Pyramid Comment

This journal takes an alternative view on current affairs and other subjects. The approach is likely to be contentious and is arguably speculative. The content of any article is also a reminder of the status of those affairs at that date. All comments have been disabled. Any and all unsolicited or unauthorised links are absolutely disavowed.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

American History

American History

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Alzheimer And Dementia

Ethical Behaviour

After "repeated and costly failures", drug (pharmaceutical) companies are retreating from further investigation. This should come as no surprise if the condition of dementia is regarded as being age related and not a disease. The human population is growing and living longer. Mostly 'advances' in medication have enabled a human to survive to an older age. The downside to this is that existence is too long.

Cells die and are renewed at differing rates - dependent on the cell-type. Some cells (neurons) cannot be replaced with their content retained. The 'memory' will die. It is not a question of a 'disease', but cell renewal.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015


The first MP to be tried, convicted and sentenced was David Chaytor (profile). When the parliamentry privilege approach failed, Chaytor admitted guilt to charges. This had the immediate effect of preventing any cross-examination in a trial and possibly preventing any relevant information (in the public interest) being uncovered. What may have been under the carpet will (probably) never be seen.

Information pertaining to the whole system.

Urging reform is not reform

[it's for the future anyway, so we can all forget (for) now - DA].

Don't look, can't look, won't find

Code of Conduct and Guide to Rules (for MPs)
Allowances by MP
Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA)

  • Same dog, old teeth just 'cleaned' and new name?
  • Same dog, new teeth, new name?
  • New dog, old teeth, new name?
  • New dog, new teeth, new name?

The estimated legal aid bill is £50,000.

Legal aid involves payment for legal services, but does not necessarily provide assistance for any investigation expenses. The playing field may be only partially levelled.

  • Anyone with a monthly disposable income of £283 or more and/or capital assets of more than £30,000 under means testing would be asked (not instructed? - DA) to contribute towards their defence.

None of the three charged defendants is standing at the election and would normally be eligible of “resettlement allowances” of up to £65,000, which is frozen until a verdict is returned. The House of Commons Commission will decide what to do next once that verdict is known.

So, what's the result?

30.01.2011: as an ex-MP (stood down at the 2010 election after getting caught [up] in the expenses scandal), only the name Chaytor is missing from the list of current MPs. Nothing else is specifically yet available. Chaytor is an ex-MP, it has no need to do anything about someone no longer a member of the house. Very tidy, but also very unclean. But this is parliament.

and on it goes. Nothing about a House of Commons Commission

    Caste, Aristocracy, Subduction

    Meena Kandasamy: to listen to Meena is to understand passion and pain. Together they form a potent liaison and her poetry writing is powerful. The thrust of her work is aimed towards the Indian caste system and its annihilation, but is profound in itself.

    Other world ‘democracies’ mirror in many ways the caste system as the mechanism for exerting control over the majority by a minority. The UK-class system of upper (aristocracy) and lower (working) system belittle and exploit ‘breeding’ as though a birth-right exists to rise up and be at the top. Or simply to be born at the ‘top’. An automatic existence to be above all else. But that simply implies pedigree and ironically associates with beasts.

    The ‘middle-rich’ class is simply an invention to cloak the extremes and enable the illusion to exist.

    African apartheid - the concept is nauseating enough, but the actual working of such a system defies adequate description.


    Belief systems enable one group to claim they have a right to bring death upon those who disagree with them. The non-conformist is a thinker who concludes that the instructions of the self-appointed ‘ruling classes’ is not right. This too is a belief, just a different one. The view of the ‘ruling class’ will benefit that class at the expense of everyone else who is needed to support that minority advantage. There's little difference between murdering the competition and simply removing freedoms. To control and enslave. It's badged as the upper class advantage as a nauseatingly 'God-given' right. Of course it's not. It simply the parasitical element taking the advantage and subjugating those who are not wealthy enough or have sufficient self-protective influence to defend themselves.

