwave continues – still no sign of rain in West Wales. Wildfires continue to burn here, and outside Manchester. Scotland has recorded its hottest ever day, according to provisional figures from the Met Office. On Thursday 28 June, a temperature of 33.2C degrees was measured in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire.

Atlantic: after a month of quiet, the first Atlantic hurricane is strengthening for an assault on the Lesser Antilles islands. Hurricane Beryl is tiny: only 35 miles wide, but packin’ a punch. (Latest: No, Beryl has weakened to a TS but a new system is forming SW of Bermuda. Sea temperature and windshear are not currently conducive to hurricane formation.)

The Weather Channel/ Floodlist/ Guardian/ BBC

 

The water no works – a personal reflection

(May contain embarrassing medical details)

Once again your old Uncle B. has had to draw upon the seemingly infinite resources of the NHS to get him out of trouble.

He’s beginning to realize that however young you imagine you look, and however invincible you feel as you are lugging 25kg bags of ready-to-mix concrete and large paving slabs about your tiny garden, ignoring your protesting muscles, anno domini is creeping up behind you – fast.

My sweet new neighbour was astonished the other day when I confessed that I planned to turn 70 next year. “I thought you were maybe in your late 40s!”, she exclaimed, disappointment written over her pretty brow (her boyfriend has left her.)

Readers, Spammers, Likers, Trailers – and Those No Longer Reading This, muh bogl –  will be au fait with the dismal tale of my retinal surgeries earlier this year, that have left me with a degree of vision in one eye that resembles looking through the bottom of a beer glass, only with a missing bit in the middle.

Opticians tell me sadly, no improvement can be expected, no lens can correct it.

Yesterday, more drama ensued as an ambulance arrived and bore me off to the local hospital.

I felt a bit embarrassed about that, as I was not dead or gasping for air, had not fallen down the stairs or accidentally mistaken weedkiller for milky coffee.

I did try, twice, to get in the car and drive myself to Casualty, but the discomfort was extreme – no cash for a taxi, and after four hours of desperately trying to drain my old bladder – Blad the Impaler, as I have christened him – to be rewarded only with a few drops at about 4 a.m. and nothing at all thereafter, the agonizing contractions were coming thick and fast.

(Such wimps, we men. If we only knew! Sigh.)

I had Googled “urinary retention” at about 3.30 a.m. and become alarmed at the possible knock-on effects of all that straining, not least the damaging back-pressure on my kidneys. Newton’s Third Law also comes into play when you squeeze that hard, that often into your pelvic floor, as any pregnant lady kno’, and it gets leaky the other side.

At 05.30 I called the hospital, but after twenty minutes with the phone in Casualty ringing off the hook the receptionist advised me to call my GP Out of Hours service, who in turn told me to go to hospital. I explained about the car, the discomfort, the contractions; she agreed that an ambulance was the best option and she was calling one for me.

After another hour went by, and no ambulance, I called the GP again. The surgery was awake by now, and casually informed  me that today’s waiting-time allowance for non-emergency cases is four hours, although the ambulance station is only four minutes from here. I explained about the non-“emergence” of any urine for the past ten hours, the back-pressure on the kidneys, and she relented. My conveyance arrived four minutes later. Almost.

Once inside the medical campervan I underwent a battery of tests, blood pressure and sugar, heart still beating, pupils correctly dilating – all the while noticing that my arms and legs appeared embarrassingly begrimed with concrete dust and garden soil. So tired had I been after lugging half the stock of my local builders’ merchants home, that I had thrown myself into bed without showering, which I rarely bother with anyway.

The clodpolls had sold the rest of the pile of bricks I had earlier reserved and paid for, and had been collecting 50 at a time. “Sorry mate, you can’t get hold of those now for love nor money”, said the man, with much eye-rolling, sucking of teeth and, finally, an offer of a small compensatory discount for non-matching bricks – so now I have to construct a strangely piebald wall.

Life has consequences, of which deep embarrassment is one. Be Prepared! was the motto when I was a boy scout, and I had ignored it. Never put off until tomorrow… etc., but just take that shower; vacuum that sitting room; walk that dog; badger that urology department for an appointment; have those bricks delivered now, while you can!

The proximate cause of the blockage, I suspected, was the bottle of Merlot I’d imbibed while sitting on a hard chair in my sitting-room watching the shadows lengthening over the Centre Court at Wimbledon, enjoying the friendly banter and televisual comradeship of Claire, Boris and Martina, all the while inflating my old prostate, already the size of an avocado, crushing my urethra flat.

It happens sometimes, about every six weeks. I’ll spend half the night straining over the wc to little effect, but always there’s been relief as the sun comes up and I get going with the milky coffee and have to rush to the drain behind the kitchen in a sort of Pavlovian response to various psychological triggers, before spending a day dodging behind trees and whizzing in people’s front gardens.

After that, it’s always settled down – always, until the day the ambulance arrives and the curtains of the neighbours start twitching in curiosity and hope.

And now, Dear Persistent Reader, now I have a bag strapped to my concrete-dusty leg, filling with slightly bloody-looking urine as the catheter the willy-man shoved up my pipi gradually drains what may turn out to be the rest of my life away, through a bewildering complex of tubes and ingenious valves: a contraption it will be my task now to master and manage, possibly forever.

I forgot to ask him, what happens if you get an erection? Probably you never will again. And I worry about going swimming. But it’s quite handy, never having to rush to the bathroom, or worry about finding a tree. You just go wherever you are, even while having conversations with unsuspecting neighbours!

It is punishingly sore, though; and I have had to adopt a curious, crouching gait, slowly hobbling along after Hunzi, who still requires walking twice a day in the exurban space that, etc. (Later I discover lovely Mario, the Italian charge nurse who speaks little English, has strapped the thing on too low down on the leg, causing the tube to pull tight.)

It may be like this, only until I can get to see the urologist, a Ghanaian gentleman who also speaks little English, in what I have been hopefully promised will be a fortnight’s time. He might release me from the contraption, provided no lasting damage has been done by it. These NHS people are all very lovely and helpful, albeit incomprehensible, but I couldn’t help reflecting that my biopsy (happily negative) was twenty months ago and there’s been no follow-up contact since.

The NHS is great in emergencies, when you finally get through on the phone; when the ambulance finally arrives. Nowadays, that’s about as far as it goes. Endless forms are filled, that you suspect will go nowhere (“So, P., can you tell me about your medical history? Are you allergic to anything? No? Cool!”); repeated, not apparently relevant tests (blood pressure checked three times in two hours, although why? I’m not ill!), all procedurally highly efficient, no doubt – but once you’ve been gratefully discharged with a bagful of spare tubes and minimal instructions as to how to manage the rest of your life (“Any questions, see your GP” – never mind the three-weeks waiting time), you’re entirely on your own.

Apart from Hunzi, that is. You’re never alone with a lovely dog.

He even slows up for me, looking anxious.

Bless.

 

 

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Son of Novichok… The last human?… An aviation mystery… GW: Upstairs in the attic, blowin’ up me rubber ring…

Polling finds that “20 percent of Americans would deny Muslims who are American citizens the right to vote.” While over 60 percent of Republican voters support separate internment for the children of migrants at the border. – Washington Post report.

 

“And afterwards we can sign a non-disclosure agreement…” (photo: knowyourmeme.com)

 

“You’d have to invoke quantum theory to explain it.”

Son of Novichok

A couple living in Amesbury, Wiltshire (eight miles from Salisbury, scene of the nerve agent attack on Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia last March), Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, were taken to hospital on Saturday night, unconscious, with a mystery illness at first assumed to be a drug overdose.

“The police and government … said they were keeping an open mind…. By the end of the evening, the police announced the tests showed it was Novichok, a type of nerve agent originally developed in Russia.” – BBC News

Someone had recognized the symptoms from the last incident. As it just happened to be the same hospital that saved the lives, just about, of the Skripals. And just up the road, boffins at the chemical weapons research establishment were instantly able to confirm the samples were indeed Novichok.

Lucky, or what? I mean, it could have happened anywhere. And again, none of the unprotected first responders appears to have been affected, even though they did not immediately know they were dealing with a deadly contaminant engineered to kill on contact.

What are the odds, eh?

England getting to the quarter-finals of the World Cup; a minister lying in the House about a deeply pessimistic report of the disastrous Government attempts to iron-flat the social security system; a Prime Minister floundering as Brexit bully-boys in her cabinet send her ultimatums to wreck the economy; a drama involving an entire youth football team trapped in a cave complex in Thailand have left this astonishing story somewhere down the running order, but by tomorrow it will be number one, and rightly so.

