Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Most ISIS victims are Muslims

Following yesterday’s murder of an 86 year old Roman Catholic priest in his church in Rouen in northern France, a reminder that most victims of ISIS terrorists are Muslims.

More than 40 people have been killed by a massive suicide truck bomb in the Kurdish-controlled city of Qamishli in north-east Syria near the border with Turkey. ISIS said it was behind the attack which happened near a security headquarters. The blast appears to have caused a gas tank to explode, adding to the destruction.

Kurds have been perhaps the most resolute opponents of ISIS, in spite of also finding themselves under attack from Turkey’s increasingly autocratic president, Recep Erdogan. As a result they have often been the victims of bombings by the Islamist terrorists.

Earlier this month, an ISIS suicide bomber on a motorbike killed 16 people among a crowd which had gathered to celebrate the end of Ramadan in the Kurdish-majority city of Hasakah in northeastern Syria.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

'Storm: Nature and Culture': out in September!

This is how the publisher, Reaktion Books, describes my new book:-

Storms affect our lives in many remarkable and dangerous ways. Gales, hurricanes, cyclones, blizzards, tornados, hail and sand and dust storms regularly demonstrate the awesome power of nature that all of us experience in some form. But what causes them? What role have they played in our history, religion and the arts? And will climate change make them even more destructive? 

This strikingly illustrated book takes an in-depth and unique look at the nature of storms and their impact on our lives. It shows how storms have changed the course of history, playing a decisive role in major battles and momentous revolutions from Roman times to the modern day. It describes the deadliest storms in history, such as the Bangladesh cyclone of 1970 that killed perhaps a million people, and explains how humans have tried to control storms through religion, superstition and science. Despite their potent ability to cause destruction, storms also benefit humanity. Stormdescribes the major role they have played in the arts, from Shakespeare’s plays to novels such as Robinson Crusoe and famous works of art by Rembrandt, Constable, Monet, Munch and Turner. It describes how storms even out global temperatures, providing rain and clearing out old trees to make way for new, and considers what will happen to storms in the future. Fully illustrated and brilliantly written, Storm is the first book to cover all aspects of these natural phenomena.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Brexitwatch: Broken Promise no 7 - 'taking control'

The Brexiters told us that if we voted to leave the EU, we would 'take control.' Apparently not.

With less than a month gone since the referendum, we have already had a prime minister that no one voted for imposed on us . So are the Brexiters demanding a general election? Apparently not.

The other thing we heard a lot about from the Leave campaign was that the UK parliament must be sovereign. So is it going to get a say on when our unelected prime minister gives notice to quit the EU under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty? Not if the Brexiters get their way.

The minister in charge of Brexit, David Davis, appears determined to make sure Parliament has no control, but a number of British citizens are mounting legal challenges. Predictably they have been subjected to threats and racist abuse.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Brexitwatch: broken promise no 6 - fishing

During the referendum campaign, UKIP’s Nigel Farage led a few fishing boats up the Thames to protest against the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy while another leading Brexiter, ‘Mike the knife’ Gove blamed it for the destruction of his father’s business. Leave campaigners told fishermen that once we left Europe, foreigners could be excluded from British waters, and all their troubles would be over.

Sadly, it was just another broken Brexit promise. The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations has warned that because the UK is so close to Europe, it will not be possible to shut out other nations in the way that Iceland, for example, has done.

Instead we will have to negotiate with our neighbours – a process that will almost certainly take years, with no guarantee that quotas will end up being any more generous than they are now, especially as they will still have to be tight enough to stop the suicidal overfishing the CFP was designed to prevent.

The only certain outcome of leaving the EU will be that fishermen will lose the subsidies they currently get from Europe.

 As with so many things that were blamed on the EU, much of the discontent stirred up by the CFP was actually the result of a decision by the UK government - to allocate two-thirds of our quotas to just three big companies, freezing out many smaller fishermen.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Brexitwatch: So farewell then, David Cameron

According to Enoch Powell, 'all political careers end in failure'. But few can have burned up quite so spectacularly as that of David Cameron.