    The parasite (minority) feeds on the host (majority). The majority is subjugated by the minority. The host eventually rises ‘en masse’ as in Tunisia or Egypt (2011). The parasite is ultimately exposed for what it is. Nasty and generally small. The one parasite needs co-operation from another (different) parasite as with Egypt and USA. Financial aid ($1.5bn annually) for a non-sovereign foothold in a foreign state. Effective bribery. The aid usually involves some sort of military presence: personnel and ordnance.

    Prediction: oil will be 'found' under the Sahara. It's where it should be found. Simply consider subduction.

    UK Border Agency

    The Unite Union has revealed a fascinating apparent truth. The walk-out arranged for Thursday, 30th June 2011 expects an almost certain snarl-up for passengers entering the UK. It is amazing that those with passports legally entering the UK will face such delays, yet illegal immigrants can virtually walk in without any real difficulty at any time.

    Somewhere within the entire issue of immigration is something even more disturbing than has so far been suggested. Truth and motives are very indistinct, shimmering through ALL the smokescreens.

    Headlight Intensity

    The brightness of vehicle headlamps is increasing.

    Virgin Northern Rock

    George Osborne has sanctioned the sale of Northern Rock to Richard Branson’s Virgin Group claiming this represented ‘value for money’. Taxpayers exit some £400m poorer, so it would appear Branson has acquired ‘value for money’. The Virgin consortium allegedly plan to raid the business of its own cash in order to pay for the purchase” then “hope to sell out a few years down the road” or “buy it cheap, strip it of asset” then “flog it dear” (chief investor, American financier Wilbur Ross).

    The following is not original

    Richard Branson is claimed to keep himself in homes in Holland Park and Necker Island by taking taxpayer subsidies and operating heavily protected businesses. After all, you don't get much safer than a small mortgage lender that's had all its rubbish assets taken off it by the Treasury, in a market where the big banks are keeping their eyes down and their fingers crossed. Think about the great Branson triumphs and you'll see what I mean. Virgin Rail? A monopoly on the West Coast main line, complete with initial subsidies worth hundreds of millions. Virgin Radio and Virgin Mobile? Both granted government licences to operate in a heavily restricted market. Virgin Airlines? The beneficiary of regulators' decision to strip British Airways of landing slots between London and New York and award them to the number two player. Again, a closed market where Branson has tried to keep the door shut tight against further competition.

    Despite all the awards and the cosy relationships with whoever's in Downing Street, the Virgin boss neither makes anything, nor changes anything. He's no radical. The Northern Rock purchase is typical of his style: he fronts up a deal where the real money tends to come from someone else (in this case, an American and an Abu Dhabi investment firm), slaps the Virgin name everywhere and then cashes out as soon as possible. Branson isn't an entrepreneur; he's a carpetbagger.

    Early in Tom Bower's splendid biography of Branson, there is a scene in which he is giving a Millennium Lecture at Oxford University in November 1999. The "lighthouse for enterprise" is asked what his great hope is for the new century, and a hush falls over the audience. What might he say? Were this Bill Gates, a picture would be painted of a software revolution. The head of Nissan might summon up a vision of Africans and Asians gaily driving about in cheap new hatchbacks. What does the bearded visionary have in mind? "To run the national lottery." A government-gifted licence to get his brand name plastered everywhere - the sort of thing Branson is always after.

    But here's the thing: in his desire for sheltered money-makers, the Virgin boss differs from the rest of British business only in his desire for publicity. Look at our household names: take out retail, banks and commodities and the things you're left with bear names such as Wessex Water or Centrica or Arriva. In other words, they do things the public sector used to do – pump water or pipe gas or lay on public transport. Alternatively, they're outfits such as Serco, or Capita and they're bidding for contracts from the government; or they're engineers bidding for PFI projects. Now look at the big names in America or Germany: there are firms such as Google or Siemens.