Just what the hell is going on? As Mr Trump might ask.

No-one has any idea, and what remains of the government is clearly panicking; while the police advice to the frightened people of Amesbury? “Wash your clothes. Don’t pick anything up unless you know what it is.” Very helpful, I’m sure. What does “anything” mean? What does this stuff look like? It’s a secret!

Then there’s the media. The BBC’s security correspondent, Gordon Carrera, is also floundering. His unlikely explanation: “Perhaps this is some of the Novichok prepared for the attack (in March) and discarded – maybe somewhere like a park, a house – and maybe these two came across it.”

Perhaps. Maybe. Just what you want from a security expert.

Look. Forty-something couples living in agreeably sleepy country towns, people called Dawn and Charlie, can’t automatically be assumed to be involved in post-Soviet era skulduggery.

But might they be?

Murders in Midsomer generally involve shotguns, quarrels about overgrown Leylandii hedges, adultery – or hitmen from The Smoke whacking crime barons’ retired business rivals. They don’t include deadly compound nerve agents and GRU goons acting on a nod from Putin.

Apart from the weapon of choice, and the proximate locations of Salisbury, Amesbury and the grim facility of the Porton Down biological warfare establishment, it might seem nothing would link the two murder attempts – assuming they were murder attempts, and not accidental own-goals.

The initial response of the Russians to hot accusals from Mrs May in the wake of the Skripal incident was, as usual, to argue that it was only the West trying to discredit Putin prior to his re-election in May. Or, to divert attention from her problems over Brexit. Or it was MI6 tidying-up one of its own double-agents who’d gone rogue.

The obvious reason then for attacking innocent villagers apparently at random would be for Russian agents to exonerate the Russians: “there’s an epidemic of Novichok in your country, comradeski; it’s not ours, it must have escaped from Porton Down, and been left carelessly where anyone can find it; why, would you think we would deliberately target a former double-agent living peacefully in retirement in the heartland of the British defense industry?” And so on.

So, a diversionary tactic to cover-up for the first attack. Really?

The BogPo will return to this diverting spy story as soon as we learn more – if we ever do. The key, we suspect, will lie in the occupations of the two victims and what relationship they have with Porton Down, or with the security establishment; a key that has tantalizingly not yet been turned after four months. We are being told absolutely nothing.

Because the sheer impossibility of the story is that this poisoning could have been accidental. If the attack on this couple was accidental, then so must have been the attack on the Skripals – and therefore not an attack at all. What are the odds against two innocent couples being accidentally poisoned eight miles and four months apart by the same Soviet-era military nerve agent no-one wanted to admit still exists?

You’d have to invoke quantum theory to explain it.

For now, it seems highly unlikely that Dawn and Charlie are just collateral damage from the previous incident. They have to be connected. Novichok has, we learned at the time, a half-life: its effectiveness decays. March was a long time ago for this stuff to have hung around. Why Amesbury? And why now?

And, what, the would-be assassin just happened to throw a bag of it away, where four months later, Dawn and Charlie, out gathering magic mushrooms in the forest, managed to find it and smear themselves with it? It’s a compound substance, the individual chemicals are non-toxic. You have to blend them to make it active. Or so we are told.

The extent of their involvement may never come out, but involved in the Skripal affair they most certainly must have been somehow.

The probability of a second Russian attack in the UK using a banned military-grade substance, right in the middle of the feelgood World Cup football tournament in Russia, after the global furore caused by the last one, is vanishingly small, although it will be blamed on them. Is that what they are relying on? The sheer implausibility of this awful thing happening twice?

There are no coincidences in the world of espionage.

 

Day 5: “Theresa May said on Thursday that Salisbury and the wider area remained “very much open for business”. – Guardian

She’s definitely losing it.

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Sometimes there’s an air of ‘fin du monde’ about a sunset over the west coast. (Photo: The BogPo)

Nature Notes

“…one could almost be the last human on earth. Someone has to be.”

The last human?

Hunzi and I take our daily constitutional along the cycle path through the exurban space that passes for our local park, round the small, tangled wood beside the town sewage works and back. It is, as I have noted before, a space far from the nearest poisoned farmland, compartmentalized into many enticing habitats:

  • A clear, pebbly-bottomed stream, once long ago teeming with salmon and sea-trout, now shrunk in the unaccustomed weeks of sunshine (thanks to a blocking high-pressure area out in the Atlantic) to less than half of its normally quite respectable girth;
  • its murmuring, tree-lined banks, mainly willow and alder, where hopeful signage tells us voles are being protected. I’ve never seen one, only a kingfisher once, ducks, and a couple of times a heron; plenty of feral cats, though;
  • open areas of heath-like quality, infested with gorse and broom; shoulder-high thickets of brambles;
  • an impenetrable forest of spiny sloe-trees (Prunus spinosa) planted by Post Office workers in honor of a colleague long deceased;
  • marshy areas, temporarily bone-dry, supporting patches of reed-grass, bullrushes and goat-willow;
  • hanger woods creeping up hillsides crowned with open sheep-pasture;
  • succession woodland on the valley floor pockmarked with overgrown, ancient flood-traps, where bluebells in the early spring radiate their ultraviolet glow amid discarded bag-waste and the detritus of winter floods;
  • an arboretum, mostly birch, their trunks crazed with some virus that is causing great black galls and cracks in the silvery bark, filled with a powdery orange mildew;
  • two railway embankments (one a narrow-gauge line with a Puffing Billy steam locomotive, for tourists), warrened by rabbits;
  • a half-acre wildflower meadow rapidly filling with new bracken, so late in the season; its tall grasses drying brown in the heat;
  • a private cricket ground, scorched and brown; the university playing fields, newly shorn of their riot of buttercups; the sewage works popular with shit-hunting gulls, before you come upon the industrial estate and community recycling facility….
  • some ribbon development visible through the trees, halfway up the valley sides;
  • a nearby, thundering main road, beside which Hunzi, Katz and I have been condemned by my Committee of Discarnate Entities and the immutable Karmic laws of the Universe to live, surrounded by shouty people with power tools.

We walk through all of the above for about 40 minutes as usual, listening for the loud explosions of the seed cases of the gorse in the sunshine. It is late June, 24 degrees with a faint sea-breeze hardly troubling the topmost leaves and – albeit half-blind in one eye, and through sunglasses – over the course of two miles I observe the following tally of wildlife:

  • 1 meadow brown butterfly.
  • 1 moth, gray, of undetermined species.
  • 2 worker bees, foraging among the bramble blossoms.
  • Possibly 2 or 3 other bees on the wing, not pausing long enough to be identified.
  • 2 grasshoppers, heard not seen.
  • About a dozen flies, some trying halfheartedly to be annoying.
  • 1 blackbird, ground-feeding.
  • 2 corvids – I never know, are they jackdaws?
  • 1 pigeon, stupefied upon a wire.
  • In the far distance across the rooftops along the side of the valley, four or five gulls.

Otherwise all is still, silent apart from some desultory midday birdsong and the distant rumble of traffic. Around us, in the overgrown verges, the woodlands and the meadows, amid the ridiculous profusion of early summer verdure, that ambushed us only three or four weeks ago, is an ominous shortage of invertebrate life.

On this stunning day, blue sky smeary with the jet-trails* that tragic American halfwits are constantly posting they believe are proof of a conspiracy between NASA and the Pentagon to control the world’s weather, a conspiracy that must have involved tens of thousands of aero-engineers, maintenance crews and airline executives from a hundred countries for over 60 years without anybody saying anything, on this, the flattest of flat earths (bounded, presumably, by the Ohio state line), we appear to be facing extinction.

Not that there is anyone much around to notice: a postal worker on his way to work – we acknowledge one another with a cheery grunt almost every day, whom I have never seen wearing long trousers, a man in his 50s – and a solitary cyclist, a person I don’t recognize, a visitor helpfully dressed for identification purposes, unmistakably as a cyclist.

The welcome disappearance, after a busy weekend, of waddling, multiply tattooed  harridans, their snarling pitbulls and even more obese daughters pushing prams with one hand while keeping up intense monologues on their cellphones with the other; the lack of joggers dispelling clouds of Lynx in their wake, the dearth of silly grownups on roller-skates and skateboards are welcome reminders that one could almost be the last human on earth.

