Friday, 15 July 2011

Nation Union Of Journalists Strike

    BBC news presenter Fiona Bruce

    Several of the BBC's star presenters, such as Fiona Bruce are due to take part in a 48-hour strike. Photograph: Nils Jorgensen / Rex Features

    The BBC faces a news blackout tomorrow across its main TV and radio news programmes, including Radio 4's Today, BBC1's 10pm bulletin and Newsnight, as star presenters including Fiona Bruce and Kirsty Wark join a 48-hour strike over pensions.

    Some of the BBC's most familiar presenters, including Bruce and Nicky Campbell, are expected to take part in the walkout organised by the National Union of Journalists. The 1pm and 6pm bulletins on BBC1 will also be hit by the strike, which will begin at midnight, as will the TV network's Breakfast programme and the corporation's 24-hour news channel, BBC News.

    Managers were scrambling today to put together sufficient resources to provide a "core news service" across TV, radio and online. One insider described the situation as "looking stretched".

    Other Radio 4 news programmes expected to go off air are The World at One and PM, although The World Tonight has been pre-recorded. BBC2's Newsnight is expected to fall victim to the strike, and rolling sports and news station 5 Live will also suffer serious disruption. Live news coverage on the BBC News channel is expected to be restricted to an hourly update, possibly as short as two minutes. The rest of the news channel is likely to be filled by repeats. A brief news update will also replace the three main bulletins on BBC1. BBC news output in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions is also expected to be hit.

    The BBC director general, Mark Thompson, made an 11th hour appeal to staff before the strike, which he said would mean "significant loss of earnings" for NUJ members "without any advantage or benefit in return". Thompson warned the strikers that there would be little sympathy for the industrial action among viewers and listeners. He also told BBC members of other broadcasting unions that they would be expected to work. "The public – many of whom are facing difficult employment and economic pressures – will find it very hard to understand why the BBC's service to them should be impaired in this way," Thompson wrote in an email to BBC staff.

    Describing the corporation's pension offer as a "fair one" that had changed "in significant and positive ways" following negotiations with staff and unions, Thompson added: "The BBC belongs to the British public and has a duty to deliver programmes and services of the highest quality to them every day of the year. They rely on us. We must not let them down."

    Jeremy Dear, the NUJ general secretary, said he expected the strike to have a "significant impact" on the BBC's output. He added that the union was ready for talks but said there was "no appetite" for negotiation from the BBC.

    "NUJ members across the BBC have consistently dubbed the proposals a pensions robbery. That hasn't changed. The BBC have now left members with no choice but to take action to defend their pensions," said Dear.

    NUJ members voted to go on strike in protest at changes to the BBC's historically generous final salary pension scheme. Management said the changes, which included breaking the link between final salary and pension benefits, were required to tackle a pension deficit estimated at between £1.5bn and £2bn, but members of the union voted to reject what Thompson described as a final improved offer.

    The NUJ, which represents about 4,100 BBC journalists, called tomorrow's strike last week. A second strike is due to take place from 15 November, with the threat of further industrial action over Christmas.

    It is five years since the BBC suffered industrial action on a similar scale. Unions, including the NUJ and Bectu, staged a 24-hour stoppage in May 2005 in protest at plans to cut 4,000 jobs and slash 15% from budgets. Radio 4's Today was replaced by a repeat of Ken Clarke's Jazz Greats, while PM listeners heard a Glastonbury festival documentary. However, ratings for BBC1's 10pm bulletin, fronted by BBC World presenter Stephen Cole in the absence of Huw Edwards, went up, a phenomenon attributed to curiosity about how the BBC would cope.

    One beneficiary of today's strike may be ITV1's breakfast programme, Daybreak. The replacement for GMTV, fronted by former BBC1 stars Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley, it has so far struggled in the ratings. With BBC1's Breakfast hobbled by the strike, the ITV show may finally have a chance to shine.

    Newsnight chose last night to debate union power and whether it has "dissipated to the point where the threat of a winter of discontent no longer exists". For the BBC, it would appear not.

World Population - Billions Milestones

Word Population-
Billions Milestones
SOURCE: Wikipedia

It is estimated that the population of the world reached one billion in 1804, two billion in 1927, three billion in 1960, four billion in 1974, five billion in 1987, and six billion in 1999. It is projected to reach seven billion in October 2011, and around eight billion by 2025–2030. By 2045–2050, the world's population is currently projected to reach around nine billion, with alternative scenarios ranging from 7.4 billion to 10.6 billion. Projected figures vary depending on such things as the underlying assumptions and which variables are manipulated in projection calculations, especially the fertility variable. Such variations give long-range predictions to 2150, ranging from population decline to 3.2 billion in the 'low scenario', to high scenarios of 24.8 billion, or soaring to 256 billion assuming fertility remains at 1995 levels.