    Over here much of the private sector isn't adding anything or innovating - indeed, it's tricky to do that when you're running an administrative office or supplying water. They're simply taking contracts and cutting staffing costs. This is a picture of lazy British business, either seeking business from the state or the protection of sheltered industries. And yet if you listen to the Conservatives, the problem with the economy is that the labour markets are too heavily regulated. No 10 lets it be known that it's taking seriously ideas to scrap laws around unfair dismissal, so that employees can be sacked without explanation. The implication of all this is that Cameron and Osborne think the workers are to blame for the malaise of the British economy. Look at the Northern Rock deal, however, or flick through the business pages, and the opposite appears to be the case: it's business that needs to be prodded into working harder.

    A fair amount of nonsense was talked yesterday about the Northern Rock deal, most of it from the two parties involved. George Osborne was touting the sale of the first casualty of the credit crunch as "value for money". The description makes one wonder just how the chancellor approaches his own Christmas shopping. The Newcastle bank had £1.4bn of taxpayer money pumped into it, and its main part is now being sold for £747m, which with time and luck might rise to £1bn. However one holds this deal up, it still represents a loss to the state. Even if everything goes to plan (a big if, given the state of the financial world), taxpayers have just handed over £13 each to the billionaire Virgin boss Richard Branson. They, rather than the chancellor, can judge whether that is a bargain.

    The second dollop of nonsense came from Virgin Money chairman David Clementi, who said the change of ownership would create "a significant banking competitor in the UK". Not with 70 branches it won't. Northern Rock was always a small regional player – part of what led to its downfall was Adam Applegarth's desire to vault into the banking premier league. Since nationalisation, the Rock has shrunk its business and halved its staff. It is hard now to see the institution troubling the Big Four high-street names. Indeed, so concerned was John Vickers about getting more serious competition into the banking industry that he proposed putting the Rock together with the 2,500 branches to be disposed of by the engorged Lloyds-HBOS. That would have been an imaginative way of breaking up Britain's retail-banking oligarchy; this is not.

    What yesterday's deal emphatically is, however, is a very curious one. Why was the news sprung now? The chancellor did not explain. How far did the government and its bank-holding agency UK Financial Investments explore alternatives such as turning the Rock back into a mutually owned building society? Again, the voter is left none the wiser. That is so even though the voter is also the taxpayer, who also has yet another alias as the selling stockholder in this venture – and thus a powerful reason for wanting to know what is going on with their investment. The distinct impression left is of a chancellor a bit short of good news and cash pushing through a deal that provides a little giveaway fund for this month's autumn statement. This may be wrong, of course, but the sudden haste with which Mr Osborne has acted, and the murk that surrounds this decision, is puzzling. It is all rather reminiscent of another recent chancellor big on tactics and short on strategy, a certain Gordon Brown. This matters because the coalition had a chance here to try to reshape the banking sector – to make it more diverse, perhaps, or simply more competitive. What it has opted for instead is business as usual. True, ministers will rightly argue that they had little option – that the previous Labour government mandated UK Financial Investments simply to return the maximum amount to the taxpayer. But it does not augur well for how the government treats its much weightier stakes in Lloyds and RBS.

    For Mr Branson this really is a sweet deal: he finally gets the prize he has been coveting for years. Arguably, the dessert is all the sweeter for the waiting. When Virgin first sniffed around Northern Rock three years ago, it was a chain of high-street branches with a massive bad debt around its neck. In the intervening period, public officials have taken away the bad debt and tidied up the company. Mr Branson gets a prettified bank, which he can now rename Virgin. He can also play the part of bearded white knight, which is always the tycoon's favourite role. Banking customers and the staff of Northern Rock can only hope that Mr Branson's latest venture does not go down the same inglorious route as Virgin Cola, Virgin Cars and Virgin Brides.

    Aditya Chakrabortty claims we have built Virgin on the back of "taxpayer subsidies and [by] operating heavily protected businesses" (Is Richard Branson all he's cracked up to be?, G2, 22 November). This is, of course, complete garbage – 99% of our businesses have nothing to do with government at all and have been built in the face of ferocious competition. His article is vicious, claiming: "This is a picture of lazy British business." This is an insult to our 50,000 wonderful staff. In an attempt to prove his thesis, he writes: "Virgin Radio and Virgin Mobile? Both granted government licences to operate in a heavily restricted market." Let's take each in turn. When we entered the mobile phone sector, as a direct result of the fact that we had not been granted any government licences, we used our skills to innovate and launched the world's first ever mobile virtual network operator by piggybacking on other people's networks.

