Branch Drop

Several areas of the Botanic Garden are roped off. A sign explains that is to protect visitors from the risk of falling branches as a result of Summer Branch Drop. That can occur when trees are drought stressed, and when they take up water after a period of drought. It is unpredictable, and not related to other indicators of tree health.

The Drought FAQ page of the Botanic Garden website mentions that branch drop can affect any tree but is particularly known to affect cedars, pines, oaks, beeches, chestnuts and poplars, as well as old trees.

Rain taken up by branches after drought can weaken them to the point that branch drop can occur – usually six to eight hours after heavy rain.

While some trees are sacrificing branches, others such as this Yoshino cherry, are curling up their leaves to limit transpiration.

Meanwhile, no real rain for almost a month.

curled leaves of Yoshino cherry

Poaching In The News

The iNews newspaper of 19 July 2022 reports on page 34 that elephant tusks and pangolin scales had been seized in Malaysia

Malaysian authorities said yesterday they seized a container of African elephant tusks, pangolin scales and other animal skulls and bones estimated to be worth 80 million ringgit (£15m).
The Customs Department said in a statement it discovered the contraband hidden behind sawn timber following checks on 10 July on a ship coming from Africa. This included 6,000kg of elephant tusks, 100kg of pangolin scales, 25kg of rhino horns and 300kg of animal skulls, bones and horns, it said.
Investigations are ongoing on the importer and shipping agent.
Ivory tusks, rhino horns and pangolin scales are believed by some to have medicinal properties and are in high demand in Asia.
The World Wildlife Fund said the illegal wildlife trade threatens the survival of many species and has led to a 60 per cent decline in population sizes of vertebrate species.

I looked up how much an average elephant tusk weighs, and its 23kg. So 46kg per elephant – which means that someone had killed 130 elephants to get that haul.

And around sixteen rhinos at 1.5 to 2.5kg per horn.

There is a huge variation in the number of scales on pangolins, varying with species, and an average of 0.47 kg per animal is very approximate, but let’s say 200 animals killed to make the weight of scales found.

Is that a lot? The United Nations page on pangolin scales shows that 69.3 tons of pangolin scales were seized in 2019. That’s 147,447 pangolins.

Alexey Botvinov

Over the past few days I have listened to several versions of Rachmaninoff’s Elegie op.3 No.1. That includes the version played by Rachmaninoff himself. Naturally, that recording is quite old, so the full richness of the piano as an instrument doesn’t come through like it can with modern recording. Tonight, because it appeared in the sidebar on YouTube I listened to the version by Alexey Botvinov, and almost from the first note I thought it was good and was going to be good. And it is good – and he is a wonderful pianist.

Here is the link to the video on YouTube

So then I wanted to know more about the man, because I have never heard of him before. That is not a big surprise because there are many pianists and others that I have not heard of. And this is his bio – or some of it from Concert-Media

Alexey Botvinov is an exceptional pianist in our time. The most famous Ukrainian pianist, Botvinov is one of the best specialists in Rachmaninoff music worldwide. Botvinov is the only pianist who performed Bach’s „Goldberg Variations“ more than 300 times on stage. He performed in over 45 countries.

Indonesia Stops Sending Coal To China

In these days of countries trying to do away with dirty fuels, spare a thought for this.

In October last year, Bloomberg reported the China had loosened the restrictions on imports to tackle its power crisis and that Indonesia supplies about two-thirds of China’s total imports and is China’s biggest overseas supplier, supplying 17 million tons of coal in August, and 21 million tons in September.

And now as the new year of 2022 comes in, Reuters reported that Indonesia, whose biggest customers for its coal are China, India, Japan and South Korea, has banned coal exports until it has evaluated whether it has enough for its own needs.

For comparison between China, Japan, and Korea, these are figure I have been able to pull out.

  • In 2019, coal made up 58 percent of China’s energy use.
  • In 2017, coal made up 24 percent of Japan’s energy use.
  • In 2021, coal made up 28 percent of Korea’s energy use.

Plainly, of the three, China needs coal like no other country – whether supplied by Indonesia or from elsewhere.

Indonesia has a population of over 275 million, so its own needs are not insignificant on a world scale.

The USA has a population of 332 million, to give you a comparison.

And The Russian Federation that has a population of just 146 million.

Indonesia is going to look at how its reserves are coping at the end of January and then decide what to do next to make sure it can plan for enough reserves through to the end of 2022.

I didn’t include India in the listing – my oversight. The figures is 56 percent, but India has its own state-owned Coal India Ltd, which supplied 38 million tonnes in August 2021. So while it imports from Indonesia, I don’t know how ultimately reliant India is on imports.

Imagine

If we could fast forward to 2042, imagine if China had no coal and no way of making up the shortfall from other kinds of fuels. Indonesia is about 7,000 miles as the crow flies from Mainland China, so a task force to capture coal would stick out like a sore thumb. But China would be fighting for its life, so who knows. Pray that it doesn’t come to that.

Commons Select Committee On Standards and Owen Paterson

Kathryn Stone is the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards of the House of Commons.

