Thousands of Lambs Killed by unknown Virus in Britain

by Cole Moreton
Telegraph
February 27, 2012

The Schmallenberg virus causes lambs to be born dead or with serious deformities such as fused limbs and twisted necks, which mean they cannot survive.

Scientists are urgently trying to find out how the disease, which also affects cattle, spreads and how to fight it, as the number of farms affected increases by the day.

So far, 74 farms across southern and eastern England have been hit by the virus, which arrived in this country in January.

A thousand farms in Europe have reported cases since the first signs of the virus were seen in the German town of Schmallenberg last summer.

The National Farmers Union has called it a potential “catastrophe” and warned farmers to be vigilant. “This is a ticking time bomb,” said Alastair Mackintosh, of the NFU. “We don’t yet know the extent of the disease. We only find out the damage when sheep and cows give birth, and by then it’s too late.”

It is unclear exactly how the disease arrived in Britain, but the leading theory is that midges carried the virus across the Channel or North Sea in the autumn. However, scientists cannot yet rule out transmission of the disease from animal to animal.

Infected ewes do not show any symptoms of the virus until they give birth, with horrific results. Farmers have described delivering the deformed and stillborn animals as heartbreaking.

The lambing season has only just begun, which means that the full impact of the disease will not be felt until the weather warms up and millions more animals are born.

On the Continent, some farms have lost half of their lambs. So far the worst hit in Britain have lost 20 per cent, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Approximately 16 million lambs are born in Britain every year and sell at market for about £100 each. The effect of the disease on farms that are already struggling in the downturn could be severe.

“For any business to lose 20 per cent of your stock would be a huge blow,” said Mr Mackintosh. “For a farmer to lose 20 per cent of your flock is catastrophic. If it was 50 per cent you would be put out of action.

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Iran Cuts Oil Supply to UK and France

Reuters
February 19, 2012

 Iran has stopped selling crude to British and French companies, the oil ministry said on Sunday, in a retaliatory measure against fresh EU sanctions on the Islamic state’s lifeblood, oil.

“Exporting crude to British and French companies has been stopped … we will sell our oil to new customers,” spokesman Alireza Nikzad was quoted as saying by the ministry of petroleum website.

The European Union in January decided to stop importing crude from Iran from July 1 over its disputed nuclear program, which the West says is aimed at building bombs. Iran denies this.

Iran’s oil minister said on February 4 that the Islamic state would cut its oil exports to “some” European countries.

The European Commission said last week that the bloc would not be short of oil if Iran stopped crude exports, as they have enough in stock to meet their needs for around 120 days.

Industry sources told Reuters on February 16 that Iran’s top oil buyers in Europe were making substantial cuts in supply months in advance of European Union sanctions, reducing flows to the continent in March by more than a third – or over 300,000 barrels daily.

France’s Total has already stopped buying Iran’s crude, which is subject to fresh EU embargoes. Market sources said Royal Dutch Shell has scaled back sharply.

Among European nations, debt-ridden Greece is most exposed to Iranian oil disruption.

Motor Oil Hellas of Greece was thought to have cut out Iranian crude altogether and compatriot Hellenic Petroleum along with Spain’s Cepsa and Repsol were curbing imports from Iran.

Iran was supplying more than 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) to the EU plus Turkey in 2011, industry sources said.

By the start of this year imports had sunk to about 650,000 bpd as some customers cut back in anticipation of an EU ban.

Saudi Arabia says it is prepared to supply extra oil either by topping up existing term contracts or by making rare spot market sales. Iran has criticized Riyadh for the offer.

Iran said the cut will have no impact on its crude sales, warning that any sanctions on its oil will raise international crude prices.

Brent crude oil prices were up $1 a barrel to $118.35 shortly after Iran’s state media announced last week that Tehran had cut oil exports to six European states. The report was denied shortly afterwards by Iranian officials.

“We have our own customers … The replacements for these companies have been considered by Iran,” Nikzad said.

EU’s new sanctions includes a range of extra restrictions on Iran that went well beyond U.N. sanctions agreed last month and included a ban on dealing with Iranian banks and insurance companies and steps to prevent investment in Tehran’s lucrative oil and gas sector, including refining.

The mounting sanctions are aimed at putting financial pressure on the world’s fifth largest crude oil exporter, which has little refining capacity and has to import about 40 percent of its gasoline needs for its domestic consumption.

Bank-owned Moody’s downgrades Italy, Portugal sees UK and France Negative

Moody’s.com
February 2012

As anticipated in November 2011, Moody’s Investors Service has today adjusted the sovereign debt ratings of selected EU countries in order to reflect their susceptibility to the growing financial and macroeconomic risks emanating from the euro area crisis and how these risks exacerbate the affected countries’ own specific challenges.

