# Tuesday, March 02, 2010

I watched the Panorama programme about the impact of the palm oil industry on the environment with interest. I have long been aware that unsustainable palm oil impacts hugely on the environment and particularly on the habitat of the orangutan population. What I was now, made aware of, however, was the number of products that might contain palm oil without my knowledge. I prefer to source most of cosmetics from Lush because most of their products do not contain palm oil but the Panorama documentary made me aware that many food products might contain palm oil disguised as vegetable oil.

The problem with palm oil is that it causes a massive amount of deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. The impact forces not only the indigenous people from their homes but also the ever vulnerable and fast depleted orangutan population. What the documentary highlighted was that many areas that are protected forest are being illegally logged and turned over to palm oil production. It seems, that because the business is so lucrative, the respective local governments turn a blind eye to this breech of the law.

Figures show that the orangutan population has declined by 50% in the last decade and around 50,000 orangutans have died as a result of de-forestation. At this rate there seems little hope for the remaining population. Currently only 3% of the world’s palm oil is certified as sustainable meaning it comes from a plantation that passes an environmental impact test. Most of the big manufacturers who use palm oil also have no way of tracing where it comes from because it is mixed with other oil so they are unable to trace the origin.

Whilst this might be the case what in my mind is inexcusable is the mislabelling of products. Manufacturers are allowed to list palm oil simply as “vegetable oil” without stating the actual content. Although their excuse that recipes can change and the oil can very from week is certainly plausible, surely they can label a product as “may contain palm oil” in the same way they would with a product such as nuts. That way as a consumer I can make an informed judgement as to whether to buy the product or not. Surprisingly the only supermarket which states whether a product contains palm oil and whether it is from a sustainable source is Sainsbury’s. Based on this I think I will make a conscious choice to switch to their own brand products. I wonder whether any others will follow suit.

posted on Tuesday, March 02, 2010 10:15:56 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Monday, March 01, 2010

According to this article just one in six people will take advantage of the ISA allowance. From April people will be able to put more into their ISA’s. The allowance has also changed this year going up from £7,200 to £10,200 from the 5th of April. However, only 15% are likely to take advantage of this and 25% do not know that the limits have changed. It seems many people are put off using ISA’s because of the current poor rates on savings, however, it makes sense to put your savings somewhere you are not paying tax on them. I will certainly be taking full advantage of the £5,100 tax free cash allowance I can put in my ISA.

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 10:37:51 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

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This is Khagendra Thapa Magar who at 17 years old could be the world’s shortest man. He is just 22 inches tall, just a little shorter than the shortest man ever recorded who was 22.4 inches tall. He is currently filing a claim with Guinness World Records to verify whether he does indeed qualify for the title.

posted on Monday, March 01, 2010 10:28:07 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Sunday, February 28, 2010

I came across this article the other day which shows how to make your own butter. It’s not something I have ever tried but looking at the instructions it doesn’t look that hard. So that I can find it again I am posting a link to it here.

The recipe which makes 1kg of butter and 1 litre of buttermilk starts off with 2.4 litres of double cream and 2 teaspoons of dairy salt which it says are optional. The cream is then whisked in a food mixer until thick and then even more until it separates into buttermilk and butterfat globules. The mixture is then turned into a sieve to separate the buttermilk and the butter whisked further to expel any remains of buttermilk. The sieving process is repeated. The butter is then kneaded with butter bats (wooden paddles) to remove any traces of buttermilk before being drained and washed several times. It can then be chilled or frozen.