Someone has to be.

It might not be too bad.

 

An aviation mystery

* Jet trails, hmmmn. You know what? They’ve stopped!

The usual messy sky over the valley. (Photo: the BogPo)

Here just outside Boglington I walk Hunzi for two hours every day around the valley, observing with mild trepidation that we seem to be directly under a busy flight path for commercial airliners heading out to sea en masse, up to 20 at a time.

The sky is usually, as I have written, criss-crossed with vapor from their engines, spreading out and creating a high-level haze of stratus cloud over the valley.

And since the weekend, at least – it takes time to register these things – they’ve pretty much completely stopped. Disappeared off the radar, as it were.

I’ve spotted only three, maybe four, in the past week; two of those way off in the distance; and last evening at sunset I heard a solitary airliner cruising overhead, but could see nothing in the clear blue sky.yh

The weather here has been most unusually dry, hot and sunny for weeks, and we have even had our very own wildfire – it burned for four days and there were helicopters and everything, dumping water, but it didn’t make the national news.

Otherwise, nothing. I point out the empty sky to a few other dog walkers I judge capable of independent thought, and they look mildly surprised and say, oh yes, you’re right! We hadn’t noticed. (That’s Boglingtonians for you, they never notice a thing until you point it out to them.)

But nobody has an explanation.

It’s another mystery to be cleared up in the fullness of time.

 

GW: Upstairs in the attic, a’ blowin’ up me rubber ring

Canada: “6 more people have died in Montreal’s heatwave, bringing to 12 the city’s total death toll from the extreme weather conditions that have gripped central and eastern Canada, health officials said on Wednesday.” (Guardian). Emergency services have received over 1200 calls as temperatures have lingered for days in the mid-30s C, 90s F. Another 5 possibly related deaths were recorded in Quebec’s Eastern Townships.

India: 16 people died as a result of severe weather in Maharashtra, many in lightning strikes, between 22 and 24 June. Santa Cruz observatory in Mumbai recorded 231.4 mm rain in 24 hours. Since 29 May, over 1 million people have been affected by heavy monsoon rains and severe flooding in the north-eastern states. As of 25 June, the number of deaths stands at 239.

“At least 3 people died in Jammu and Kashmir, northern India, after days of heavy rainfall. Authorities suspended the famous Amarnath Yatra pilgrimage due to threat of floods and landslides.””Floods and landslides caused by heavy rainfall since 01 July, 2018, have claimed 12 lives in Nepal, with a further 6 injured and 3 still missing.”

Vietnam: floods and landslides triggered by recent heavy rain in northern areas of the country have killed at least 7 people and destroyed almost 50 houses. Nam Giang in Lai Chau province recorded 386 mm (14 in.) of rain in 24 hours to 24 June.

Myanmar: At least 30 people have died in floods and landslides in Myanmar since early June when this year’s monsoon rains began. 6 people were killed in a landslide that buried a staff quarters in Kachin state on 22 June and 5 more in flooding elsewhere. Record rainfall fell in Mon State on 17 June. Rakhine state and Magway Region were severely affected by flooding and landslides in early June.

Darfur: torrential rains on 21 June destroyed 430 houses in six displaced persons’ (internal refugee) camps in Zalingei, Central Darfur. High winds accompanied rain that lasted all night. Large numbers of families are now living in the open after the rain destroyed their houses and they lost what little they owned.

Ghana: “five people have been confirmed dead and one missing following a heavy rain that caused flooding in some parts of Kumasi. Heavy rain began during the evening of Thursday 28 June. During a 24 hour period to 29 June, Kumasi recorded 115mm of rain. A further 76 mm of rain fell the following day.”

Edited from officially sourced reports on Floodlist.com/ 

Oman: the coastal city of Quriyat (Qurayyat) on Tuesday 26 June posted a 24-hour low temperature of 42.6°C (108.7°F) from local midnight to midnight. “According to weather records expert Maximiliano Herrera, this sets a new world record for the hottest 24-hour-minimum temperature ever recorded.” The maximum temperature in Quriyat peaked at 49.8°C (121.6°F), and topped out at 50.6°C, 123°F in Joba – another record.

USA: 30 June: baseball-size hail pelts north Texas, Colorado.

A dome of intense heat—not too far from record intensity for so early in the summer—will migrate from the Rockies to the Midwest and Northeast by this weekend, accompanied by worsening air quality. An unusually thick layer of dust from the Sahara will bring hazy skies to the central U.S. late in the week. Temperatures are expected to reach or exceed 110°F in Arizona on Tuesday and Wednesday.” Dangerous levels of ozone are being warned of.

Meanwhile, thanks to cooler waters over 2,000 bathers have reported being stung by jellyfish off the coast of Florida in the past two weeks. Wunderground specialist, Dr Jeff Masters complains that the Atlantic hurricane season has got off to a disappointingly slow start, but “June has already seen four named East Pacific storms with the arrival of Daniel on Sunday, and at least two more named storms are possible this week before the month is out.”

“At least one person died in flash floods that hit areas around Des Moines, Iowa, on 20 June. The city of Johnston recorded 8.4 inches (213.36 mm) in 24 hours. Rivers broke their banks and emergency services including teams from Des Moines Police department carried out dozens of high water rescues of people trapped in flooded homes or vehicles.” (Edited from Floodlist)

Europe: Heat warnings are out across much of southern Europe and across the Mediterranean to the Adriatic, where amber warnings have been given for severe thunderstorms over Greece. Details on Meteoalarm are, as usual, scanty, so we can’t be sure what a yellow advisory will add up to in Spain, but we find that even the Irish Republic is being warned of temperatures in the high 20s C, while here in Boglington tomorrow we are looking at a possible 30C, 86F.

Welcome to the apocalypse. Saddleworth Moor, Manchester, England, 28 June. (Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images.)

UK: as temperatures climb into the 30s C, high 80s F, a brushfire has consumed a 4-mile stretch of Saddleworth Moor, Manchester, after weeks with almost no rain. The peat subsoil is smouldering, making it difficult to contain. Denizens of the US west will no doubt have got over the limitations of the language by now, but Britain’s first major wildfire in years evoked all the cliches, as the “dry as tinder” scrub burned, “One resident described seeing “ash falling like rain” (more like ash, shurely? Ed.) and another said it “looked like the apocalypse”. The Hollywood version, presumably.

How brown was my valley? The view across the parched Boglington cricket club ground, 02 July. (Photo: The BogPo)

Here in Boglington we’ve had three days of wildfires burning further up the valley, but as yet nothing to make the news. People here are curiously incurious. You point toward the roiling smoke plume three miles away and the heavy haze hanging over us and they say, oh yes, we thought we could smell something, what is it? 33C is the forecast for tomorrow and apart from the smoke we still have wall-to-wall sunshine and more scorching heat forecast, odd for usually monsoonal late June.

Russia: “a crane driver died trying to prevent his rig from falling on the city’s wedding palace when a powerful storm hit Bernaul on the 23rd June. It left the city almost totally without electricity and caused water supply shortages. Traffic lights failed, and trees, fences, billboards were smashed.” – Siberian Times

According to its Wikipedia entry, Abakan is the capital city of the Republic of Khakassia, located at the confluence of the Yenisei and Abakan Rivers in central southern Siberia. As of 7 pm this evening, 25 June, local time, the temperature there was 35C, 95F.

Greece: flash flooding followed 24 hours of heavy rain in the south and midlands. 28 and 29 June the rain moved north and east, causing widespread flood damage and washing out roads in Albania, Bulgaria and Romania.

Meteoalarm/ The Weather Channel/ Siberian Times/ Floodlist

Storm over Barnaul, Siberia, 23 June. (Picture: Vyacheslav Postnikov)

World Cupballs

“Well, his arm was not in an unnatural position. It’s still joined to his body.” BBC commentator.

The Pumpkin, Issue 50: One strike and you’re in… Watch the birdie…Is it all over bar the plea bargaining?…The genius of The Pumpkin… GW: Well, blow me down! (or Up!)… No Spring?

“Like a really fucking stupid Forrest Gump…” – noted GOP Trump supporter speaking off the record.

Trump was “like an evil, really fucking stupid Forrest Gump… If we’re going to lose because of him, we might as well impeach the motherfucker,” the unnamed Republican congressman told (conservative blogger and radio show host) Erick Erickson on a recent trip to the supermarket… “He’s capable of doing some things right, although it’s usually other people doing things in his name. But dammit, he’s taking us all down with him..”– Edited from a 13 April report on TYT.

