Branson – self publicist or eco-warrior?

George Monbiot talking nonsense again.  Only, today, it’s rather grandiose nonsense.

So now we know: Richard Branson doesn’t read the Guardian. On Thursday, it published an extract from my book showing that there are no foreseeable substitutes for aviation fuel (kerosene) that don’t currently cause more harm than good. A few hours later, Branson announced that he would be investing £1.6bn in technologies intended to reduce climate change. First among them would be alternative fuels for aircraft.

He singled out biofuels as a promising opportunity. While pure biodiesel can be used to run a car engine, it cannot be used in jet planes at a higher concentration than roughly 10%. This is because its “cloud point” is much higher than kerosene’s.

As I posted in the comments to George’s article, I couldn’t discuss the science of aviation fuel with either George or Richard – at least, not without looking rather unintelligent.  But I think I can safely say that, if Richard Branson is investing £1.6 billion in the research, he’s got something interesting in mind.

And what’s this about?

Now it could be that Branson’s money will help develop a new source of biofuel – algae grown in ponds in the desert for example, or waste products from crops and forestry. If so, that’s something we should welcome, while remembering that it can’t comprise more than 10% of his fleet’s fuel. The problem is that we need to cut carbon emissions by 87% by 2030 in every sector – aviation included – and there’s no conceivable way in which a change of fuel could do this, especially if the number of flights keeps growing.

Monbiot’s condemning Branson because the carbon emissions he may save from cutting aircraft emissions won’t be enough to save the entire world? 

Give the guy a break.  One man can only do so much…!

Pope told not to promote Catholicism

The Pope, apparently, should not be allowed to say that Catholicism is superior to other religions

Yahya Pallavicini, vice-president of one of Italy’s main Islamic organisations, the Islamic Religious Community […] expressed a fear that the Pope’s comments demonstrated a “Christian Catholic exclusivism” – a belief that Catholicism was superior to other religions.

In the words of Rebecca, who sent me the link – “He’s the POPE for gods sake – if he can’t think Catholicism is a superior religion, then the world has truly gone nuts”.

Off to University

I remember all too well how difficult it was to work up the courage to attend university as a 24 year old mature student, but at the same time how excitied I was at the prospect of embarking on a new stage in my life.  Wondering if I would fit in, make friends, pass my exams; and at the same time looking forward to the chance to study the things that fascinated me, to be the person I really wanted to be. 

Today is my Dad’s first day at university.  I can only imagine how it feels for him.

But one thing I know for certain is – I’m proud of you, Dad.  Work hard, and have fun.

London police outsource decision making

London police are going to consult with the community before they make any future anti-terrorist raids:

POLICE have agreed to consult a panel of Muslim leaders before mounting counter-terrorist raids or arrests. Members of the panel will offer their assessment of whether information police have on a suspect is too flimsy and will also consider the consequences on community relations of a raid.

Now, perhaps I’m missing the point here, but shouldn’t the police be able to figure out whether the evidence they have warrants a raid all by themselves? 

And, if the police are so uncertain of the evidence on which they choose to make their raids that they feel the need to get reassurance from the community – well, they probably shouldn’t really be considering the raid in the first place.

Euro terrorism not dead yet

Basque separatist and terrorist organisation ETA shows that home grown European terrorism is still alive and kicking:

“Until we achieve independence and socialism in the Basque country, we reaffirm our commitment to keep taking up arms firmly.

The fight is not a thing of the past. It is the present and the future.”

They’ve also demonstrated that they’ve learnt very little from the Madrid train bombing. 

Ian Botham, Viv Richards, Joel Garner, et al

The Sunday Times profiles the Somerset cricket team of 1981, which brought together Ian Botham, Viv Richards, and Joel Garner into the most spectacular one day team of its time. 

“We were a wonderfully varied group of players, with university graduates, salt-of-the-earth players from Somerset and some superstars,” recalls allrounder Vic Marks. “Temperamentally we were better suited to one-day cricket because we had players who could turn it on rather than grind it out day-in, day-out, which is what you have to do to win a championship.”

Each member of the team, which won five one-day trophies in as many years, is profiled.  Including the mighty Dennis Breakwell, who taught me to bowl when I was nine.   

Clinton goes into lions den and fights

Right wing US news channel Fox News threw down the gauntlet to Bill Clinton, inviting him to an interview to discuss his ‘failure’ to catch Osama Bin Laden.  Clinton went into the interview with the intention of bloodying a few noses and, judging by the transcripts, seems to have succeded:

WALLACE: Do you think you did enough sir?

CLINTON: No, because I didn’t get him.


CLINTON: But at least I tried. That’s the difference in me and some, including all the right wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try and they didn’t…I tried. So I tried and failed. When I failed I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clarke… So you did FOX’s bidding on this show. You did you nice little conservative hit job on me. But what I want to know..

WALLACE: Now wait a minute sir…


WALLACE: I asked a question. You don’t think that’s a legitimate question?

CLINTON: It was a perfectly legitimate question but I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked this question of. I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked: Why didn’t you do anything about the Cole? I want to know how many you asked: Why did you fire Dick Clarke? I want to know…

Clinton certainly has very little to be defensive about.  Prior to 2001, terrorism just wasn’t a global issue.  It maybe should have been, but when virtually no ‘experts’ around the world managed to identify terrorism as a major threat, it would be unfair to condemn the previous US administration for not pouring resources into fighting it.

The full interview airs tomorrow on Fox.  I’m sure it’ll be available on the internet within minutes, so we’ll see how he performed in the context of the entire interview.

‘Politics like you’ve never seen it before’

Britain is to get a brand new internet tv station covering news and politics. 18 Doughty Street – which will broadcast for four hours each evening – promises to “break the mould” . Here’s the trailer:

Having just watched the trailer myself, I must admit, I found it difficult to muster much enthusiasm. Dull, but worthy, was my immediate reaction.

I would be happy to see a new non-mainstream tv news channel, though, so I am keen to see how it develops. And, yes, I’ll happily eat my words if I turn out to be yet another cynic with a blog.

Putin not amused at being called “Russia’s phallic symbol”

Yet another Russian journalist has been put on trial.  This time, for satirising the President’s policy to raise the Russian birth-rate:

Vladimir Rakhmankov, the editor of the online publication “Kursiv,” went on trial on September 21 for running an article with the headline “Putin as Russia’s phallic symbol.”

Rakhmankov faces up to a year of jail time (also known as ‘corrective labour’) or a fine.

(Hat tip: La Russophobe).

Tunneling to freedom and back

Clearly their budget was too tight for them to afford both a map and a shoehorn:

Two Egyptian citizens have managed to violate the Russian state border by digging a tunnel under the barbed wire fence with a simple shoehorn. After getting lost on the territory of Poland the Egyptians performed the trick for the second time and got back to Russia to face arrest.

The Interfax news agency quoted the Russian Prosecutor General’s report as saying that the two men were aiming to get to Western Europe via Russia. They obtained a tourist visa and flew to Moscow from where they hitchhiked to the Polish border.

This post brought to you by the Mosnews Appreciation Society.