It all sounds very easy and I will be trying it so watch this space for the results.

posted on Sunday, February 28, 2010 8:42:06 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has called on the government to scrap its plans to raise beer taxes. The tax is due to increase 2% above inflation in the next Budget in March and has risen 20% since 2008. The BBPA says taxing beer at a lower rate could save as many as 7,500 jobs at a time when many in the pub industry are struggling. Figures from Camra (Campaign for Real Ale) show that 40 pubs a week are currently closing and at the height of the recession this was as many as 52 a week. Personally I can’t see the government bowing to pressure when it has such a huge hole in public spending but I feel they should recognise the importance of the local pub in the community and do more to help the struggling publican.

posted on Sunday, February 28, 2010 8:39:25 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Saturday, February 27, 2010

If you have ever been in a dark bathroom at night struggling to find the toilet roll then this glow in the dark toilet roll might be just what you need. It looks like regular toilet roll but gives off a florescent glow when the lights are turned off. It costs £4.99 for a roll so is not cheap but could be useful if you are planning a camping trip or simply going somewhere really dark.

posted on Saturday, February 27, 2010 12:24:47 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

When it comes to endangered animals many get a much higher profile than the Great White Shark. It seems, though that it is now more endangered than the tiger with only 3,500 left. The findings have led to marine biologists to call for urgent action to stop them going extinct. The population estimates come after a scientists studied and tagged the migration of the sharks using radio transmitters. What was surprising is that great whites travel much longer distances that previously thought, anything up to 12,000 miles in a nine month period. The researchers found that sharks seen in Hawaii were the same ones that were found in California just six months later leading experts to the conclusion there are far fewer sharks left in the sea. Whilst great whites have a bad reputation for attacking people most incidents are thought to be due to the shark mistaking people for seals. With so few left and the fact that most people have little love for sharks, it seems they might not be around for much longer.

posted on Saturday, February 27, 2010 12:23:10 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

Cat food is being used in Australia to stop the spread of invasive cane toads. It has been found that cat food attracts meat ants towards it. Meat ants in turn have quite an appetite for baby cane toads. Leaving cat food near the waters edge when the baby toads are emerging puts the ants right where they are needed. The idea is the latest attempt to try and control the cane toads which were introduced from Hawaii in 1935 in an attempt to control beetles on sugarcane plantations. Since then cane toads have become a destructive influence on the local wildlife population. Other methods of controlling them have included hitting the toads with golf clubs and freezing them. However, with tens of thousands of toads emerging from the water at any one time these methods have not proved effective. Meat ants, are well equipped to deal with the glut of extra food and it has been found that when ponds are lined with cat food, 98% of toads are attacked within two minutes. Of those that escape 80% die of their injuries within a day.

posted on Saturday, February 27, 2010 12:20:51 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Friday, February 26, 2010

According to this article there are some people that would like to see pole dancing included as an Olympic sport. It seems that pole dancing is fast becoming less a feature of a strip club and more a highly athletic and even respectable event. Pole dancing enthusiasts would first need to gain IOC recognition as a sport before it could be seriously considered for the Olympics. Some believe it is only a matter of time before it is and are optimistic that 2012 could see the first pole dancing event.

posted on Friday, February 26, 2010 9:32:53 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

This article is interesting it suggests that microbreweries are becoming increasingly popular and in some cases more so than the big brands. The article highlights Ascot Ales which are brewed by Chris Gill and his wife. They currently produce around 12 barrels of ale a week when working at full capacity and supply 70 local pubs. Unlike larger breweries they do not add rice and maize to keep costs down, preferring to stick to premium ingredients. Neither do they pasteurise the beer. This obviously means that it doesn’t last quite as long but taking out this process means that none of the flavour is destroyed. it seems these microbreweries which have small output levels and minimal staff are enjoying rapid growth in a time when people are looking something more tasty and perhaps more local. In contrast many of the larger multi-national breweries are seeing their sales fall. It certainly seems to work for Ascot Ales, they are currently seeking a larger premises so that they can increase production.

posted on Friday, February 26, 2010 9:27:21 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Thursday, February 25, 2010

article-1252032-0859D3D2000005DC-478_468x366 These rockets have been made by inventor John Coker. He had the idea after a friend remarked that his rockets looked a bit like crayons. The over sized pack of rocket crayons was soon born. They took several years to build  and do pretty much what you would expect rockets to do whilst looking like crayons.

posted on Thursday, February 25, 2010 12:02:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