And we thought they hadn’t realized!

 

One strike and you’re in

(14 April)

If you asked me to select three political leaders whose failing prospects would benefit from the opportunity to hang tough, I would have to name Donald J Trump, Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron, all of whom are in trouble with their electorates and looking increasingly embattled.

Macron is rapidly achieving the deep unpopularity and contempt which the French healthily reserve for all their presidents, especially when the phrase ‘labor reform’ is in the air. Beset by protest strikes, he is – not unreasonably – trying to push through some modest changes to a calcified public sector labor market whose privileges have been expensively underwritten by decades of Government concessions; creating a single pensions system that would treat private and public sector workers equally, and (in five years’ time) raising the retirement ages for groups such as State-employed train drivers (currently able to retire at 52!), bringing the working week and making the rules for hiring and firing more flexible, in line with the rest of the EU.

It’s not going well for him.

After being shoehorned by the party to succeed David Cameron in the wake of his referendum debacle, May vowed there would be no election before 2020 and then panicked, calling an election to boost her majority and strengthen her hand in the EU withdrawal negotiations. She didn’t exactly lose, but an autocratic campaign beset with flip-flops on disastrous manifesto policies cost her both the Conservative majority in the Commons and the legitimacy she craved. Few if any of the promised social reforms to help the “just about managing” lower middle-class have been delivered, while her poor connection with ordinary people after the Grenfell Tower fire and lack of progress on delivering a workable Brexit have created the impression of an introverted, indecisive personality, helplessly trapped between two squabbling wings of her party.

It’s not going well for her, although orchestrated, ad hominem attacks on Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and her seemingly determined defense of the realm after the novichok poisoning incident in Salisbury (still no sign of a suspect) have improved her ratings a little in the past two weeks.

As for Trump, he remains mired in ever-deeper corruption scandals and under investigation on many fronts; not least for clear and unlawful obstruction of justice, as he writhes and wriggles on hooks he keeps creating for himself by his intemperate and egoistical “tweets”, his “alternative truths”, the rambling, self-incriminating interviews and off-the-wall speeches. A so-called “blue wave” of Democratic party gains in local elections is turning his relations with the Republican party increasingly sour; with, now, some 22 Republican congressmen and women, including the previously supine speaker of the Senate, Paul Ryan, announcing their urgent need to spend more time with their families before the mid-terms in November.

Trump’s plain desire is to engineer a new chain of command in the Justice department to enable him to order the firing of his nemesis, Special Counsel Robert Mueller; knowing that to do so might end or at least weaken the investigations into his personal finances and dealings with Russia, but will inevitably result in his impeachment.

History may conclude that the decision to risk all-out war with Russia, ostensibly over the chemical attack in Douma that killed 70 Syrian civilians about whom he could otherwise have cared less, was the direct result of his panic and fury at Mueller over an FBI raid just days ago on his personal lawyer’s home and office; a raid ordered not by Mueller, who had merely handed over certain information to the Manhattan district attorney (a Trump appointee), but as part of a separate FBI investigation into Mr Cohen’s activities over the years, that Trump fears will turn up incriminating evidence against him.

With his approval ratings stuck in the 30s it’s not going well for him either, and a diversionary tactic was inevitable.

What all three leaders have been craving is the kind of opportunity a military strike – in this case against the Syrian regime, that can be spun as a measured response to an illegal act under international law – grants flailing politicians to sound authoritative and in control, and to rally popular support. The problem being that there are no “measured responses” in the multivalent Syrian conflict, in which the West has tentatively dipped its toe from time to time with no clear strategy other than a vague desire for regime change – an outcome the Russians and Iran have put out of bounds.

The unfortunate result has been that our efforts have merely made things worse: creating opportunities for increasingly unpleasant  jihadist militias to fill the gaps, promoting Israel’s ambition to strike militarily against the growing Iranian presence in Syria, while privately conceding that the quicker al-Assad wins, the sooner order might be restored. There is no reason to believe America’s actions, given a veneer of legitimacy with the addition of a few strikes by French and British jets, can possibly affect the outcome of a war that, without our intervention, was already drawing to its agonizing close.

And with Bolton and Pompeo whispering in stereo, it seems likely Trump will react to criticism that he has no strategy in the Middle East by abrogating the Iranian nuclear deal, meaning all bets are off.

Chances are that we have now reignited the conflict, possibly on a new and more dangerous level, involving direct confrontation between the major powers. Hopefully they will have cleared the operation with one another first, using the so-called “deconfliction” protocols – Gen. Mattis and his opposite Russian number being rather more grounded in pragmatism than the magical realists of the Oval Office.

For God’s sake, public, stop voting for these fragile and insecure egomaniacs! You’ll get us all killed.

 

Commentatorballs (with apologies to Private Eye)

“Out front however Vettel promptly stretched his legs and opened a gap…” (Observer report on Chinese F1 Grand Prix)

 

Watch the birdie…

Trump as we know has become notorious for watching TV all day long, doing almost no work. His favorite station is Murdoch’s far-rightwing blatherfest, Fox News.

So taken is he with the sympathetic tone of the little faces that talk to him from the screens, some of his recent WH appointments have been of Fox News on-air personnel, including the ultra-hawk on Iran, John Bolton. (It’s clear the man-child also watches the Disney Channel, recently appointing presenter Caroline Sunshine to his press office, zippadeedoodah! And who’s that cute little elephant we can put in the State Department?)

Trump watchers have spotted that many of his tweets and policy statements closely follow the news agenda on Fox, reacting to items that trouble him. Even jokes by contributors can trigger a brainslide, for instance the time tame Fox lawyer Judge Napoletano suggested the British GCHQ might have helped Obama wiretap Trump’s New York office – something he still believes to this day.

And it’s been suggested by leftwing blatherers that his staffers sometimes put out fake press releases to Fox’s newsroom in the hope that he will see the story and be nudged into doing what they want, as he refuses otherwise to listen to policy advice.

So maybe there’s a simple explanation for his vacillating policies on Syria culminating in launching 105 cruise missiles (at $600 thousand each) against Assad’s supposed chemical warfare facilities on Friday night.

We know he was pissed-off about former FBI Director, James Comey’s new book comparing him to a mafia boss. Although you’d think he’d be pleased. Mafia bosses are cool, they get to kill people. He described Comey, whom he has previously called a liar, as a “slimeball”.

Worryingly, TYT reported:

“On Friday morning, Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt suggested that military strikes in Syria could be useful to divert attention from the unflattering portrayal of President Trump contained in former FBI Director James Comey’s book.

“If the president, and France, and the UK decide to strike Syria, don’t you think that story would be a bigger story than Comey’s book that’s released on Tuesday?” she said.

Earhardt’s suggestion came while Trump is reportedly still considering a potential military strike against Syria — and amid an edition of Fox & Friends that was largely devoted to sullying Comey’s reputation.”

And then on Friday night….

Fox & Friends: Earhardt (centre, between two men). (Fox News)

He is just irresponsible and vindictive enough to bomb Syria at the suggestion of a vapid TV talkshow host.

For, it has also leaked out of the White House that when the previous week he tweeted out that he was going to withdraw US troops from Syria, thereby encouraging Assad to go chemical again, he ordered the generals he wanted it done “in 48 hours”. Told that wasn’t going to happen, he sent the National Guard to patrol the Texas border instead.

As the quote in our standfirst illustrates, even his staunchest Republican congressional supporters, who go on-air every day on Fox News and CNN to defend him, privately believe he is insane.

 

Is it all over bar the plea bargaining?

Senior staff writer at the New Yorker, Adam Davidson has been responsible for breaking important research into the Trump Organization’s business dealings with known foreign criminals, and even by association, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, who had skin in the game when Ivanka Trump signed off a deal with a corrupt Azerbaijani politician to put the Trump name on a non-existent hotel in Baku.

So it might be worth noting Davidson’s analysis of the significance of the FBI’s raids on Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen: it’s the beginning of the end for the Trump presidency, he argues, and of the largely self-created Trump mythology. But bear in mind, “expert” commentators have been forecasting the downfall of the Tangerine Tsar on an almost weekly basis for 15 months, and he’s still there.