    Virgin Radio was awarded a licence to operate – but on AM, which was by no means ideal when fighting for audience share with the major players on FM. A national FM licence we fought for but were never awarded. Regardless of that huge disadvantage, we went on to build an extremely successful radio station. As for Virgin Airlines, I wish the regulator had "strip[ped] British Airways of landing slots between London and New York" and awarded them to us. Sadly, not true. All three of our airlines have had to compete in fierce marketplaces.

    On the issue of Virgin Rail  - where we did win a highly competitive bid to run the west coast mainline? - we have (more than) doubled passenger numbers from 14 million to 30 million and, far from receiving subsidies, we now pay more than £100m a year to the taxpayer.

    Chakrabortty continues with a personal attack, saying: "The Virgin boss neither makes anything, nor changes anything. He's no radical." We happen to be building spaceships. I may not be but the people who work for Virgin certainly are. They have shaken up industries as diverse as music, transportation, leisure, health, financial services, mobile telephony – all for the benefit of the consumer. Chakrabortty's vitriol persists when he claims my vision was to run the National Lottery so I could get my "brand name plastered everywhere". Our bid to win the franchise was in fact a wholly not-for-profit organisation called The People's Lottery. As it turns out we – controversially – had our winning bid overturned, reducing the profits for good causes.

    He concludes: "It's business that needs to be prodded into working harder." The team at Virgin Money are not afraid of hard work – they have built 3 million customers from a standing start against fierce competition, and in the future we expect to receive the same fierce competition from the major high street players. Alongside the incredible staff of Northern Rock, the Virgin Money team will work tirelessly to turn around a loss-making bank, return more money for the taxpayer, and offer UK consumers a different and better banking experience.

    Vodaphone Tax


    Barclays, Bonuses and Sackings

    • This last one seems peculiar and is almost as if the £20m was always a fiction to enable the £2m to be regarded as...
    that was cheap, wasn't it?

    It wasn't that long ago that Barclay's investment bankers were 'given' very (very, very...) large bonuses even though the overall business was making huge losses. It seems long enough ago to imagine that observers had forgotten. This bank now sacks thousands of employees to streamline the operation.

    Myths About Petrol, Gaddafi And Nuclear Power

    This is not original

    Gasoline prices have been steadily climbing for several months, and Americans are feeling the pain at the pump. The possible culprits (from greedy oil execs to Mideast turmoil) are as plentiful as the proposed solutions (more offshore drilling, green energy or government reserves). But what is really driving prices up? And what, if anything, can be done about it? Let’s take a moment to fill up on information about our fuel.

    1. Fighting in Libya is sending gas prices higher.

    Libya is not a big enough global oil supplier for the battles there to have a meaningful effect on gas prices. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Libya was a major U.S. supplier, selling us around 700,000 barrels of oil per day. But today, we import less than 50,000 barrels per day from Libya — a tiny fraction of the 9.2 million barrels per day the United States imported in 2010. Worldwide, the story is no different: Of the 86 million barrels consumed globally each day, less than 2 percent come from Moammar Gaddafi’s regime.

    So why are gas prices up? Though Gaddafi’s fate is largely irrelevant to the oil market, unrest throughout the greater Middle East is not. The Persian Gulf region produces almost 24 million barrels of oil per day, more than 25 percent of global oil consumption. The Arab spring that has brought protests to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen makes markets nervous, and when markets fret over a possible disruption to oil supplies, gas prices rise — whether the disruption materializes or not.

