# Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Psyllid-release-to-fight--001Japanese knotweed is fast becoming a problem in some areas of the UK. It grows very quickly and can be expensive to remove by hand costing anything up to £150m a year to control. It will soon be under attack from another alien in the form of an insect. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have approved the release of an insect called the psyllid which eats the weed. In tests the insect has fed on sap from the stems of knotweed, causing the plant to die back and has ignored other similar native plants. It will be released in two locations initially under close supervision to see whether the plan works before being released at another six sites. I’m not convinced myself, that releasing another potentially invasive species will not cause further unforeseen problems to the environment.

posted on Tuesday, March 16, 2010 3:38:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

Predators of songbirds such as the magpie tend to get a bad press when it comes to looking at the reasons for the decline of songbirds. According to this article, however, they are not to blame. At a time when species such as the yellowhammer and bullfinch have dropped by half there have been calls for culls of predators such as magpies and grey squirrels which have seen numbers soar. A study of the relationship between songbirds and predators has found that rather than more causing a decline they are in fact a indication of a higher number of animals further up the food chain and a healthy overall population. For the majority of songbirds there is no evidence of a link between predators and songbird decline although it is acknowledged this might be an issue in some cases on a local level. In fact research indicated that factors such as woodland management, changing farming practices and urbanisation were more behind the decline in most cases.

posted on Tuesday, March 16, 2010 11:11:57 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Monday, March 15, 2010

According to this article a pharmacist has refused to serve a woman with a prescription for contraceptive pills because of her religious beliefs. The incident happened when Janine Deeley went to collect her prescription. She was refused on the grounds that the pharmacist would not give them out because of her religion and told to come back another day when someone else was on duty. It is not clear what the religious beliefs of the pharmacist in question were from the article but a spokeswoman for the NHS Sheffield primary care trust has said they will investigate if a formal complaint is made. It does, however, seem slightly ridiculous that a person with such strong beliefs should be employed in such a position and should be imposing these beliefs on other people, if she can’t do the full job, perhaps she should be working in another profession.

posted on Monday, March 15, 2010 2:07:45 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

If you are paying a bit more for free range eggs then you expect them to be free range. It seems, however, that many eggs are falling short of quality and labelling standards. In an investigation in Derbyshire 40% of eggs fell short of standards. In some cases eggs from battery hens were being advertised as free range or barn raised. A test of 50 eggs from different retailers found that although 39 claimed to be free range, 19 were not. In addition to this 11 of the eggs were wrongly labelled, four did not meet quality standards and 2 were not the required weight under the Food Safety Act. The eggs were tested with various techniques to determine quality including shining an ultra-violet light on the shell to show up marks which would prove whether they were laid in cages and checking the size of the air space inside to determine freshness. If this many fail just in Derbyshire, it makes me wonder how many of the eggs I purchase are indeed free range. Perhaps it’s time to get my own chickens.

posted on Monday, March 15, 2010 10:29:13 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Sunday, March 14, 2010

According to this article a report has recommended that more famers should house their cows indoors so that they can collect the methane they produce. The report produced by the Land Use Climate Change Group suggests that greenhouse gases could be reduced dramatically if farmers altered the way they farmed. it claims that cows produce around 500 litres of methane every day and that emissions would fall if this were stored. In the longer term this could mean developing a radical approach such as housing cattle indoors so that the emissions can be captured. However, it would seem any plans to do this would be some way off as the technology to capture the gas has not yet been developed.

posted on Sunday, March 14, 2010 1:19:14 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Saturday, March 13, 2010

_47439479_ghosts_rightstbc In what is one of the more bizarre auction lots I have come across, two bottled ghosts have recently been sold. The auction was for two glass vials which are said to contain the ghosts of an old man and a young girl in holy water. The ghosts were apparently captured by an exorcist and then stored in the water. They sold for NZ$2,000, approx £935 to an electronic cigarette company.

posted on Saturday, March 13, 2010 9:45:32 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

According to this article Yorkshire pudding makers are planning a bid which could give them EU protected food status. They are hoping that if they win European rights Yorkshire puddings will gain the EU protection that brands such as Parma ham and champagne already enjoy. This would mean that to be called Yorkshire puddings they would need to be made within Yorkshire. The Yorkshire firms Roberts, Aunt Bessie’s and the Real Yorkshire Pudding Company are behind the bid and are being backed by the Regional Food Group for Yorkshire and Humber. Some British foods that already have protected status include Cornish clotted cream, Whitstable oysters and Stilton cheese.

posted on Saturday, March 13, 2010 9:43:58 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Friday, March 12, 2010

Personally I can’t remember the last time I had a £5 note. It seems I might not be the only one who has noticed a shortage of fivers. According to this article they have become something of a rarity. It seems the Bank of England is looking at ways to try and get more £5 notes into circulation. They have been talking to financial institutions to try and get them to return more £5 notes from their sorting offices so that they can be replaced with new ones and encouraging banks to add them to their ATMs. It seems part of the problem is that bank machines without £5 notes can be smaller and also be refilled less often meaning most operators prefer to offer larger notes. The bank is also trying to encourage retailers to use more £5 notes when giving change. It will be interesting to see if the measures work and whether I start seeing a few more fivers in my change.

posted on Friday, March 12, 2010 9:09:47 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

Wine lovers who thought they were investing in new age wine have been duped by a bogus scheme. They were offered what they thought was a chance to buy new age wine for £100 a bottle. The wine would then be kept for them for seven years whilst it matured and they would be sent regular updates on their purchase. In fact the scheme was completely fake and police have recently arrested six suspects who were running it from their homes in east London. Some would be investors are thought to have spent as much £100,000 on the scheme which targeted those on wine club marketing lists.

posted on Friday, March 12, 2010 9:07:10 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