Moody’s actions can be summarised as follows:

– Austria: outlook on Aaa rating changed to negative

– France: outlook on Aaa rating changed to negative

– Italy: downgraded to A3 from A2, negative outlook

– Malta: downgraded to A3 from A2, negative outlook

– Portugal: downgraded to Ba3 from Ba2, negative outlook

– Slovakia: downgraded to A2 from A1, negative outlook

– Slovenia: downgraded to A2 from A1, negative outlook

– Spain: downgraded to A3 from A1, negative outlook

– United Kingdom: outlook on Aaa rating changed to negative

Please see the individual country specific statements below for more detailed information relating to the rating rationale and the sensitivity analysis for each affected sovereign issuer.

The implications of these actions for directly and indirectly related ratings will be reported through separate press releases.

The main drivers of today’s actions are:

– The uncertainty over (i) the euro area’s prospects for institutional reform of its fiscal and economic framework and (ii) the resources that will be made available to deal with the crisis.

– Europe’s increasingly weak macroeconomic prospects, which threaten the implementation of domestic austerity programmes and the structural reforms that are needed to promote competitiveness.

– The impact that Moody’s believes these factors will continue to have on market confidence, which is likely to remain fragile, with a high potential for further shocks to funding conditions for stressed sovereigns and banks.

To a varying degree, these factors are constraining the creditworthiness of all European sovereigns and exacerbating the susceptibility of a number of sovereigns to particular financial and macroeconomic exposures.

Moody’s has reflected these constraints and exposures in its decision to downgrade the government bond ratings of Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain as listed above. The outlook on the ratings of these countries remains negative given the continuing uncertainty over financing conditions over the next few quarters and its corresponding impact on creditworthiness.

In addition, these constraints have also prompted Moody’s to change to negative the outlooks on the Aaa ratings of Austria, France and the United Kingdom. The negative outlooks reflect the presence of a number of specific credit pressures that would exacerbate the susceptibility of these sovereigns’ balance sheets, and of their ongoing austerity programmes, to any further deterioration in European economic conditions and financial landscape.

An important factor limiting the magnitude of Moody’s rating adjustments is the European authorities’ commitment to preserving the monetary union and implementing whatever reforms are needed to restore market confidence. These rating actions therefore take into account the steps taken by euro area policymakers in agreeing to a framework to improve fiscal planning and control and measures adopted to stem the risk of contagion.

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Belgium will not bury their dead. They will be dissolved

Mail Online

It could hardly be said to be the most dignified of send-offs.

Undertakers in Belgium plan to eschew traditional burials and cremations and start dissolving corpses instead.

The move is intended to tackle a lack of burial space and environmental concerns as 573lbs of carbon dioxide are released by each cremated corpse.

Under the process, known as resomation, bodies are treated in a steel chamber with potassium hydroxide at high pressure and a temperature of 180c (350f).

The raised pressure and temperature means the body reaches a similar end point as in standard cremation — just bones left to be crushed up — in two to three hours.

Six states in America have passed legislation to allow resomation and the Scottish company behind the technology says it is in talks to allow the process in the UK.

Although the ashes can be recycled in waste systems, the residue from the process can also be put in urns and handed over to relatives of the dead like normal ashes from crematorium farewells.

Resomation Ltd was formed in east Glasgow in 2007 and has been in talks with the UK government about using the technology in Britain.

The company says on its website: ‘The process needs to be approved in each country and/or state before resomation can take place.

‘In the UK discussions have already been held with the relevant Ministers and departments within Whitehall in order to progress the use of resomation in the UK.

‘Elsewhere across the globe this is a work in progress.’

Sandy Sullivan, founder of The Resomation Company said: ‘Resomation offers a new, innovative approach which uses less energy and emits significantly less greenhouse gasses than cremation.

‘I am getting a lot of requests from families and we hope it will become legal in Scotland within the year.

‘Burial space is running out and I have had lots of people contact me whose loved ones have chosen resomation.

‘It’s a highly sensitive subject but I think the public are ready for it.’

The name ‘Resomation’ comes from the Greek word ‘Resoma’ meaning rebirth of the human body.

Members of the EU Commission must rule on the Belgian proposal as there are concerns that residual waste could be flushed into the drainage system.

Belgian undertakers hope to have the greenlight within three months.

In resomation the body is placed in a silk bag, itself placed within a metal cage frame. This is then loaded into a Resomator.

The machine is filled with a mixture of water and potassium hydroxide.