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/michael-cohen-and-the-end-stage-of-the-trump-presidency?mbid=nl_Daily 041618&CNDID=49581041&spMailingID=13323455&spUserID=MTkwODY5NzgyMTM0S0&spJobID=1381400090&spReportId=MTM4MTQwMDA5MAS2

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The genius of The Pumpkin

Browsing on the backbutton, The Pumpkin came across the following excerpt from a long essay he Posted (Issue 9) on 1 March last year – 2017, fully eleven months before the whole Cambridge Analytica/Facebook thing blew up in the world’s media.

I’m hoping that by including it in this, Post 691, he might achieve some recognition as a competent, insightful and reliable searcher for clues and generally remarkable prognosticator of events yet to come. Indeed, you might find it remarkable also that nobody pays him for this brilliant stuff. For, entirely unedited subsequently, he wrote:

How to swing an election (1 March, 2017)

We are now learning that one of the ways the Vote Leave campaign got its marginal majority was by someone ‘harvesting’ personal data from Facebook and other social media accounts, profiling millions of voters from their ‘Likes’ and search histories, using ‘bots’ (don’t ask, I have no idea) to bombard them automatically with tailored messages to manipulate their presumed voting inclinations. Two million new mystery voters suddenly appeared on the register, days before the vote; presumably radicalised online. The website crashed.

Farage had been judged too toxic even for the official Vote Leave, so contented himself with fronting (Arron) Banks’ private ‘Leave.EU’ campaign, into which the boorish millionaire sank £7.5 million*. And, surprise surprise, according to a report in the mainstream Observer newspaper, it turns out that nifty Nigel is also a ‘friend’ of US multi-billionaire, ultra-ultra-conservative hedge fund manager, Robert Mercer.

Mercer’s also happens to be the wallet behind Breitbart News, whose co-founder and sometime editor, Steve Bannon, is Trump’s consigliere. And more importantly, he is a computer ‘genius’, a pioneer of Big Data, and the ultimate owner of a firm called Cambridge Analytica, which carried out the data grab on the British electorate on behalf of Leave.EU, that helped to nudge the Leavers over the line.

….

Thus we have a real live instance of private interference from the USA in a British referendum, with the aim of breaking up the annoying European union and its anti-trust, pro-consumer superstate.

I’m assuming the voter radicalisation, Big Data techniques (more usually used for online advertising) employed by Cambridge Analytica were also applied to the US election, I don’t know. What else did the Trump campaign’s Breitbart connections get up to online, I wonder? Did Russian hackers really infiltrate the DNC? Or did that come from somewhere else?

Ultimately, the story lies elsewhere. We are clearly not looking at a coup only in the USA, this is a global hijacking.

The story is the money. Follow the money!

*Subsequently questions have been raised about the source of this funding as Banks’ companies were found at the time to be desperately lending one another money to avoid bankruptcy, and are still under investigation in the UK, Malta and Gibraltar over their shareholders’ connections with obscure offshore “shell” companies named in the Panama papers. You can follow that strand of the Brexit saga at OpenDemocracy.org.)

x

Firemen battle an outbreak of “unusually aggressive” fires in the suburbs of Sydney, 15 April, after weeks of “unseasonably hot” weather.

GW: Well, blow me down! (or Up!)

The US weather bureau storm prediction center yesterday (13 April) issued a rare special advisory warning known as a PDS or Particularly Dangerous Situation for an enormous swath of the midwest from the Texas border up to Iowa. The bulletin urges householders to find shelter in basements or in internal rooms “without windows”, as massive storm cells are forming over the Gulf and moving northwards, with a threat of major tornadoes and a “95 per cent probability” of the most severe wind and large hail “events”.

Coincidentally, this is pretty much the same advice you’d get if the authorities issued a warning of a nuclear attack.

Ahead of the storms, fanned by winds and with temperatures already in the high 90s (38C-plus) after months of little rain, over 200 thousand acres of Oklahoma prairie have gone up in smoke, fires visible from space. Extreme wildfire conditions labelled “historic” (one above “extremely critical”) have been flagged for New Mexico and Colorado.

Meanwhile… “Blizzard warnings were plastered on Friday morning from northeast Colorado to southern Minnesota, along the north side of an (sic) sharpening stationary front. Heavy snowfall rates and wind gusts to 40-50 mph or more will paralyze travel across large stretches of the Northern Plains.” Xanto is being called a ‘once-in-a-lifetime storm’ as more than 30-in of snow is dumped over Wisconsin in 24 hours. Hundreds of thousands of homes without power, several deaths reported.

Major flooding in New Jersey.

Pardon me asking, along with 300 million Americans, wtf is going on?

Hawaii: “Hawaii Governor David Ige issued an emergency proclamation on 15 April after unprecedented rains caused major flooding and a series of landslides.  The National Weather Service recorded over 27 inches (685 mm) of rainfall in Hanalei on the island of Kauai during a 24-hour period from 14 to 15 April”, beating all records.

India: 15 dead in powerful storm over Calcutta.

Malawi: The “Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) has reported heavy rain and flooding in parts of Northern and Central Regions, affecting over 2,000 people and damaging roads and hundreds of homes. As many as 4 people (including three children) have reportedly died or gone missing.”

Tanzania: “At least” 9 dead in the capital, Dar es Salaam as “heavy rain caused buildings to collapse and widespread flooding in the city. The rain has been falling since Saturday 14 April. Reuters reported television footage showing residents seeking shelter on rooftops. … Dar es Salaam recorded 81.8 mm of rain from 14 to 15 April, and 99.6 mm in 24 hours the following day.” Another 50 mm could be on the way. Floods also in Kenya.

Algeria: huge storm over Batna, massive waterspout comes ashore. Flash flooding.

Spain: tornado damages Seville. Thunderstorms cause flash flooding in Italy, Austria – where in Graz, hail, rivers of ice in streets….

Martinique: big hail, flash flooding.

Brazil: STILL raining heavily! Floods in SE.

End of…

Ma Greeley reports, USGS recorded 74 earthquakes in the Yellowstone caldera on 10 April. A M3.5 struck on the 11th.

Meanwhile, again, a peer-reviewed paper in the Journal of Geography, Environment and Earth Science International finds that both UV-B and UV-C radiation at ground-level are increasing beyond dangerous. The authors confess they have no idea why. UV-C can be generated and is used industrially as a disinfectant, but it is not a naturally occurring form of radiation at the earth’s surface, being fully absorbed by the atmosphere… (Wikipedia)

No doubt theoreticians from the University of YouTube will be blaming the chemtrails, the Grand Solar Minimum (Minimum means least, by the way – least activity!), NASA and Planet Nibiru. I’m wondering however if an increase in this powerful kind of light we don’t normally experience could be damaging the trees in our valley, that appear to be dying, many of them?

x

No Spring?

The BBC finally reported this morning on something Uncle Bogler has been worrying about for the past three weeks, that there seems to be no Spring this year.

British farmers, it was reported, are worried that crops they’ve sown aren’t coming up. Asparagus farmers in particular are saying the cutting season may not begin for another month.

Pines browned off.

Bogler and Hunzi were out in the valley again this morning. Yes, some things are coming up: grass is growing, daisies, dandelions and celandine (or are they wood anemones? I never know) are showing up, late, but quite profusely. But there is still almost no sign of budburst on 90 per cent of the trees.

Where there are a few buds coming into leaf, the covering looks sparse; the willows have a bare sprinkling of catkins, but many are sterile, without pollen. Some trees are showing signs of die-back at the tips of the branches. Ivy is wilting. A lone, hardy evergreen rhododendron Ponticum UB reported looking a bit sick last week is almost dead.

As the overwintering gorse flowers are finishing, the branches below them are all browned-off, as if they’ve been droughted; which they can’t have been as it’s rained at least one day a week since October. Almost every gorse bush in the valley and for 50 miles southwards is being affected simultaneously.

The birds are still tweeting optimistically, and Hunzi is as up for it as Harvey Weinstein on uppers – I’ve never seen him like this – and yes, some things are doing okay: a magnolia tree down the road is flowering magnificently, as is an ornamental blackcurrant (ribes). Camellias are doing okay too. In fact most of the neighbors’ gardens seem perfectly healthy.

But look. For the past 20 years scientists have been observing Spring arriving a day earlier, average winter temperature in the British Isles is reportedly 2C higher than pre-1981, and now this.

The farmers are blaming the Beast from the East late cold snap, but I’m not so sure. We didn’t get much at all here, yet everywhere the story is the same: bare trees; dead branches; brown hedgerows; patchy cover.

Not a lot of Spring.