According to this article almost half of all primates face extinction. There are 634 primate species but 48% of these are on the red list of animals under threat. The main problems facing primates is the destruction of tropical forests and the illegal hunting trade. A recent report has highlighted the 25 most endangered primate species some of which are thought to be down to just a few dozen individuals. Among these are golden headed langur of which there are between 60 and 70 individuals left and the eastern black crested gibbons of which there are around 110. It is hoped that the report will go some way to highlighting the problems facing these creatures before it is becomes too late to save them.

posted on Thursday, February 25, 2010 11:59:29 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Wednesday, February 24, 2010

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A bald eagle with a broken beak has had it fixed in a rather unconventional way. The eagle had lost most of his beak after catching it in a fishing line. The resulting hole in his beak then stopped him from hunting. A dentist who was called in to help and filled the hole with putty which is usually used to fill holes in human teeth. He made it the right shape and size to fit the hole in the beak and although it is not thought the bird will return to the wild, he should now be able to survive in captivity.

posted on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 9:50:05 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

A farm in Sussex has started offering unpasteurised milk in an effort to save their farm. Longley’s Farm near Hailsham has been selling organic pasteurised milk for some time but recently has started losing money on the product. The farmer says that pasteurised milk now costs around 34p a litre to produce but they are only paid 26p for it so make a loss on each litre. Unpasteurised on the other hand is cheaper to produce although it must carry a warning that it might contain bacteria and can only be sold directly by the farmer. It is thought that the unpasteurised milk, however, has the advantage of containing more nutrients because it has not gone through the heat treating process. The farmer is currently planning to deliver the milk once a week but it will be interesting to see how much demand there is for the product.

posted on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 9:35:27 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

According to this article some French vineyards are starting to make their fruit into health tonics, pills and dietary supplements in order to move into the teetotal market. Is seems that these products can often be made from the part of the grape that would be discarded. Although some wineries have traditionally turned this wine residue into state subsidised industrial alcohol, these subsidies are due to be ended and so producers are looking towards new markets and instead looking to develop medicines and supplements. One producer that the article mentions produces Dionysox a drink made from the grape skins which he sells as a dietary supplement whilst another sells dietary supplements made from the vines. Although 80% of wine studies show it has a positive affect on health there are as yet no guarantee that the wine extracts do, so it would be interesting to see if any of these products undergo any clinical trials.

posted on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 9:31:48 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A pub in Sheffield has won the Campaign for Real Ale’s national pub of the year for a second year running. The Kelham Island Tavern has been praised for the quality of its beer and attention to detail. The pub was brought in a derelict state by the current landlord in 2001 and since then has suffered flood damage which forced it to close. It appears the pub has bounced back and since it won the award for the first time in 2008 it has been attracting visitors from all over the country, so if you are in Sheffield it might be worth a visit.

posted on Tuesday, February 23, 2010 10:35:34 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

A 90 year old man is waiting for confirmation from Guinness Wolrd Records to see whether he is the world’s oldest paperboy. Ted Ingram has been a paperboy for 68 years and claims he has delivered more than 500,000 papers on his round in Winterborne Monkton near Dorchester. Ted has only ever missed his round twice due to snow, despite the fact that he now has a hip replacement. He continues to do the round despite the fact that he no longer makes any money from it because he now has to take the car.

posted on Tuesday, February 23, 2010 10:32:23 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

Scientists, politicians and wildlife groups are pushing for moves to restrict the sale of bluefin tuna. Campaigners will call for trade restrictions at the next meeting of Cities, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Bluefin tuna is very popular particularly in Japan where it is used for sushi and can often sell for thousands of pounds. Stocks of the fish, however, have dropped by 82% since 1978 in the western Atlantic and those in the eastern Atlantic have dropped by 80% in the same period. The fish is currently being fished faster than the total population can replenish its numbers so if nothing is done it appears the collapse of the species is inevitable. As the world’s main purchaser of the fish Japan are likely to oppose any restrictions.

posted on Tuesday, February 23, 2010 10:28:45 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback