Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Chilcot and the Athens of the North

There is a thought-provoking comment by Maria Pretzler on the public reading of the whole of the Chilcot Report during the Edinburgh Festival. She finds more than one parallel with "the ancient Greek tradition to recite whole epics during festivals".


In the midst of the war of words over Jeremy Corbyn's travelling sit-in, a writer queried the candidate's use of the term "ram-packed". My guess is that he did what so many of us do when speaking off the cuff: mixed up two phrases. In this case, it was "rammed" (becoming a common synonym for "crowded") and "jam-packed".

I have noticed another confusion of two sayings which has now established itself: "by far and away", combining the traditional "by far" and "far and away".

While I am in pedantic mode, Richard Branson should be described as co-owner of Virgin Trains, not the owner.

Port Talbot integrated transport hub

From a report in the Evening Post, it seems that the proposals launched last year are being taken a stage further. The details as approved by the planning committee last year are here. It is not clear from a swift perusal whether the council has taken into account the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 and built accessibility into the design, something which is sadly lacking in the Victoria Gardens bus facility.

On the subject of Neath, when is there to be an integration of bus and train here?

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Channel 4 documentary on John Harris

It seems that the son of the deluded Johannesburg bomber John Harris was left in blissful ignorance of the crime until he came across his father's stored belongings. Channel 4 have taken the opportunity to make a documentary about the man. It will be shown at 8 p.m. on 27th August. We are assured by the producer that it will be even-handed and not seek to excuse the crime. The choice of title does not bode well, but the programme-makers did take the trouble to interview as many of those involved who are still alive, including the victims.

My compilation of reports of the events of 24th July 1964 is here.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Threat to critical Companies House data

The current Private Eye magazine has a worrying report in its In the City column. It seems that the management of the Gwent-based Companies House wants to purge records of companies which have been dissolved more than six years. Since the database is now computerised, it is hard to see what this move would save, apart from a few hundred pounds for disk storage. This would be lost many times over by victims of rogues who would gain anonymity by the move. The victims would include not only ordinary investors but also the exchequer.

As the Eye report states, the magazine has "often relied on the story told by Companies House records of long-dissolved comanies to dig out the truth." The writer lists such chancers as Dominic Chappell of BHS infamy, Craig Whyte (Glasgow Rangers), Brian Leigh, and Sam Gyimah, whose failed business ventures would all have vanished without trace under a six-year rule.

The article concludes: " What Companies House is proposing is not the right to be forgotten but the right to rewrite history for the benefit of those with something to hide - and where the public has a clear right to have that history remembered."

Mrs May has shown herself to be generally in favour of good company governance and of cracking down on tax avoidance. It is to be hoped that she will pass the message on to the BIS minister that nothing should be done to make it easier for con-men.

I would like the government to be more proactive, and pursue companies which break the law by, for instance, not filing returns on time or having clearly phony directors, both of which software is capable of detecting. However, not opening the six-year loophole would be a good start for a clean-hands May administration.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Global warming deniers have gone quiet*

Anti-scientific campaigners are quick to point to any anomalous downturn in temperature or inconsistency between the data provided by the various research institutions. However, they have had very little to get their teeth into for over a year now, and the figures for July 2016 tend to confirm the long-term trend. As Discover magazine's Tom Yulsman reports:

Even though the El NiƱo warming episode is over, Earth’s heat streak is continuing. Big time.
Both NASA and NOAA have released their verdicts for global temperatures in July (NASA’s here, and NOAA’s here). And both concur that it was the hottest such month on record.
Since July is typically the warmest month of the year globally, that means it was the hottest of all 1,639 months on record.
Let us count other ways in which July 2016 was noteworthy:
  • It marks the 15th straight month that the global temperature record has been broken.
  • This is the longest such streak in the 137-year record.
  • July marks the 40th consecutive such month with temperatures that were at least nominally above the 20th century average.
  • The last time July’s global average temperatures were below average was back in 1976.
  • Last month also was the 379th consecutive month with temperatures at least nominally above the 20th century average.

*many of us suspect that they re-directed their energies into rubbishing the European Union, with rather more success

Stuck in a rut refers. So now I have a better excuse for failing to deliver a report on time: "I was in a temporal metastate".