Saturday, December 30, 2006
Parrot's oratory stuns scientists
By Alex Kirby BBC News Online environment correspondent
Feathered prodigy: N'kisi leads the fieldThe finding of a parrot with an almost unparalleled power to communicate with people has brought scientists up short.
The bird, a captive African grey called N'kisi, has a vocabulary of 950 words, and shows signs of a sense of humour.
He invents his own words and phrases if he is confronted with novel ideas with which his existing repertoire cannot cope - just as a human child would do. N'kisi's remarkable abilities feature in the latest BBC Wildlife Magazine.
N'kisi is believed to be one of the most advanced users of human language in the animal world.
About 100 words are needed for half of all reading in English, so if N'kisi could read he would be able to cope with a wide range of material.
When he first met Dr Jane Goodall, the renowned chimpanzee expert, after seeing her in a picture with apes, N'kisi said: "Got a chimp?"
School's in: He is a willing learnerHe appears to fancy himself as a humourist. When another parrot hung upside down from its perch, he commented: "You got to put this bird on the camera."
Dr Goodall says N'kisi's verbal fireworks are an "outstanding example of interspecies communication".
In an experiment, the bird and his owner were put in separate rooms and filmed as the artist opened random envelopes containing picture cards.
Analysis showed the parrot had used appropriate keywords three times more often than would be likely by chance.
Professor Donald Broom, of the University of Cambridge's School of Veterinary Medicine, said: "The more we look at the cognitive abilities of animals, the more advanced they appear, and the biggest leap of all has been with parrots."
Alison Hales, of the World Parrot Trust, told BBC News Online: "N'kisi's amazing vocabulary and sense of humour should make everyone who has a pet parrot consider whether they are meeting its needs.
"They may not be able to ask directly, but parrots are long-lived, and a bit of research now could mean an improved quality of life for years."
Friday, December 29, 2006
Thursday December 28, 06:35 PM
LONDON (Reuters) - The government said it will on Friday pay back the final instalments of loans taken out at the end of World War Two to finance vital reconstruction.
The payments of $83.25 million (42.4 million pounds) to the United States and $22.7 million to Canada will close the final chapter of the war and mean that in total the country has paid close to twice what it borrowed in 1945 and 1946.
"This week we finally honour in full our commitments to the U.S. and Canada for the support they gave us 60 years ago," Treasury minister Ed Balls said on Thursday.
"It was vital support which helped Britain defeat Nazi Germany and secure peace and prosperity in the post-war period. We honour our commitments to them now as they honoured their commitments to us all those years ago," he added.
Britain borrowed a total of $4.3 billion from the United States in 1945, followed in 1946 by a loan of $1.2 billion from Canada -- both at an interest rate of just two percent.
During World War Two, the United States effectively gave Britain billions of dollars worth of goods under the lend-lease programme.
But that abruptly ended in September 1945 despite the fact Britain was on its knees economically after six years of warfare.
Despite the heavily discounted rate of interest on the loans, in the intervening years Britain has failed to make any payments on six occasions because of balance of payments problems -- in 1956, 1957, 1964, 1965, 1968 and 1976.
To date the country has paid a total of $7.5 billion to the United States and $2 billion to Canada.
The Treasury noted that there were still World War One debts owed to and by Britain, but that no action had been taken on either count since U.S. President Herbert Hoover declared a moratorium in 1931 during the Great Depression.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Asking us to join the Euro express is like asking America to give up her sovereignty and become a part of an American Union with Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Panama, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Canada, Bolivia, Venezuela et al. The capital of this "superpower" would have to be in Nicaragua so as not offend sensibilities and the Central Bank would be installed in Buenos Aries or Rio. It's a nightmare of epic proportions!
So, why should we want any part of such muddled thinking. it's a nonsense?
There are lots of other ways to be in Europe without having to sell our soul and our heritage. We have had joint ventures with European firms for decades. We can invest in or buy European corporations and trade within the EU without being owned by it.
If Britain joins the Euro it will become nothing more than a county of Europe, with no say in the World's affairs. Well I don't buy it. Our ancestors must be turning furiously in their graves at the mere thought of handing our sovereignty over to anybody let alone a Franco-German axis with ambitions to dominate a Europe they were unable to conquer by force, despite their best efforts, over centuries.