    2. Tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) is a smart way to reduce gas prices.

    The U.S. government maintains a 727 million-barrel oil reserve — 38 days’ worth at current levels of consumption - to protect against potential supply disruptions. But just about every time prices rise, politicians want to access the oil in the reserve to increase supply and bring prices back down. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), for instance, has been calling for oil releases from the SPR for more than a decade. In a letter to President Bill Clinton in 1999, he endorsed the release of several hundred thousand barrels a day from the SPR because, according to a news release about the letter, oil prices had made a “meteoric ascent to nearly $25 per barrel”. Had Clinton dipped into the reserve then, as Schumer requested, we almost certainly would have gotten a raw deal. What if that $25-per-barrel oil could be replenished only at $75 per barrel? Tapping the SPR makes the government an oil speculator, and any nation running record deficits that becomes a commodity trader is playing a dangerous game. The SPR exists to buy time in a true supply emergency. If we use it as a political tool to keep voters happy by stemming rising gas prices, we may be forced to buy back oil at even higher prices, or we may be left with an insufficient supply in a real crisis.

    3. Oil companies produce less in the spring to make gas prices increase.

    Almost every year, gasoline prices rise in the spring. At the same time, refineries produce less fuel. This is not because oil companies want to keep inventories low to drive prices higher. It’s because what’s in our gasoline (butane) changes from season to season. Butane is a cheap ingredient in gasoline that boils at low temperatures. In winter, this isn’t a problem. But in summer, butane evaporates from gas, polluting the air while leaving us with less fuel in the tank than we paid for. As temperatures rise, refineries replace butane with more costly ingredients and draw down winter inventories just as beach season begins.

    Chemistry, not corporate conspiracy, limits supply

    4. The Obama administration is driving up gas prices.

    Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says EPA regulations are a “back-door national energy tax” that pushes prices up. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin says the White House drilling moratorium shows President Obama’s “culpability in the high gas prices hurting Americans.” Blaming the president for rising gas prices is nothing new, and it’s a bipartisan tactic. In 2004, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) blamed President George W. Bush for higher gas prices and for continuing to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) as oil prices climbed.

    Just one problem: even if domestic supplies were developed, American presidents couldn’t really control oil prices. The U.S. government has estimated that there are 18 billion barrels of oil in the outer continental shelf of the lower 48 states that are off limits to development. That may sound like a lot, but it is only about 2.5 years of supply for the United States, and it would take several years to allocate leases and drill exploratory wells. Even if the estimated 10 billion barrels of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge were available for development, today’s policy decisions would have no impact on gasoline supplies for as much as a decade. Obama can’t dictate what you’ll pay for premium tomorrow.

    5. Americans can’t live without cheap gas.

    Yes, Americans love to drive, and Americans love cheap gas. But across an ocean, there’s a continent filled with people a lot like us who have lived with high gas prices for years. They’re called Europeans. While U.S. gasoline heads toward $4 per gallon, Europeans have been paying much higher prices for years because of high taxes on fuel. This month in Britain, gas hit 6 pounds, or about $9.76, per gallon. Because gas is so dear, Europe’s per capita energy use is half that of the United States, leaving Europe less vulnerable to oil price shocks yet not undermining its citizens’ standard of living. The United States, built on cheap oil, is much less densely populated than the Old World, with more wide-open spaces to traverse. But that doesn’t mean we can’t embrace some of the things that have helped Europeans keep their gasoline bills down. Such as high-speed rail, public transportation and green energy.

    In fact, Americans have shown that they can adjust their behavior when faced with sticker shock at the pump. As gas prices rose from $2.31 per gallon in 2005 to $3.30 per gallon in 2008, sales of the Toyota Prius eclipsed those of the Ford Explorer, and public transit use reached a 50-year high. When it costs $30 to fill up a Geo Metro with regular, all options are on the table. Robert Rapier is the chief technology officer of Merica International, a privately-owned renewable energy company, and writes for Consumer Energy Report.

    Like Sinatra, Moammar Gaddafi has always done things his way. When Egypt- and Tunis-style public protests failed to dislodge the Libyan leader, a full-scale rebellion erupted, only to be met with the uncompromising brutality so familiar to longtime Gaddafi observers. For now, Libya appears stalemated, with rebels controlling the eastern half of the country while regime loyalists dig in around Tripoli and the west. As the international community waits to see if, when and how Gaddafi might fall, let's topple a few misunderstandings about the mercurial leader.