Tesco are backing a new online estate agency. The agency called Spicerhaart is launching the website iSold.com. It will launch initially in the Bristol area and will be advertised to users of the Tesco website. The service offers a basic online selling service for a flat fee of £999 rather than charging a percentage of the selling price as is the norm. All dealings with buyers and sellers will be conducted over the phone and online and the business will be kept separate for the Spicerhaart high street outlets.

posted on Friday, March 12, 2010 8:53:28 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Thursday, March 11, 2010

article-1254854-08886771000005DC-76_634x344

This green Ferrari has recently been unveiled. It is more than just green in colour, however, the vehicle is an electric hybrid. The Ferrari 599 has a top speed of 200mph and aims to cut pollution and fuel consumption. It runs on a zero emission electric motor which backs up a 6.0 litre petrol engine.

posted on Thursday, March 11, 2010 8:43:22 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

According to this article five species of rare butterflies could soon be extinct. The annual survey of butterfly numbers in the UK has found that overall butterfly numbers are much lower than average. The problem is the wet summers we have experienced in the past few years which make it difficult for the insects to breed. Another wet summer could mean that species such as the Duke of Burgundy, High Brown Fritillary, Wood White, Lulworth Skipper and the Pearl-bordered Fritillary will become extinct. It seems there is not much we can do to save them other than hope for a long dry summer.

posted on Thursday, March 11, 2010 8:42:18 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

_47410213_-130

This interesting looking device could help treat people who suffer from migraines. The hand held device emits a single pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation which disrupts the electrical events in the brain which cause the symptoms of migraine. In a trial 40% of patients who used the device were pain free for hours afterwards. Trials have shown it to be more effective than placebo treatment with more patients being pain free up to 48 hours afterwards. More research is needed before the device is likely to be available to patients.

posted on Thursday, March 11, 2010 8:40:41 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Weightwatchers have recently signed a deal which will see them promoting McDonalds meals. Under the deal a range of healthy meals will include the Weightwatchers logo. Meals that are included in the range are Chicken McNuggets, the Filet-O-Fish and the Sweet Chilli Seared Chicken wrap. The deal is part of an attempt to cultivate a healthier image for McDonald’s and show that they do have a number of healthy meals available.

posted on Wednesday, March 10, 2010 9:18:19 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

According to this article the major food retailers have all agreed to cut the carbon footprint of their grocery packaging by 10% over the next two years. Some of the measures they will put into place include selling milk in plastic bags, meat in vacuum packed plastic bags and spirits in plastic bottles. Under the agreement retailers will also provide facilities to recycle wrappings and plastic bags. Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer have all signed up for the agreement which could save consumers £800 million over three years because of the reduction in the amount of food thrown away. It should also save the industry £200 million and cut gas emissions by three million tonnes over the next three years.

posted on Wednesday, March 10, 2010 9:16:37 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

The European Commission has cleared the way for a genetically modified potato to be grown in the EU for the first time. The potato will be only the second GM product to be allowed. The Amflora potato can be used for industrial uses such as making paper and for animal feed but not for human consumption and has been specially developed for the special qualities of its starch. The starch can make yarn stronger, paper glossier and keep glue liquid for longer. Although environmental groups are strongly opposed to the introduction of GM crops the Commission has insisted the decision is based upon sound science. Although it has been approved individual countries still have the right to decide whether it should be grown on their territory. It is expected to be planted in the Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands but it needs to be grown under strict conditions to stop it cross pollinating with non GM crops. For example being cultivated and harvested before it produces seeds.

posted on Wednesday, March 10, 2010 9:09:35 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback
# Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Three cases of Legionnaire’s disease in Scotland have been directly linked to compost. The cases of the disease which occurred between 2008 and 2009 have been linked to water droplets in packs of potting compost. They are the first cases to be linked to gardening within the UK but have led health experts to call for health warnings on packs of potting compost. The disease has previously been linked to gardening and potting mixes in Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States. Legionnaires disease is normally linked with contaminated water and air conditioning systems.

posted on Tuesday, March 09, 2010 10:31:22 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

This is interesting its a scheme from the Co-op to try and rebuild honeybee numbers. Under the scheme people would be encouraged to keep bees in an urban environment. It would take advantage of areas such as allotments and roofs of buildings which can support bee populations. The Co-op aims to encourage 300 new people to urban beekeeping in Manchester, London and Inverness and will provide free training and equipment to those who are interested. In a trial of the scheme last year 60 people out of an initial 100 went on to become beekeepers. Honeybee numbers have more than halved in Britain in the period between 1985 and 2005 due to a number of reasons such as pesticide use, warmer winters and infections such as varroa mites. With their pollination of fruit trees and other crops being worth £165 million every year lets hops the scheme is successful. I would certainly be interested but am not sure my garden is quite big enough for a bee hive.

posted on Tuesday, March 09, 2010 10:29:57 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback

According to this article the AA is to launch a new service to help people within the home. The AA will answer calls from householders who have problems with issues such as leaking pipes and broken down boilers or even those who need help putting up a fence or hanging a picture. Householders will use the same call centres which are currently used to dispatch the AA’s breakdown service. People will be given a time of arrival and a reference number and repair men will use an AA van but without the flashing lights. AA members will get a discount on the new service which will also be offered to new customers. The service is split into two parts. The AA Home Emergency Response which is an insurance policy against domestic problems and will tackle burst pipes and leaks. The AA Home Assist will tackle smaller jobs such as putting up curtain rails, mending fences and picture hanging. The service will have a stand alone network of patrolman and vans, separate from the existing fleet of roadside patrol vans. Typical prices for the Home Emergency Response are expected to be £9.95 per month for AA members and £11.95 for non-members.

posted on Tuesday, March 09, 2010 10:25:41 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0] Trackback