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Television
Sir Patrick Moore has identified an alien species that threatens to destroy intelligent life - the women who have taken over the BBC. In a withering attack on the female executives who have dumbed down the corporation, he echoed similar criticisms from Alasdair Milne, a former Director-General, who provoked a furious response when he accused a female-dominated BBC of producing "terrible" programmes.
 
Sir Patrick said "The trouble is that the BBC now is run by women and it shows: soap operas, cooking, quizzes, kitchen-sink plays. You wouldn't have had that in the golden days. I used to watch Doctor Who and Star Trek, but they went PC - making women commanders, that kind of thing. I stopped watching. I was in hospital once and I watched a whole episode of EastEnders. I suppose it's true to life, but so is diarrhoea."
 

 
Travel: the new tobacco
The founder of the "Rough Guide" travel books has had a change of heart, and now believes that our addiction to 'binge flying' which was in some measure encouraged by his books, is killing the planet. Mark Ellingham compares the damage done by tourism to the impact of the tobacco industry.
 
He says travelling is so environmentally destructive that there is no such thing as a genuinely ethical holiday. He wants the industry to educate travellers about the damage their holidays do to the environment. The development he regrets most is the public's appetite for what he calls 'binge-flying'.
 
'Climate change is an issue that dwarfs all others and the impact of flying is key to this,' said Ellingham. 'All of us involved have a responsibility to inform travellers as clearly and honestly as possible about the environmental cost of their journeys. We must encourage travellers to travel less and neutralise their carbon footprint through offsetting. It is hard to say the positive impact travelling has can ever outweigh the damage done by simply travelling to the destination,' he said. 'Balancing all the positives and negatives, I'm not convinced there is such a thing as a "responsible" or "ethical" holiday.'
 
Ellingham also publishes environmental titles, including the Rough Guide to Climate Change which is nominated for the Royal Society Prize for Science Books award, to be announced next week. He'll be in good company at the Royal Society - they are becoming notorious for their selective distortion of scientific evidence, for presenting tenuous scientific theories as established facts, and for brutally attacking anyone who disagrees with them. Ellingham put himself firmly in their back yard when he said he has been horrified by a new travelling trend. 'If there was just one thing I could change, it would be this new British obsession for binge flying,' he said. 'We now live in a society where, if people have nothing to do on a Saturday night, they go to Budapest for 48 hours. We fly anywhere at the slightest opportunity, 10 times and upwards a year.'
 
This is arrant nonsense, of course. How many people do you know who fly ten times a year? I can't think of a single one. Who the hell has the time, apart from anything else? And to target aviation in this way is ridiculous too. The aviation industry accounts for just 5.5 per cent of the CO2 generated in the UK (always assuming, of course, that such a natural product as CO2 can be called a pollutant), a figure far outstripped by, among other things, shipping and central heating. We don't hear Ellingham talking about "binge shipping", or volunteering to turn his heating off, do we?
 

 
Fuelled by climate change?
The April 21, 2007 issue of "The Economist" had an interesting article entitled "Dengue Fever: A deadly scourge". It explained that there is no vaccine for this deadly disease, and no good way to treat it, just fluids and the hope that the fever will break. At first it seems like a case of severe flu, but then the fever rises, accompanied by headaches, excruciating joint pain, nausea and rashes. In its most serious form, known as dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF), it involves internal and external bleeding and can result in death.
 
Mexico identified 27,000 cases of dengue fever last year, more than four times the number in 2001. In El Salvador, whose population is not much more than 6% of Mexico's, the number soared to 22,000 last year, a 20-fold increase on five years earlier. Uruguay recently reported its first case in 90 years. In Brazil, 135,000 cases were diagnosed in the first three months of this year, a rise of about a third over the same period last year. Paraguay, the country worst affected in relation to population size, has reported more than 25,000 cases so far this year, six times the total for the whole of last year.
 
Predictably, the Economist produced the new knee-jerk reaction: dengue fever is "fuelled by climate change". How do they know that? They don't explain what it is about the disease that flourishes in South America when the climate in Britain is two or three degrees warmer than usual for the time of year. What will they be saying next? Increasing crime rates are fuelled by climate change? Our rubbish politicians have all had their brains rotted by the warmer temperatures? Children can't behave themselves in school because they're traumatised by the thought of rising sea levels? Our immigration crisis is caused by Russians and Poles fleeing the parched fields of their sun-baked, arid homelands?
 
For quite a long time, polar bears have been used as the symbol for Global Warming. The theory is that polar bears will all drown because the polar ice is diminishing. More recently it has been revealed that the polar ice cap was warmer in the 1930s than it is now, that only 30,000 years ago there was no polar ice pack at all, and that anyway polar bears are flourishing with an almost unprecedented increase in their numbers which still continues. So we're confidently awaiting the first environmentalist brave enough to claim that polar bear numbers are increasing because of global warming.
 
The sad thing is, one knows that whoever says it, and the idiots who listen to him, will be blissfully unaware of their own absurdity.
 

 
Flee, flee for your lives! The French are coming!
This Wednesday Marine Fretel, an intelligent, well-educated young French woman, will board a train to London. She has let her Paris flat, packed a large suitcase and said goodbye to family and friends. She does not expect to return. Fretel is one of the "Eurostar generation" of French professionals fleeing to London and other cities abroad in the hope of better careers in a land of opportunity. The farewell parties held each week in Paris are multiplying, and although the government puts a brave face on the exodus, this rush for the exit is an embarrassing symptom of chronic French woes as the country prepares to pick its new president.
 