Where does it go from today? A ruminative speculation based on nothing and no-one… Pots, kettles (but no blacks)… Business welcomes transition deal… GW: just drifting on by.

Big hands! Putin wins fourth term in Kremlin shock! Will soon overtake Merkel as world’s longest-serving dictator.

 

We need to ask John le Carré what it was all about, but I doubt if even he knows.

It smells to me less like a conspiracy of the entire West led by wicked witch Theresa May to make life difficult for Putin by embarrassing the Russians, as they’ve been moaning it was in Moscow, and more like a hastily concocted cover story for some other skulduggery that went horribly wrong.

A sleepy English county town is the stage for an attack by evil Russians.

Certainly we’re not getting the truth about the apparent assassination attempt in Salisbury two weeks ago on former KGB/GRU Col Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, are we. Why would we? It’s a spy story!

The problem being that, unlike the Litvinenko case where two FSB goons were rapidly identified, in this case there is still no human suspect: there are victims,  we have motives aplenty, there is a smoking gun, but there is still no credible theory as to who exactly might have pulled the trigger. Er…

We may never really know. Just remember, however, this horrible stuff was designed by them to be used on us….

Nothing adds up!

 

Chapter 1: Wiltshire Circus

What was ex-KGB Col Skripal doing, living apparently in comfort, quite openly, in a quiet cathedral city at the heart of one of the most militarily sensitive areas of the UK – Porton Down, the MoD tank ranges, Qinetic defence industries’ HQ, RAF Lyneham, Portsmouth naval yards – Stonehenge (greatest mystery of all… was it a stone-age ICBM launcher?)

Who put him there, with his flashy BMW, and why? Was he really a free agent, entirely at liberty after being spy-swapped for some of his fellow countrymen in 2010? Surely he’d still have been on George Smiley’s string? Or “Karla” Putin’s?

The police have enough to do, micromanaging society, but how aware are they of foreign exiles living in our midst, whose history makes them potential security risks in the event of attempts on their lives, who are simply plonked down in the midst of our peaceful rustic communities by shady quasi-governmental agencies (Quaggas)? What protections can and do they afford them?

Why was Skripal chosen to be in the prisoner exchange? The single spies he was being swapped for hadn’t egregiously betrayed their own country, as he had. Did he really deserve a comfortable, middle-class retirement in an agreeably leafy, sleepy, half-timbered British country town, in Putin’s shifty eyes? Without a quid pro quo?

Why were his family allowed to constantly come and go between the UK and Russia while apparently being bumped off one by one? Why did they continue to do that? How was his son allowed to be flown back from St Petersburg and buried here after his sudden death from liver disease (endemic in Russia), if Skripal’s treachery was still so raw in the Kremlin that, eight years after his release, they would come looking for him, armed with the unnecessary complication of an obsolete compound neurotoxin – “just add water – and an egg”, as the Betty Crocker Cake Mix ads used to say?

As some Russian media spokesmouth observed, he could more easily have just been made to disappear.

What was in the timing?

Why has Putin been playing nice to the traitor, an exchanged double-agent, supposedly – for so many years before acting against him, if simple revenge were all this is about? He could have had him whacked anywhere, anyhow, at any time.

Does the former KGB Colonel Vladimir Vladimirovitch Putin like to keep a pool of exiled traitors, live lobsters in a restaurant, to be eliminated publicly one by one as and when politically required to send a signal? Or was Col Skripal, the neighborly and jovial consumer of Lottery scratch cards, back in the GRU fold after all?

Suspected of being a triple-agent, might not the relevant Whitehall travel agency have wanted to make it look like the Russians had caught up with him, using a bag of old Soviet stuff from the stores at Porton Down as the most easily traceable weapon? Might that not at least be a better theory than a huge political conspiracy to draw attention from… what? the rest of the usual shit? Brexit? Stormy Daniels? Surely the Daily Mail is perfectly capable of that?

What was so important about the timing, was it as everyone says a Kremlin black-op to create international animus against Russia in order to stir the patriotic fervor of lethargic voters in today’s presidential election, whose result was always a foregone conclusion? Certainly, the sneers and pathetically transparent inventions of the Russian State-controlled media and tame politicians amplifying the outrage would suggest so.

But could that in turn be covering for something else?

Smirk and mirrors? Smersh and grab? (enough spy puns. Ed.)

 

Chapter 2: another toxic German car?

How was the red BMW car the apparent focus of the contamination, when they had parked it for several hours and gone to lunch before they were found?

If the car was the focus, how did their house become so contaminated while they were not at home but were out in the car, that entering it could injure the only other person to have been seriously affected, Det Sgt Nick Bailey?

And if as is thought the agent was in powder form, why would anyone enveloped in a cloud of the stuff blowing from the car’s heater not notice it? Skripal was trained in black ops, he would surely know. And why did the toxin then take so long to act? The BBC’s ‘explainer’ about Novichok claims the version that’s suspected is virtually instantaneous. It doesn’t let you go to lunch, followed by a stroll in the park.

If the investigators think the focus was the car, but the house was sufficiently contaminated as to injure Sgt Bailey, then the Skripals must have been heavily contaminated before driving into the city and would almost certainly then a) not have been capable of enjoying lunch at Zizzi’s restaurant and a drink at a pub, and b) would surely have transferred considerably more nerve agent to the environment and the innocent shoppers and diners around them than they appear to have done.

The timelines we’ve been getting in the media seem all wrong.

 

Chapter 3: Alarm call

Det Sgt Bailey was described as a ‘first responder’, yet he is said to have become contaminated at the house, not at the scene where the Skripals were found.

If someone had called 999 on the basis of two unknown persons found unconscious on a park bench, two uniformed officers would normally have been dispatched; not a detective. How would the despatcher know to send a mid-ranking detective, that it was more serious than a couple of drunks? Why would Det Sgt Bailey have been called a ‘first responder’, when he was apparently not at the scene, but had gone to the house? Why are all the photos of Sgt Bailey in the media showing him in dress uniform? Detective sergeants don’t go around in uniform.

How would Bailey know to go to the house, even know where it was, if he or other ‘first responders’ had not first responded by searching the victims’ pockets for ID (unless he already knew who they were and where they lived?) They were unconscious! But he was not apparently at the scene where the Skripals were found, so could not have discovered their ID, unless someone had called him. And even then, why would he go straight to the house – unless he was already there?

How did he know to go to the house, and – given the victims were right there on a park bench and he was the ‘first responder’, why? Who sent him to the house? What was he supposed to find there? Why would someone call him, especially, to go there?

Nor, surely, would Sgt Bailey have gone to the house on his own as part of a follow-up police enquiry. If a chemical attack was suspected before he went, there would have been a whole team wearing full hazmat protection and carrying guns. Not just one detective. Sgt Bailey appears to have had no protection. He could not have known the house was contaminated. If he knew the house was relevant to the enquiry it must have been on suspicion the house was contaminated. Why would he go there alone and unprotected?

Was he perhaps part of a security detail protecting Col Skripal, who already knew the family and where they lived? Why would that need to be kept a secret? Were the Skripals under surveillance? After all, Yulia had arrived from Moscow with a mysterious package only the day before. It’s inconceivable her arrival would not have been picked up at the airport.

But why then would Sgt Bailey have gone directly to the house after they were found? Someone, surely must have sent him. Why, what was it supposed to achieve? What was he even doing there, unless the police knew the house was immediately relevant to their enquiries? And why did they subsequently seal it off so tightly for ten days, apparently without anyone else going in, that the Skripals’ cats and guinea-pigs (??? wtf) died of dehydration?

What was behind the widespread media release of a days’ old CCTV image of former KGB Colonel Skripal innocently buying scratch cards at a corner store? What did that add to the story, apart from an element of incongruity?

Nothing makes sense.

 

Chapter 4: Medical mystery tour

Why were no other first responders, paramedics eg, contaminated through primary contact with the victims in the park, before the use of a nerve agent was suspected and protective measures taken? How was it first established that they were the victims of an attack by neurotoxin? Some substance must have been visible.

No-one who came into contact with the Skripals on that park bench is reported to have been hospitalized, even though it would not have been realized at first that a nerve agent was responsible and so no-one responding to their plight would have had any protection to begin with. Yet the only people affected – until the police identified 131 others who had been in the pub and the restaurant, none of whom has been hospitalized – were the primary victims, and the mysterious Det Sgt Nick Bailey*. What was his role in this?