    1. Gaddafi is insane.

    Gaddafi looks like a deranged dictator? Homicidal attacks on his own people? Wacky ideology? Try reading his incoherent ramblings in "The Green Book," a manifesto published in the 1970s. Bizarre public statements? Listen to his 90-minute tirade against the world before the U.N. General Assembly in 2009. Add to the mix his all-female Amazonian Guard security force and the Bedouin tent he pitches during trips to Rome, Paris and New York, and the evidence suggests that we're dealing with a crazy person. But Gaddafi could not have held on to power for such a long time in a country as divided as Libya without being a canny political operator. He has adapted over the years, adjusting his message to appeal to different constituents with pan-Arabism, pan-Africanism, anti-Westernism and an idiosyncratic take on socialism. He has used every means at his disposal to achieve his sole objective: staying in power. Libya's oil wealth enables Gaddafi to buy loyalty. When loyalty can't be bought, he uses intimidation and violence to extract it - witness, for example, the brutal suppression of student Islamists in eastern Libya in the 1990s. He has methodically removed his enemies, keeping the military weak, tribes divided and Islamic radicals fearing for their lives. He's kept his foes bickering instead of working together to unseat him. He's even manipulated his own children, stoking their rivalries to prevent any of them from becoming too powerful. Until last month, Gaddafi managed to control everything and everyone in his country while claiming that he had no official position within it. That's a crazy argument, but the man spouting it has been too successful to be dismissed as a madman.
    2. Gaddafi will fight to the death.

    After President Ronald Reagan called Gaddafi "the mad dog of the Middle East," many thought the dictator would die before stepping down. Though surrender won't come easily to the man who has vowed to oppose the Libyan rebellion "to the last drop of blood," Gaddafi's past suggests that he is capable of stepping back from the precipice. After the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Gaddafi feared that his regime could be next. So he gave up his nuclear weapons program and paid compensation to the families of Lockerbie bombing victims in return for an end to U.S. trade sanctions. If he's given ground before, why not now? Arab media reports suggest that he hasn't ruled out stepping aside in exchange for immunity from prosecution and asylum abroad for himself and his family. Quiet retirement in Caracas or Harare cannot be dismissed as the rebels gain ground.
    3. Foreign mercenaries keep Gaddafi in power.

    It's not so straightforward. Fighters from neighboring Chad and Niger as well as Syria, Serbia and Ukraine have flocked to Gaddafi in his hour of need, but the Libyan leader's core support comes from domestic constituencies. These include special forces units commanded by his sons, formidable internal security and the fealty of his own tribal group, the Qadhadhfa. Some members of the more numerous Warfalla and Magariha tribes are also in his corner. And many of Libya's "foreigners" have lived there for many years. They came from Chad, Mali and Niger as far back as the 1970s to join Gaddafi's Islamic Legion, a militia group intent on securing Libyan control of North Africa, and became naturalized citizens long ago. Racism is also at play. Many Libyan natives resent the country's foreign nationals (around 500,000) out of a population of more than 6.5 million. Unrest offers an opportunity to settle scores against foreign workers by falsely accusing "black Africans" of committing atrocities on behalf of the regime.
    4. A no-fly zone will finish Gaddafi.

    Very unlikely. Indeed, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and senior generals have balked at the cost and risks of destroying Libyan air defenses. In any case, the most significant attacks by the regime against the rebels haven't been mounted by warplanes, but by ground forces and helicopters capable of evading a no-fly zone. There's also an awkward diplomatic reality: Intervention would struggle to win support in NATO, where Turkey is opposed, or in the U.N. Security Council, where China and Russia are likely to say no. And even if a no-fly zone would topple Gaddafi, why would President Obama want to establish one? Failures in Iraq and Afghanistan are a big part of the debate about Libya. The United States is cautious, fearing another messy intervention in a Muslim country and wary of interfering in an organic, grass-roots rebellion in the Middle East. Unless Gaddafi begins using planes to inflict mass casualties, a no-fly zone may only level the playing field so that the two sides of Libya's civil war can fight more evenly - and Gaddafi isn't the underdog in that battle.
    5. Remove Gaddafi, and Libya's problems are solved.