The end result is a small quantity of green-brown tinted liquid containing amino acids, peptides, sugars and salts and soft, porous white bone remains which are easily crushed.

The white ash can then be returned to the next of kin of the deceased.

The liquid can be recycled back to the ecosystem by being applied to a memorial garden or forest or simply put into the sewerage system.

Peak Oil no More

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

So there is plenty of oil and gas after all. Prices will tumble along gently until well into the next decade. We are becoming more

The existence of massive abiotic oil reserves around the world has confirmed that Peak Oil is just a lie.

efficient in our use of energy, with 3pc extra savings annually. That is a faster pace than the rising real cost of fuel. Mankind will not run out of fuel for a very long time.

That at least is the story today from the International Energy Agency. Their medium-term outlook for fossil fuel markets is a dazzling contrast with last year’s warnings that a combination of break-neck industrialisation in China and lack of investment in new oil fields (thanks to the credit freeze) would exhaust global spare capacity by 2013.

The IEA said then that we would need “four new Saudi Arabias” within a generation to cope with the rise of China, and there were no such Saudi Arabias in sight. Such are the perils of forecasting the volatile variables of supply and demand for oil.

What has changed – apart from human emotions? For starters, the global gas market has been undergoing a revolution as a result of a) liquefied natural gas, a technology that is only just coming into its own and allows countries such as Qatar to ship their once useless reserves of gas on frozen hulls across the world; LNG output will increase by 50pc from 2008 to 2013. Actually, this is not that new, but never mind.
b) advances in US gas extraction from rock, which have turned the US into the world’s biggest producer of gas. Europe is jumping on the bandwagon. “The development of unconventional gas in North America is of global significance,” said the agency. Indeed it is. The knock-on effects run right through the energy complex.

The IEA now expects spare capacity of oil to remain at a comfortable 3.5m barrels a day (bpd) in 2015, with consumption edging up by an extra 1m bpd each year to around 90m bpd (or 92m if global growth is stronger). All this is quite manageable. It talked of a “gentle nominal price escalation through mid-decade, with prices rising from $77 to $86″.

The alarmist stories we heard last year from certain City banks about collapsing supply (I will spare the names) were wildly wrong. The IEA’s upward revisions from 2009 come from the US, Russia, Colombia, Canada, Mexico, Norway, Egypt, and even the UK (+80,000).

Supply is rising from off-shore Brazil, the Caspian, Canadian oil sands, and biofuels, offsetting declines in the North Sea. Non-OPEC output will actually grow from 51.5m (bpd) to 52.5m by 2015. No crisis there … Latin America will jump from 3.9m to 5.1m, the old Soviet bloc from 13.3m to 13.8m.

On the demand side, America’s gasoline use is slowly “evaporating”. Consumption is falling by 0.6pc a year. This will continue after the new standard of 35.5 miles per gallon for light vehicles that came into force in April. Battery technologies for electric vehicles are on the cusp of a break-through, so long as lithium does not run short, (Half the world’s reserves are in Bolivia). Japanese researchers have built an 8-wheel prototype with a motor in each wheel that massively extends battery life because less energy is lost. “The transportation game-changer is just beginning,” said the IEA.

There are “demand risks”. Large parts of Asia, Latin America, and the Mid-East are at cusp of the “critical oil demand ‘take-off’ zone of $3,000 to $4,000 per capita income” when use explodes – ie, when they move from bicycles to scooters to cars, and install air-conditioning. Demand from emerging economies will make up 52pc of total global consumption by 2015. ( The rich countries have already hit the “S Curve” of saturation, followed by a long slow slide).

I am not an oil expert, just a curious spectator like many readers. I keep an eye on energy markets because they are a window into the global economy and the world’s strategic system.

I pass on the report without taking any particular view, and would be interested in your thoughts. My own suspicion is that Peak Oil has not been conjured away quite so easily as the IEA suggests, especially after BP’s debacle in the Gulf of Mexico.

At the very least, the marginal cost and risk cost of deep-sea drilling has rocketed. This must affect projects off Brazil, Angola, the Norwegian Arctic, and up in Russia’s `High North’. If the spill keeps gushing into the Autumn it may do to sea drilling, what Three Mile Island did to the US nuclear industry for thirty years.

Jeremy Leggett from Solarcentury and a member of the UK’s Task Force on Peak Oil argues that Big Oil has systemically overstated reserves for years to inflate share prices, shielded by captive regulators. Their deception compares to the systemic errors of the banks in the credit crunch, but ultimately on a bigger scale and with potentially more nefaste consequences.

I reserve my judgement on this. The energy market is infuriatingly opaque. But on balance, I think IEA was closer to the truth last year.