When was it first realized that a deadly neurotoxin was involved, and who by? Knowledge of Col Skripal’s background might have given responders a clue, but who would have had that, before he could be identified? At what stage was the warning given to take extreme hazard precautions, and why were those who attended the scene before that warning went out not themselves badly affected by the toxin?

According to the BBC: “A doctor, who was shopping with her husband in the city centre on Sunday, said Ms Skripal was “slumped in her seat, completely unconscious” and had lost control of her bodily functions.” Did this “doctor” not attempt to offer immediate medical assistance? Why then is she not also in hospital?

Is the Novichok toxin designed to biodegrade so quickly after use that those who come into contact with it later will not be seriously harmed? Judging by the evidence trail still being uncovered, that doesn’t seem likely. If so, how to account for the effect on the Skripals and Sgt Bailey so many hours between the car being parked or the house contaminated and the victims being found? Were the Russian designers in the 1980s clever enough to give the toxicity of their poison a half-life?

* It now appears there was a second, unnamed police officer who was contaminated at the house. Why has he or she remained anonymous while Bailey was immediately named and hailed in the media as a ‘hero’? Was he or she another of the Skripals’ close protection detail?

 

Chapter 5: Half-life

One possible “signal” being sent by whoever was behind the attack might be a reminder that we seem to be entering a new Cold War, since Novichok was developed back in the 1980s and is supposedly by international convention no longer in military use. Less fashionably “retro” means of assassinating States’ enemies are now available, such as the VX agent used to kill Kim Jong-Nam, inconvenient half-brother of the North Korean tyrant.

Given the Novichok program involved around 100 different substances and was terminated decades ago and all old Soviet-era chemical weapons stocks verified (technically, at least) as destroyed, how did ‘Porton Down’ identify the substance so quickly and with such assurance, unless the chemical signature is held on an active database, presuming therefore that the Russians are suspected not to have destroyed their stocks?

(How is it the Russians imagine their heated denial of this weapon’s existence can possibly be believed, given the Soviet chemical weapons program was destroyed under international supervision and all items therefore presumably identified first? It’s absurd!)

…or unless the independent existence of the particular batch of toxin used was known about beforehand? A Guardian story suggests, for instance, that someone who had worked on the development program was involved in an attempt by organized criminals in the 1990s to make a batch of A232, some of which may have been used to assassinate a Russian banker and his secretary.

If that were the case, and the Russians were said to have complied with the conventions on chemical weapons, was Britain also reproducing these weapons or holding stocks in contravention of the conventions, or do the conventions allow multiple countries to retain samples for analytical purposes, for use in the production of antidotes (or illegal successor weapons)?

Was there something in Skripal’s KGB history linking him with the Novichok program, to make it an appropriate murder weapon? Did he for instance pass the formulae on to the British?

In which case, could the substance used indeed have come from Porton Down, as the Russians are now alleging, just eight miles from the scene of the crime? How? Who would have had access to it, and why that particular sample?

Was it needed in a hurry, that toxic substance directly traceable to a 30-years-old Soviet weapons program?

Two guinea-pigs? Cats, yes, very Ernst Stavro Blofeld… but who under the age of 13 still keeps guinea-pigs as pets?

And why?

 

Chapter 6: Assembly line

The nerve agent we are told was a highly active two-part compound for assembly immediately prior to use that would have had to be handled by someone extremely well trained and protected.

I don’t know what the original delivery system was supposed to be, an artillery shell possibly, but the idea of some Kremlin goon mixing it manually in the bedroom washbasin and then placing it somewhere the Skripals just might come into contact with it, without wearing a hazmat suit and respirator throughout the operation, is surely absurd.

Unless there’s a dead Russian agent slumped in a genteel B&B somewhere in rural southern England? (I’m still wondering how Dmitry Lugovoi managed to smuggle in enough radioactive polonium to kill Litvinenko and leave a glowing slime trail all over London for several days, yet not kill himself in the process?)

Could the Skripals have been making it themselves, for use in some other context, and fouled up? Would that explain why only they and Sgt Bailey were affected? Would it explain what was in the package Yulia Skripal had brought in from Moscow days earlier? Not a booby-trap, but the Novichok precursors ready for them to make up the final weapon? So who was the target? One week later, The Guardian reported:

“The family of the murdered Russian businessman Nikolai Glushkov have said they are devastated at his death and are helping counter-terrorism detectives with the investigation. The 68-year-old was found dead at his home in New Malden, south-west London, on 12 March (exactly a week after the supposed attack on the Skripals) and a postmortem showed he …”

Yes, the former finance director of Aeroflot who embezzled millions of dollars and served time for it had been strangled manually and then strung up to make it look like suicide – the method probably used to kill his billionaire business associate, Boris Berezovsky, at his home in Sunningdale in 2013.

Well,

Given the effectiveness of the polonium method (or VX, sarin, manual strangulation, or just a bullet) at causing a lingering public death, why revert instead to this old neurotoxin, that has not as far as we know been used anywhere else for a similar purpose, unless it was all there was to hand, in which case how so, or unless it was of some special significance in the coded world of Anglo-Russian espionage?

Were the Skripals on a mission to pay Sergei’s final debt to the GRU?

 

Chapter 7: Three-ring Circus

The Russians have offered no explanation on demand to the UK government, incurring the anger of politicians and a pretty fruitless exchange of diplomatic punishments and reprisals.

Mr Boris Johnson has put his foot in it yet again, stating that he had been categorically assured by “the guy” at Porton Down that the Novichok had been traced back to Russia. Shortly afterwards the Director of our loveliest weapons establishment went public with a statement saying they had not established where the stuff came from, it wasn’t their business to do that sort of thing.

The Russians had a field-day with that at the UN.

It appears then that Johnson was trying to hide the fact that British intelligence in Russia had passed the information through to MI6. Never a good thing to admit, since the Iraqi “Weapons of Mass Destruction” debacle, that we have agents abroad who could find their own feet.

Equally the UK government has refused to provide the evidence to the Russians they are accusing of a serious breach of international law. Why not? (The BBC is speculating we might have evidence, but just can’t admit it without being kind to Jeremy Corbyn, who has suggested everyone should look at it first. Politicians, eh?)

And why could we not wait the statutory ten days before hastening to conclusions and accusations, as mandated in the conventions? It has been said, the counter-terrorism forces’ investigations may go on for months, yet we rushed to judgement within hours, almost as if the story were pre-prepared.

Why? What was the timing about, why was it so critical – apart, that is, from having to get a story out fast enough to prevent a possible public health crisis and a panic once it had all gone wrong?

 

 

Chapter 8: Send in more clowns

At the time Skripal was apparently turned as a double agent by the British, was Christopher Steele not the MI6 bureau chief in Moscow, or some such?

Steele was the private security consultant responsible for digging up, on behalf it seems in turn both of the Republicans AND the Democrats via an obscure research outfit in Washington called Fusion GPS, what possible ‘dirt’ if any the Russians might have had on Donald Trump prior to his election. Information that could have been used in the US for good or ill – in the event, both.

In 2016, perturbed by what he was finding (his version goes) Steele sent the CIA and the FBI the controversial, so-called ‘pee-pee’ dossier – an uncollated set of 35 pages of previously unverified information supposedly gleaned from his Russian contacts that has substantially since been verified (to howls of “fake news” from the Trump camp) and is now a key part of the Mueller investigation into possible election fraud and financial crimes by the Trump team: an investigation Mr Trump seems almost recklessly keen to have shut down, for whatever reason.

My pet conspiracy theory is that Trump is desperate that it should not come out that he was compromised years ago, not by the Russians but by US intelligence, and was informing on his criminal Russian contacts.

Prudently, but perhaps also melodramatically, when the existence of the dossier became public knowledge in the USA, leaked to BuzzFeed, Steele “disappeared” with his family for several weeks before re-emerging, having seemingly been debriefed by the FBI. Clearly, there was some threat to their lives. But where from? And who spirited the Steeles away to a safe house? If it was his former friends in the security service, why would they do that?

Was Skripal one of Steele’s contacts? Could the attack on him be a warning to any others who might give information related to the Trump “conspiracy” and the part played in it by Mr Putin or possibly other, even more sinister criminal elements in the Kremlin?

I refer you to a curious interview by Emily Maitlis on the BBC’s Newsnight last Friday with longstanding Putin critic and fabulously wealthy exiled oligarch, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whose view is that Putin has become the prisoner, the sock-puppet, of a gang of evil actors, mafioski he initially surrounded himself with but who have essentially been running things in Russia for the past few years.