Why be in one camp when you can be in many? Voila, ce que je dit a vous tous!.Non, non et non!
Friday, December 15, 2006
Foreign competitors will see another performance by 'perfidious Albion', as the British government holds its hand on its heart and promises that commercial interests have played no part.
This is another classic example of double standards and hypocrisy on the part of all concerned. Once again economic interest has outweighed all legal and moral principles. As long as corruption is tolerated, the world will remain corrupt. Any simpleton can surely work that out?
Why should individuals obey the law when the state does not? What is the point of integrity when corruption pays? What is the use of good practice, when bad practice is immorally rewarded? What is the point of professionalism and high standards when greed is the main criteria? What is the point of anything if the determining factor in negotiations is the thickness of a brown envelope?
During my professional career, I had numerous bribes offered to me? I refused them all and sent the "clients" on their way, refusing to have any further dealings with them. I never regretted it. Trust, integrity, respect and honour cannot be bought.
As far as I am concerned, everyone involved in this scandalous affair is an accomplice to fraud and I have no respect for any of them, British, Saudi or anybody else who does business this way. This is not business. This is fraud. This is stealing. It's much harder to be a decent and honourable person than it is to be a rich thief. Nothing good ever came of no good.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Tony Blair has been questioned by police in connection with the cash-for-honours investigation, Downing Street has said. The Prime Minister was not spoken to under caution. Mr Blair gave explanations of why he nominated individuals for peerages, the spokesman continued. He added that the PM was not accompanied by a lawyer while being quizzed inside Downing Street.
The interview lasted between one and two hours. The aide flatly denied that the interview had been deliberately timed to coincide with the release of a report into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The cash-for-honours inquiry revolves around a series of loans made to both main political parties by millionaire backers before last year's general election.
It was sparked by claims that wealthy Labour backers were being rewarded with peerages and was later widened to cover similar claims about the Conservatives.
Sky News Political Editor Adam Boulton said: "We've been getting the message that they (the police) possibly haven't got the evidence to go all the way and indict the Prime Minister. Today's events indicate that."
Angus MacNeil, the SNP MP who triggered the inquiry, said: "This revelation will be shaking the very foundations of Westminster. "For the Prime Minister to be questioned by the police during a criminal investigation is unprecedented."
Now I'ain't saying he did, and I ain't saying he did not know, about cash for honours. I ain't even saying he was aware that there were no WMD in Iraq! I do know he said New Labour would be whiter than white. That, I am sure about!
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
For the attention of David Cameron – Conservative Party Leader
According to a report in today’s newspapers, a group of skilled British craftsmen working on an NHS project have been sacked and their jobs given to Polish workers. The 16 glaziers one of whom had just won an award for his dedication and professionalism were working on a hospital construction project.
In the last day or two Mr. Ian Duncan-Smith has been talking about the beneficial aspects of the family unit in bringing up children in a stable environment and the negative social impact of broken families.
There is a massive contradiction in the above scenarios. The politicians want families to stick together and raise their families in loving and stable backgrounds but turn a blind eye when it comes to employment security and stability in the work environment, where corporate social responsibility is at a premium.
If you want to seriously tackle society’s ills, you have to do so across the board, and it has to be done by society as a whole, not just selected parts. This is surely a self evident truth from which there is no escape.
I have long believed that one of the most important factors in the erosion of respect for authority and the slide into binge drinking and the yob culture, is as much the instability in the work place and government expedience, as it is in the family unit. If you lose respect for institutional authority, it will not be long before there is little respect for paternal and maternal authority either. Government has continually undermined the authority of parents over the last three decades.
Corporations are no longer even slightly concerned with the well being of their workers, their neighbourhoods or the society they function in, and from which they make their profits. They are concerned only with the bottom line and making ever greater profit, irrespective of the social cost to their neighbourhoods or indeed the country as a whole.
Likewise governments are no longer concerned with principles or integrity. Political expedience is preferred in the mistaken belief that this is how to win votes and attain or retain power. They cater more and more to minority pressure groups who seek what is good for them but not necessarily what is right for society as a whole. They spin webs of deceit and propaganda to cover up unpalatable failures and have the bare-faced audacity, to wonder why ordinary people hold government and politicians in such low esteem? It is of course no wonder at all.