    Gaddafi's rule has had one benefit: It has kept a divided country together. His exit would leave a power vacuum. Gaddafi did such a thorough job of eliminating his opposition that there is nothing - no party, no ideology, no clear successor - left to replace him. Politically, Libya is a blank slate.
    The rebels are united by little beyond their hatred of Gaddafi. Secularists, monarchists and even former jihadists rub shoulders with one another in this fight. Tribal loyalties further complicate efforts to forge a common front. All the factions call for international action to oust Gaddafi, but they are divided on what form it should take. Only since the Interim National Council was set up in the rebel-held city of Benghazi on Feb. 26 has Gaddafi's opposition begun to coalesce. But these are early days. For almost a week, former justice minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil battled with Benghazi-based lawyer Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga for leadership of the council. Jalil wasn't confirmed as its head until March 5. Even if Libya's rebels can achieve victory on the battlefield - a big "if" - the task of building a national movement in a divided society will prove even tougher.

    6. The biggest problem with nuclear energy is safety.

    Safety is certainly a critical issue, as the tragedy in Japan is making clear. But for years, the the biggest challenge to sustainable nuclear energy has not been safety, but cost. In the United States, new nuclear construction was already slowing down even before the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979; the disaster merely sealed its fate. The last nuclear power plant to come online started delivering power in 1996, but its construction began in 1972. Today, nuclear power remains considerably more expensive than coal- or gas-fired electricity, mainly because nuclear plants are so expensive to build. Estimates are slippery, but a plant can cost well north of $5 billion. A 2009 MIT study estimated that the cost of producing nuclear energy (including construction, maintenance and fuel) was about 30 percent higher than that of coal or gas. Of course, cost and safety aren’t unrelated. Concerns about safety lead to extensive regulatory approval processes and add uncertainty to plant developers’ calculations. Both boost the price of financing new nuclear plants. It’s not clear how much these construction costs would fall if safety fears subsided and the financing became cheaper. And after the Fukushima catastrophe, we’re unlikely to find out.

    7. Nuclear power plants are sitting ducks for terrorists.

    It’s easy to get scared about terrorist attacks on nuclear plants. After the Sept. 11 attacks, a cottage industry sprung up around the threat, with analysts imagining ever-more horrific and creative ways that terrorists could strike nuclear facilities and unleash massive consequences. There are certainly real risks: Nuclear expert Matthew Bunn of Harvard University has pointed out that well-planned terrorist attacks probably would produce the sort of simultaneous failures in multiple backup systems that Japan’s reactors are experiencing. But it’s much harder to target a nuclear power plant than one might think, and terrorists would have great difficulty replicating the physical impact that the March 11 earthquake had on the Japanese plants. It also would be tough for them to breach the concrete domes and other barriers that surround U.S. reactors. And although attacks have been attempted in the past - most notoriously by Basque separatists in Spain in 1977 - none has resulted in widespread damage. Certainly, the water pools in which reactors store used fuel, which reside outside the containment domes, are more vulnerable than the reactors and could cause real damage if attacked; there is a debate between analysts and industry about whether terrorists could effectively target them.

    8. Democrats oppose nuclear energy; Republicans favor it.

    Yes, the GOP base is enthusiastic about nuclear energy, while the Democratic base is skeptical. Moreover, many Republican politicians support assistance to the industry such as loan guarantees for nuclear developers, while many Democrats oppose them. But the politics of nuclear power have changed in recent years, mainly because of climate change. Democrats, including many supporters in the environmental movement, have become more open to nuclear power as a large-scale zero-emissions energy option. Steven Chu, President Obama’s energy secretary, has been enthusiastic about the nuclear option. When asked to compare coal and nuclear energy in 2009, Chu responded: “I’d rather be living near a nuclear power plant.” The biggest prospective boost for nuclear power in the past two years was an initiative championed by Democrats and scorned by Republicans: cap-and-trade legislation. Cap-and-trade would have penalized polluting power sources such as coal and gas emitters, thus tilting the playing field toward nuclear power. Department of Energy simulations of the ill-fated Waxman-Markey climate bill projected that it would have increased nuclear power generation by 74 percent in 2030.