The Commissioner is an independent officer of the House of Commons, and the Commissioner’s remit is to investigate allegations that MPs have breached the rules found in paragraphs 11-18 of the House of Commons’ Code of Conduct for Members.

Once the investigation is concluded, the Commissioner reports to The Commons Select Committee On Standards.

In October 2021 the Commissioner found that Owen Paterson had breached the paid advocacy rules for making three approaches to the Food Standards Agency and four approaches to the Department for International Development in relation to Randox and seven approaches to the Food Standards Agency relating to Lynn’s Country Foods.

The Commissioner said Paterson had “repeatedly used his privileged position to benefit two companies for whom he was a paid consultant, and that this has brought the house into disrepute” and that “no previous case of paid advocacy has seen so many breaches or such a clear pattern of behaviour in failing to separate private and public interests”.

Acting on her report, The Commons Select Committee on Standards recommended that Paterson be suspended from the Commons for 30 sitting days. The Government decided they didn’t like that and voted to overturn the suspension. The uproar that followed resulted in Own Paterson resigning as an MP.

Before the uproar, the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News that he believed Kathryn Stone should review her position after her suspension of Owen Paterson was blocked by Parliament.

But here’s the thing. She didn’t suspend him. She reported to the Committee and they suspended him.

According to the Committees page of Parliament the current members of the Committee on Standards are:

Chris Bryant MP Labour Rhondda Commons Chair
Dr Arun Midha Lay Member
Mrs Jane Burgess Lay Member
Mr Paul Thorogood Lay Member
Mrs Rita Dexter Lay Member
Mrs Tammy Banks Lay Member
Dr Michael Maguire Lay Member
Mehmuda Mian Lay Member
Andy Carter MP Conservative Warrington South
Alberto Costa MP Conservative South Leicestershire
Allan Dorans MP Scottish National Party Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock
Mark Fletcher MP Conservative Bolsover
Yvonne Fovarque MP Labour Makerfield
Sir Bernard Jenkin MP Conservative Harwich and North Essex

How did they arrive at their decision on the penalty to impose on Mr Paterson? There are four Conservative MPs on the Committee. How did they vote?

Bearing in mind the Commissioner’s finding that “no previous case of paid advocacy has seen so many breaches” was as bad as Mr Paterson’s, it might have been more appropriate for the The Commons Select Committee on Standards to suspend Mr Paterson for the rest of the Parliament.

If Parliament had not voted to overturn the suspension, then Mr Paterson would not have resigned and he would have been suspended for 30 sitting days.

The Standing Orders of Parliament dictate the consequences of being suspended.

  1. Members suspended, etc., to withdraw from precincts
    (1) Members who are ordered to withdraw under Standing Order No. 43 (Disorderly conduct) or who are suspended from the service of the House shall forthwith withdraw from the precincts of the House.
    (2) Suspension from the service of the House shall not exempt the Member so suspended from serving on any committee for the consideration of a private bill to which he may have been appointed before the suspension.

45A. Suspension of salary of Members suspended
The salary of a Member suspended from the service of the House shall be withheld for the duration of his suspension.

So there is a financial penalty, assuming ‘withheld’ means that it is never paid to the MP, rather than held back and paid later.

So how much is it? The basic annual salary of an MP in the House of Commons is £81,932, as of April 2020. How does a withholding of pay for a sitting day tie into that? The Commons Library records the number of Commons sitting days by session since 1945, and from the latest figures (2015-2016) there seems to be around 150 sitting days. So would Owen Paterson have forfeited 30 of 150 of £81,932, which would be £16,800?

Or would it be 30 of 365 of £81,932, which would be £6,700? Or something else?

The newspapers reported that Mr Paterson made something around four times his MP’s salary as a consultant. So having his name in the public eye associated with sleaze may have hurt him more than it did his pocket. Or perhaps not. Without knowing Mr Paterson, one cannot say.

All of which is blood under the bridge, because he resigned and lost all his pay. Who could have predicted that outcome? And bearing in mind the 80 seat majority that the Conservatives have in the Commons, what skin was it off their nose if one of their MPs was suspended for 30 days? It makes you wonder.

Obedient, Docile Men

“I have thought for a long time now that if, some day, the increasing efficiency for the technique of destruction finally causes our species to disappear from the earth, it will not be cruelty that will be responsible for our extinction and still less, of course, the indignation that cruelty awakens and the reprisals and vengeance that it brings upon itself … but the docility, the lack of responsibility of the modern man, his base subservient acceptance of every common decree. The horrors that we have seen, the still greater horrors we shall presently see, are not signs that rebels, insubordinate, untamable men are increasing in number throughout the world, but rather that there is a constant increase in the number of obedient, docile men.”

—George Bernanos

Quoted in ‘Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life’ by Marshall B. Rosenberg (pp. 21-22). PuddleDancer Press.

I am pretty sure that R D Laing would have agreed with that statement. He makes the point that ‘normal’ men in the 20th Century killed 100 million of their fellow humans. It was he whose writing caused me to think again about the relative value that I (and we as humans) place upon the life as lived vis a vis others, and the life of the imagination. All are forms of experience and all merit being accepted as valuable experiences.