Friday, 15 September 2017
Across the world, women have a four or five times better chance of reaching the age of 100 than men. Why?
Part 2 of the Daily Mail's serialisation of Secrets of the Centenarians (Reaktion)
Thursday, 14 September 2017
How do you live to 100? A big piece from today's 'Daily Mail' based on my new book 'Secrets of the Centenarians' (Reaktion). Part two tomorrow!
Sunday, 10 September 2017
First there was Harvey (see my blog of Sept 4). Now we have Irma, and soon there will be Jose. Hurricane Irma is the fiercest Atlantic tropical storm in a decade. It has caused more than 30 deaths across a number of Caribbean islands, including Barbuda which is now said to be ‘barely habitable’. Next in its path is Florida.
But the deadliest Atlantic hurricane of all remains the Great Hurricane of 1780, which made landfall in Barbados on 10 October. Most buildings were destroyed or severely damaged and ‘a luxuriant fertile island’ turned into ‘the dreariest winter.’ The number killed was put at 4,500.
Next the storm moved on to St Lucia, where only two houses survived in the port city of Castries. Five Royal Navy ships that had been fighting in the American War of Independence were sunk and nine others severely damaged. The island’s death toll was estimated at 6,000.
On St Vincent, more than 580 out of 600 houses at Kingstown were destroyed. At Grenada, 19 Dutch ships were sunk, while off Martinique, 4,000 French sailors were drowned, and perhaps 9,000 people lost their lives on the island. The total death toll from the storm was put at around 30,000.
For the full story, see Storm: Nature and Culture (Reaktion Books).
Wednesday, 6 September 2017
As members of the EU, we are able to trade freely in the richest market in the world. We can travel to, study in, work in, and retire to 27 fairly nearby democratic countries.
But not only that. The UK has special bespoke deals on a whole host of things – we are not in the euro, we are not in the Schengen area. We get a discount on the sum we should be paying into the EU, we have special opt outs in the areas of fundamental rights and freedom, security and justice, etc. In other words, we are ‘HAVING OUR CAKE AND EATING IT’.
But Theresa May and the Brexiters plan to throw away this unbelievably good deal. Instead, they are demanding all sorts of impossible arrangements like being in the Single Market without Freedom of Movement or leaving the Customs Union but having ‘frictionless trade’.
To the (confected on the part of the better-informed) outrage of the Brexit fanatics, the EU has made clear on numerous occasions that none of this is going to happen, but still the UK has no plan B.
*Thanks to Elkhart Public Library, Indiana for this mention for my book - 'Disaster!' https://myepl.org/epl/index.php/39525/
Monday, 4 September 2017
In my book, Storm: Nature and Culture (Reaktion), I discuss a number of ways in which a tropical storm can cause catastrophic damage.
The one usually focused on is the power of the winds, but in addition there is the way sea levels rise because of low air pressure, making flooding more devastating. And then there is heavy rainfall. This has been the biggest problem with Hurricane Harvey, which has been drenching Texas and Louisiana.
During the course of 4 days, some areas suffered more than 40 inches of rain, making Harvey the wettest tropical storm on record to hit the continental United States. At least 47 people have been killed, and 43,000 have had to be housed in temporary shelters. The storm has also been blamed for one death in Guyana.
Brock Long, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has described it as the worst disaster in the history of Texas, with damage being estimated at anything up to $190 billion.
Tuesday, 29 August 2017
Not so long ago, the main interest of the Tory Party was winning elections. And they were rather good at it, so that of the first 50 years of my life, 39 were lived under Conservative governments. Their next (and closely related) big interest was running the economy efficiently.
In that Tory party, Theresa May, who called a completely unnecessary election and threw away a parliamentary majority, would not have lasted five minutes. But the modern Tory party seems quite uninterested in the economy or winning elections. Indeed, the only Conservative leader who has won one in the last 25 years was dumped barely a year later.
So in this new Tory party, expect to see Theresa May stay on for at least another couple of years. She has a crucial job – scapegoat. The vast majority of Tory MPs (including, I suspect, a number of those shouting loudly for Brexit) know that leaving the EU will be a disaster. So it is vital that May stays in office until Brexit is completed and all doubt about its disastrous consequences dispelled. Then she can be blamed for the disaster and cast aside, so that a new leader can fight the next general election.
But there is another reason why May is likely to stay. At the moment, It would be hard to prevent any Tory leadership election from turning into open war between supporters of moderate and extreme Brexit. But once we have left the EU, the question of how damaging a Brexit we choose will have been resolved, and with a bit of luck there will seem to be no point re-fighting old battles.
Whether any of this will save the Tories is another matter. With Labour finally threatening to show some common sense, Brexit is likely to be seen increasingly as a Conservative project. And the unprecedented incompetence with which it is being executed could do permanent damage to the Tory brand.