The much heralded, so called “globalisation” policy now pursued with such vigour by greed driven corporations with a sharp eye for easy money and bigger profits, is one of the driving forces breaking up communities and creating social instability. They don’t think twice about abandoning loyal, hard working staff to exploit cheaper labour in Third World countries, and they care nothing about the cost of the social upheaval they leave behind. Is it any wonder the workers lose faith in their turn?
Where is all this leading? We can see where it is leading, in our city centres on a Friday and Saturday night, in the statistics on divorce, marriage, single mothers, rising unemployment, overflowing prisons, drug addiction, teenage pregnancies, gun crime and on and on.
If we are to right the wrongs in our society we have to build a new model, one in which everyone plays a part. Corporations and their shareholders must understand that they have a duty of care to the people who work for them, their neighbourhoods, the country as a whole and the environment. Corporate culture has become much less service orientated and much more aggressive. They think it works but all it is doing is adding to the general rage levels that pervades society now. It’s counter-productive in the long term and therefore bad business practise. We now live in a rip-off society in which everyone is dissatisfied. They need to wake up and smell the coffee and cannot be allowed to ignore their social responsibilities any more than parents should be allowed to ignore theirs. They need to be pro-active in their communities. Everyone has a responsibility in a civilised society to their society and until we put this foundation stone in place, society will continue to tumble towards anarchy. Capitalism will also, mark my words, continue lemming-like, its headlong rush towards the cliff’s edge and its own demise.
It is no good one man adding a brick to the wall, if another man removes one from the other end. It’s as simple as that. At the end of the day life is about people not money. For people to live in a cohesive and civilised manner, life must first be worth living. That is the only bottom line that counts.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
One cannot find fulfillment in superficiality nor enlightenment without struggle. The same struggle that brings enlightenment is also the catalyst that drives evolution without which life would stagnate and die.
Current theory holds that the universe as we know it, came into being at the time of the Big Bang. In the course of this momentous explosion all matter was somehow imbued with positive and negative energy. The positive forces are the forces of construction and the negative are those of destruction. It is the balance between the two that ensures that life must struggle to survive thus growing stronger in the process; thereby increasing its chances of survival.
These reactionary and opposite forces are plainly visible everywhere in the natural universe. They are even evident in the human spirit which struggles to balance it's destructive and contstructive side. In spiritual terms, we can call the positive side of our nature, a force for good and the negative side a force for evil. Strangely in English if you remove an "0" from good you get "God" and add a "d" to evil and we have "Devil", the force of God and the force of the Devil. Is this what we really mean when we talk about God and the Devil?
As nature shows us, evolution is dependent on struggle, as is enlightenment. These two opposite forces have been essential to the progression and survival of life since the beginning of time. War is the embodiment of hate, greed and corruption while peace is the embodiment of love, compassion and enlightenment. All these things are the outcome of equal and opposite forces that were released in the creative soup or perhaps pre-existed in the i-ther from which matter materialised. I do not believe that the universe was generated from a state of "nothingness". That makes absolutely no sense.
One must assume that since it has always been this way that it will always be this way for such is the nature of evolution and life as far as we can see it. However, if this is the case, then what is the purpose? We know what the point of struggle is and we know that it's outcome, either by accident or design is enlightenment or knowledge. Is this the purpose of everything and if so to what end? Perhaps as there was no beginning, there is no end either.
I suspect that the struggle will go on until and if, mass enlightenment reaches a certain plateau at which point some kind of transformation in the state of being might occur, Utopia perhaps. Perhaps we will become builders of life rather than destroyers of life.
In the final analysis what does all this mean? It means that the impact on life of negative and positive energies or forces is undeniable and self evidently present in nature. Since there can never have been a state of nothingness, it suggests that these forces have always been present and were therefore instrumental in the creation of the universe and therefore life as we perceive it. This is at the very least is circumstantial evidence of a creative force that understood the need for equal and opposing forces for the birth, progression and survival of life.
On the other hand might we conclude that the purpose of everything is life itself and that enlightenment is essential to the preservation and even creation of life? When all is said and done, the greatest visible forces in the universe are the creative and destructive forces of life, both paradoxically essential for the promotion of life.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Team leader Professor Vincent Mathews said: "Playing a certain type of violent video game may have different short-term effects than playing a non-violent, but exciting, game."