I then refer you to a John Sweeney BBC Panorama documentary from 2016, and many other reports alluding to Mr Trump’s alleged financial connections with the Russian mafia, whose terrifying capo, Simeon Mogilevitch is said to have invested heavily but alas, disappointingly in his Atlantic City casino operations and other Trump properties; but must ask you not to jump to any conclusions.

For, here we find on a website called USNews.com, from January 2018: “Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson testified (to the increasimgly fractious and disorderly Senate Intelligence Committee) that the real-estate mogul built relationships with Russian gangsters, who were themselves tied to the Russian government.” (http://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2018-01-18/trump-had-ties-to-russian-mob-figures-fusion-gps-founder-testifies)

And over the weekend, it has emerged that the Cambridge, UK-based data analytics firm backed by Bannon’s former mentor Bob Mercer, allegedly involved in clandestine election-rigging ops using, effectively, hacked Facebook data – including the Trump campaign, Brexit and others – and connected with Wikileaks, purveyors of the Clinton emails – was also tied to Kremlin-backed oil giant, Lukoil in an apparently global attempt to “change the culture”.

At the very least, these revelations represent a rampng-up of the new Cold War rhetoric and a reason for these tit-for-tat sanctions, targeted assassinations (by no means confined to the UK), and punitive measures, to hijack the news agenda.

I finally rest my case on an interview on RT with veteran lefty investigator, John Pilger, who believes Theresa May has concocted the whole thing to make herself look competent and paint the poor Russians into a corner, or some such Pilgeresque paranoid drivel.

Is it all a case of a self-driving conspiracy, with no human agency at the wheel?

Mr Putin is later today being re-elected for another 6-year term as President. Once that formality has been completed we shall no doubt see where the Skripal saga takes us next.

x

The thick plottens…

“The information commissioner is seeking an urgent court warrant to enter the London headquarters of the elections consultancy Cambridge Analytica after the firm was caught in an undercover sting boasting about entrapping politicians, using honey traps and running fake news campaigns. Cyber-security consultants … who had been engaged by Facebook to do (an) audit, were at CA’s office in London on Monday evening when the ICO asked them to leave so the authorities could pursue their own investigation.” – Guardian

The ICO has been flagging up heavily in the media for the past 24 hours that she will be ‘seeking’ a warrant to invade Cambridge Analytica’s data files. If you were investigating breaches of the Data Protection Act and possible electoral finance offences, would you give a computer firm two days’ clear notice in which to scrub their files like a coalminer’s doorstep, if you didn’t for some reason want them to come out looking whiter than white?

What in God’s holy name is going on?

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When not in Rome

Within hours of the incident unfolding in Salisbury, on the basis of secret intelligence, no doubt, British politicians including the bumptious oaf, Boris Johnson, and the new Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, an unindividuated teenager who keeps a pet tarantula in a vivarium in his office, were already pointing the finger at Vladimir Putin for ordering yet another targeted and messy assassination attempt on British soil.

Meanwhile in Nottingham, police have no idea weeks after the event if (in an incident caught on camera) an Egyptian engineering student, Mariam Moustafa, was the target of a racially aggravated assault, or what the motive was, after being chased off a bus and severely beaten while being racially abused by a gang of white girls.

They are keeping an open mind, apparently.

Mariam died in hospital three weeks later. The Health Board is “investigating” whether her death might possibly have been connected with the assault. The post mortem examination was “inconclusive”, the coroner has brought in an open verdict.

The BBC reports, her family is here (they live in Rome, where Mariam was born) looking for answers.

Good luck with that.

 

 

Pots, kettles (but no blacks)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the “extensive and fair investigation” had concluded that Mr McCabe “made an unauthorised disclosure to the news media and lacked candour – including under oath – on multiple occasions” – BBC News

“Detestable lahs you are tellin’.”

Mr Sessions, who has previously admitted lying under oath about his communications over sanctions with the Russian ambassador, is obviously unaware that McCabe’s job description as acting director of the FBI made him specifically the person who authorized statements to the press on behalf of the agency.

Any disclosures he himself made or (as in this case) requested a spokesman to make on the agency’s behalf, would therefore have been authorized by him, no?

In the meantime Mr Trump has spewed out another in his weekly series of paranoid Sunday breakfast tweets today, accusing everyone of being traitors to America, unfair to him, of being in the pay of Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNP, and libelling people he hates, McCabe, Comey, Special Counsel Bob Mueller, calling them out as liars and fakers of evidence. “NO COLLUSION!”, he screamed.

He gets more like Nixon by the hour.

His despairing lawyers are entirely unable to stop him doing it, but he is clearly unaware that as a result of his attempts to halt the Mueller investigation without actually firing Bob Mueller, a prima facie case for obstruction of justice is piling up behind him tweet by tweet like a vast heap of shit ready to topple and bury him forever. Not to mention the tiny question, what’s he trying so desperately to hide?

My treasured Follower, Mark Smith may have one possible answer, his Comment is on the previous Post.

I couldn’t, possibly.

(I have a theory that Mark C Smith is a collective pseudonym for GCHQ, I can’t be certain. All I know is, my Views for this and Pumpkin 48 have reached almost virulent numbers today. Starting from quite a low base, you understand.)

 

Bidness groups warmly welcome transition deal

The CBI has welcomed the deal in Brussels as “A victory for common sense”, insisting that it brings a welcome degree of certainty to British businesses. According to The Guardian:.

“…the transition deal is conditional upon there being a withdrawal agreement. As David Davis, the Brexit secretary, admitted recently, there is a possibility that the withdrawal agreement talks could collapse without a deal at the last moment. In those circumstances, there would be no transition…”

So, good, we’re all certain about that, then.

Davis and Barnier announce breakthrough agreement on Brexit transition.

 

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GW: just drifting on by

Canada: Alberta blanketed with 30 cm snow after two storms collide. Houses buried to the eaves under 20ft drifts.

USA: Storms land on both coasts. Heavy snow blankets Massachusetts in the east, Oregon in the west. An ‘energetic Arctic jetstream’ is threatening another Nor’easter this week, catching Alabama in the middle with ‘tornadic supercells’ with a high chance of damaging hailstorms. And another ‘Pineapple Express’ atmospheric river is set to bring big rain, possibly triggering more landslips on wildfire-damaged hillsides, to southern California.

Italy: Lit-up by exploding electricity substations, a huge tornado rips through Caserta, near Naples, on the night of 13 March.

Romania: Extensive flooding from rain and snowmelt. Croatia: heavy rain and snowmelt trigger mudslides, carrying away houses.

Ireland: Under several yellow warnings for extensive flooding following intense rainfall, 14 March.

Britain: greets curtain-call of the Beast from the East March 17/18 with two days of freezing weather and snowfalls disrupting schools, traffic and flights.

Australia: Cat 2 Cyclone Marcus kicks off the season, nibbling at northern coastal areas around Darwin and Kimberley with 130 Km/h windspeeds, uprooting large trees and damaging cars and buildings. Meanwhile… Sydney swelters in early autumn 40C, 104F heatwave, a lightning storm puts a power station out of action at Terang and rural properties are lost to an “out-of-control” wildfire burning around Brega in Victoria state.

(The NOAA 5-day forecast track for Marcus seems to be showing a slight possibility that having now headed out into the Southern Ocean, it could swing back toward land somewhere north of Perth, Western Australia state.)

Thailand: ‘freak’ storm with cyclonic wind, hail causes floods, damage. Indonesia: Java flooding.

Africa: floods in Kenya, Uganda and Lesotho, where 5 people died in an intense hailstorm. Madagascar, yet another cyclone, Eliakim brings strong winds and flooding.

World: Despite the Beast and the Nor’easters, February managed 6th warmest on record globally, thanks to persistent heat anomalies in the Arctic and across Africa, Australia/New Zealand and central Asia. It’s been a wild winter in the northern hemisphere, but as March progresses there seems to be some flattening-out of the global extremes and some cooling-off in the Arctic that is extending the icefields again, although larger temperature anomalies are appearing in the Antarctic now.

The good news for Europe at least is that the polar jetstream that wandered all the way down to North Africa for months, bringing very cold conditions, may be slowly making its way back north again. Of course, that would bring heat up from Africa, presaging another extremely hot European summer, with more wildfires and probable crop losses.

Climate & Extreme Weather News #103, pt 2, citing Euronews/ Wunderground