    Yet although Democrats may have become more accepting of nuclear power, few became fully enthusiastic. Japan’s tragedy may make many reconsider their stance.

    9. Nuclear power is the key to energy independence.

    When people talk about energy independence, they’re thinking about oil, which we mostly use in vehicles and industrial production. When they talk about nuclear, though, they’re thinking about electricity. More nuclear power means less coal, less natural gas, less hydroelectric power and less wind energy. But unless we start putting nuclear power plants in our cars and semis, more nuclear won’t mean less oil. This was not always the case: During the the heyday of nuclear power, the early 1970s (45 plants broke ground between 1970 and 1975), oil was a big electricity source, and boosting nuclear power was a real way to squeeze petroleum out of the economy. Alas, we’ve already replaced pretty much all the petroleum in the power sector; the opportunity to substitute oil with nuclear power is gone.

    10. Better technology can make nuclear power safe.

    Technology can increase safety, but there will always be risks with nuclear power. The Japanese reactors at the center of the current crisis use old technology that increased their vulnerability. Next-generation reactors will be “passively cooled”, which means that if backup power fails like it has in Japan, meltdowns will be avoided more easily. (Passive-cooling systems vary, but their common feature is a lack of dependence on external power.) Other lower-tech improvements, such as stronger containment structures, have also mitigated risk. But what happened in Japan reminds us that unanticipated vulnerabilities are inevitable in any highly complex system. Careful engineering can minimize the chance of disasters, but it can’t eliminate them. Operators and authorities will need to make sure that they’re prepared to deal with unanticipated failures even as they work to prevent them. Most energy sources entail risks. In the past year, we have seen an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, fatal explosions at the Upper Big Branch coal mine  in West Virginia and now the crisis in Japan. The American public will need to decide whether the risks of nuclear power compared with those of other energy sources... are too high.

    American Airlines

    The fuel load and consequential dumping of unquantifiable tonnes of carbon dioxide torpedoes the rhetoric about any truth in climate change control. The volume of fuel needed to fly a plane around 2400km can be estimated from the report of the 'Gimli Glider'. Over 22,000kg fuel (about 28,000L) are required and if the average car fuel tank is 15 imperial (UK) gallons or 70L this equates to 400 (car) tanks full of fuel. Aviation fuel (to power aircraft) and petrol both come from oil so the analogy is valid.

    Assuming 100 passengers, this works out at around 280L per passenger or some 60 (imperial) gallons each. This equates to around 4 car tank-fulls of fuel. Further assuming 40 mpg, a car tank-full of fuel works out at potentially 600 miles (960km). One car + one occupant (driver) and one planeload of 100 passengers

    1500 miles of plane travel or ... ?

    It supports the logic of simply raising revenue by increasing air travel and the profit associated with this method of movement around the world.

    The only obvious way to really restrict movement is to increase the cost of air travel, but this will not work simply because most travel is business-orientated and so costs would be pushed ultimately onto the end-user.

    It simply illustrates the acceleration towards melt-down. Population too big and still growing on an ever-resource depleting planet. If the reserves of oil (hence volatile fuels) are in short supply where is the logic of increasing the depletion rate and exacerbating the climate change (theory). Obviously, there is much being kept secret or people really are that stupid after all.

    Make money while the sun shines?

    When it goes out...

    Global Catastrophes

    Global Catastrophes: A Very Shory Introduction (Oxford University Press)

    A well-argued case concerning global warming and climate change. It is a publication that clarifies and convinces. Although the rhetoric...