A dearth of jobs in France, the world's fifth largest economy, has turned London, less than three hours from Paris by Eurostar, into an eldorado for young professionals such as Fretel. Friends in London have told her that the British capital, unlike the one she is leaving behind, is a "city of dreams".
 
An estimated 300,000 French citizens live in Britain, which has the third largest expatriate community after Switzerland and America.
 
There's no answer to that, is there? Except to ask are they completely mad?
 

 
Is Bigfoot extinct?
A Canadian MP, Mike Lake, says that Bigfoot, the legendary hairy man-like beast said to roam the wildernesses of North America, is not shy at all - he is merely so rare that he risks extinction and should be protected as an endangered species.
 
He has called for Bigfoot to be protected under Canada's Species At Risk Act, alongside Whooping Cranes, Blue Whales, and Red Mulberry trees. "The debate over their (Bigfoot's) existence is moot in the circumstance of their tenuous hold on merely existing," reads a petition presented by Lake to the Canadian parliament in March and due to be discussed next week. "Therefore, the petitioners request the House of Commons to establish immediate, comprehensive legislation to affect immediate protection of Bigfoot."
 
A similar appeal has been made to the US Congress.
 
There is a bit of a problem, though. How do you know if a thing's extinct or not if you can't find it?
 
And how long will it be before some crackpot in Britain decides to mount a similar campaign to protect the Loch Ness Monster? And why stop there? - there's the Tooth Fairy, the Man in the Moon, Father Christmas. After all, far more people believe in them than in Bigfoot.
 

 
Well done, that magistrate!
A rebel magistrate has resigned in protest at surcharges on fines for offenders and accused the Government of abusing the justice system.
 
Alan Williams was one of three magistrates in Ely who became the first in the country to refuse to impose the 15 victim surcharge when they sentenced a young man for possession of cannabis. Mr Williams, a 60-year-old former deputy chairman of the East Cambridgeshire bench, was summoned by magistrates' authorities to explain his conduct yesterday and resigned after saying he would never impose the charge he calls "immoral".
 
The Home Office has ordered that the surcharge be levied on fines for offences committed since April 1 to fund support services for victims of crime, particularly victims of domestic violence.
 
But motorists' groups have called it a stealth tax and legal experts have argued it penalises petty offenders, who often have little money, for the more serious crimes of others.
 
Mr Williams said: "We are creating a situation where people who are before the courts are going to be convicted for their offence and then penalised in addition for the wrongdoing of other people. I think that is morally wrong. Discussions in Parliament made clear that the surcharge should not be a tax on motorists, yet this is effectively what it will be. The surcharge relegates the role of magistrates to that of tax-collectors. That is nothing for which I personally submitted myself when I became a magistrate. I have absolutely no problem with increasing money for victims of crime but that should come out of general taxation. It should not be imposed arbitrarily on totally unrelated matters. The Government is abusing the criminal justice system to raise money for other purposes - however laudable those purposes are."
 
Mr Williams suggested that the surcharge will weigh particularly heavily on East Cambridgeshire by penalising the area's many migrant workers and American servicemen. He said: "Anyone who does not have a UK licence and who is not able to accept a fixed penalty fine will have to pay the surcharge. I regard it as discriminatory - it is going to affect foreign nationals disproportionately."
 
Well done, Alan. Rather sad, though, that we haven't so far heard of other magistrates taking the same stand.
 

 
The environment v. needy people? No contest!
A Tory party donor and environmental philanthropist, Johan Eliasch, has been accused of "green colonialism" after allegedly consigning 1,000 people to poverty in his attempts to preserve the Amazon jungle.
 
The allegations against Eliasch, who last week was touring South America with his friend the Duke of York, come from the inhabitants of a region of the Brazilian rainforest the size of Greater London. In 2005 the Swedish-born tycoon, who runs the Head sports-goods empire, spent a reported 13.7m of his estimated 361m fortune buying 400,000 acres - about 625 square miles - of jungle from an American-owned timber company to protect it from loggers. He described it as "my little bit towards saving the world".
 
As a result, a lumber mill that employed as many as 1,000 people closed in the town of Itacoatiara in northwest Brazil, increasing hardship in an already economically depressed region. Locals say that violence is increasing, fathers cannot afford to look after their families, and there is a growing problem with child prostitution.
 
Joao Manuel Figueira, a municipal employee, said "The impact of the plant's closure has been harsh. The local shops are feeling the knock-on effects with a drop in sales. We know the environment is important and deforestation is a problem. But knocking all the forest down is one thing. Taking out mature wood is another."
 
But Eliasch admitted that for him, preserving the jungle was "the only option" and took priority over those living there. "The rainforest is more important to me at the moment," said Eliasch, who is the Tories' deputy treasurer. He rejected arguments that first world countries, which chopped down their own forests in the drive for industrialisation, had no right to try to prevent Brazilians doing the same.
 
So once again, the rights of trees, flowers and cute ickle foxy-woxies triumphs over the needs of ordinary people. Well done, Eliasch. It would, of course, be churlish as well as politically unsound to suggest that you might be just a tad cushioned by your wealth from the problems of poor peasants in the Third World, and that perhaps you should put not just your money, but your whole self, where your mouth is. Go and live in Itacoatiara yourself if you think it's so great.
 

 
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