He spent months telling us it would be a disaster if we left the EU, and yet because of his foolishly constructed referendum, which imposed no minimum threshold for Brexit, on the say-so of not much more than a third of the electorate, we are now consigned to suffer the damage he predicted.

As for his flagship policy - elimination of the budget deficit - he abandoned that completely. Originally he promised to balance the books by 2015, then by 2020, and much pain and austerity was inflicted on the British people to achieve this objective. Now there is no plan for getting rid of the deficit, just as there is no plan for what to do when we leave Europe.

In Peer Gynt, as the hero's life nears its end, he is confronted by a button-moulder who proposes melting him down to see if anything of value remains. When David Cameron's time at No 10 is melted down, what will we find? He legalised same-sex marriage. And that is about it.

We British often get sentimental about prime ministers who are coming to the end of their careers, however unpopular they may have been. But David Cameron's great failing was that he put the interests of the Conservative Party before the interests of his country. And for that history will judge him harshly, and rightly so.

He leaves office a leading contender, against some formidable competition, for the title of Britain's worst-ever prime minister.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Brexitwatch: Write to your MP

If you are not prepared to stand by and watch Britain dragged out of the EU on the basis of a Brexit campaign founded on a pack of lies which won the support of less than 38 per cent of the electorate, you need to write to your MP. This is what I have sent to mine.

'As a representative, and not a delegate, clearly your responsibility now is to exercise your judgement as to the best way of avoiding further serious harm to us, your constituents, and to the country as a whole. In the absence of any plan of any sort from the Leave campaign, this can only be achieved by a clear statement from Parliament that it rejects the result of a fatally flawed referendum, and affirms that the UK will remain in the EU.
We are already suffering serious economic damage from the referendum result - job losses, cancelled investment, value of people's savings and pensions slashed by the falling pound, and miscellaneous other effects, e.g. the loss of £7bn+ from the taxpayers' holding in RBS, not to mention racist violence against minorities in our country:-
This cannot be allowed to continue. Parliament must act.
The EU referendum result lacks legitimacy for the following reasons:-
1. The Leave campaign deceived people into voting for it by lying. It broke at least four promises in the first 24 hours after the result 
And large numbers of pro-Leave voters now wish they had voted Remain.
2. Even Nigel Farage has admitted that a 52-48 margin of victory would not be sufficiently decisive and would require a second referendum
If we had been voting to have a one day strike instead of to leave Europe, the proposition would have been rejected as having insufficient support:
'The government has long emphasised that, it does not consider a majority vote valid if it is less than 40% of the eligible electorate, when it is union members voting for a temporary public sector strike. Given that an EU exit is far more important and permanent, how will MPs justify treating the 37.4% of the vote to leave as sufficient, especially when the majority is so small and significantly composed of old people who won’t be affected by the outcome?'
Professor John Veit-Wilson
Newcastle upon Tyne
The Brexiters plainly have no plan, but I am sure that you do. I look forward to hearing what it is.'

Brexitwatch: England 1 Iceland 2. What now for Boris Johnson?

He told them Little England were world beaters, and that it was easy to keep out foreigners, but the fans were stunned as tiny Iceland, with a population smaller than Nether Wallop, slammed in two goals and dumped Boris Johnson’s team out of Europe without even the consolation of a trade deal.

The fans had adored his flagship argument that they could have their cake and eat it, and responded by beating up foreigners and chanting his slogan: ‘F*** off Europe, we’re all voting out.’

But after the match, those same supporters were bitter and angry. ‘He promised the rest of Europe would do whatever we told them,’ said one, ‘but instead they kept scoring goals against us. It wasn’t fair.’

Another complained: ‘He’s just a conman. After I’d eaten my cake this morning, it wasn’t there anymore.’ His friend commented: ‘Johnson’s team didn’t seem to know what they were doing. There was no plan.’

An ashen-faced Johnson, the highest paid manager in the tournament, said he did not remember making any of his promises. 

Boris has survived many scrapes and scandals, thanks to the slavish support of his friends in the press, but with the supporters who once idolised him now in open revolt and his assistant, Michael 'we've had enough of experts' Gove, plotting against him, it is hard to see Johnson surviving to lead Little England for much longer.