There is no estimation on the exact day or month the world's population surpassed both the one and two billion marks. The day of three and four billion were not officially noted, but the International Database of the United States Census Bureau places them in July 1959 and April 1974. The United Nations did determine, and celebrate, the "Day of 5 Billion" (11 July 1987), and the "Day of 6 Billion" (12 October 1999). The International Programs division of the United States Census Bureau estimated that the world reached six billion on 21 April 1999 (several months earlier than the official United Nations day). The "Day of 7 Billion" has been targeted by the United States Census Bureau to be in March 2012, while the Population Division of the United Nations suggests 31 October 2011.

Regional billion milestones

Regionally, the first region to hit a billion people was the Northern Hemisphere, followed shortly by the Eastern Hemisphere, not too long after the world hit a billion. Next in coming was Asia, then East Asia and South Asia, followed by China in 1980, India in 1999, Western Hemisphere in 2000s and Africa in 2010. The next billion people milestones expected by demographers are the Americas, with a current population of around 920 million, the Southern Hemisphere and Subsaharan Africa with each around 850 million people. It is not known if the current next contenders, Europe, Southeast Asia, and North America in that order, will ever surpass 1 billion people.

As for 2, 3, and 4 billion, only the Northern Hemisphere, Eastern Hemisphere, and Asia have surpassed these figures.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Arctic may be ice-free within 30 years

Data showing dramatic sea ice melt suggests warming at the north pole is speeding up
    Arctic ice cave
    Arctic ice is melting at a record pace, suggesting the region may be ice-free during summer within 30 years. Photograph: Alexandra Kobalenko/Getty

    Sea ice in the Arctic is melting at a record pace this year, suggesting warming at the north pole is speeding up and a largely ice-free Arctic can be expected in summer months within 30 years.

    The area of the Arctic ocean at least 15% covered in ice is this week about 8.5m sq kilometres – lower than the previous record low set in 2007 – according to satellite monitoring by the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado. In addition, new data from the University of Washington Polar Science Centre, shows that the thickness of Arctic ice this year is also the lowest on record.

    In the past 10 days, the Arctic ocean has been losing as much as 150,000 square kilometres of sea a day, said Mark Serreze, director of the NSIDC.

    "The extent [of the ice cover] is going down, but it is also thinning. So a weather pattern that formerly would melt some ice, now gets rid of much more. There will be ups and downs, but we are on track to see an ice-free summer by 2030. It is an overall downward spiral."

    Global warming has been melting Arctic sea ice for the past 30 years at a rate of about 3% per decade on average. But the two new data sets suggest that, if current trends continue, a largely ice-free Arctic in summer months is likely within 30 years. That is up to 40 years earlier than was anticipated in the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report.

    Sea ice, which is at its maximum extent in March and its lowest in September each year, is widely considered to be one of the "canaries in the mine" for climate change, because the poles are heating up faster than anywhere else on Earth. According to NSIDC, air temperatures for June 2011 were between 1 and 4C warmer than average over most of the Arctic Ocean.

    The findings support a recent study in the journal Science that suggested water flowing from the Atlantic into the Arctic ocean is warmer today than at any time in the past 2,000 years and could be one of the explanations for the rapid sea ice melt now being observed.

    Computer simulations performed by Nasa suggest that the retreat of Arctic sea ice will not continue at a constant rate. Instead the simulations show a series of abrupt decreases such as the one that occurred in 2007, when a "perfect storm" of weather conditions coincided and more ice was lost in one year than in the previous 28 years combined. Compared to the 1950s, over half of the Arctic sea ice had disappeared.

    What concerns polar scientists is that thicker ice which does not melt in the summer is not being formed fast as the ice is melting. On average each year about half of the first year ice, formed between September and March, melts during the following summer. This year, says Jeff Masters, founder of the Weather Underground climate monitoring website, a high pressure system centred north of Alaska has brought clear skies and plenty of ice-melting sunshine to the Arctic.

    "The combined action of the clockwise flow of air around the high and counter-clockwise flow of air around a low pressure system near the western coast of Siberia is driving warm, southerly winds into the Arctic that is pushing ice away from the coast of Siberia, encouraging further melting."

    Sea ice has an important effect on the heat balance of the polar oceans, since it insulates the (relatively) warm ocean from the much colder air above, thus reducing heat loss from the oceans. Sea ice also has a high albedo – about 0.6 when bare, and about 0.8 when covered with snow – compared to the sea – about 0.15 – and thus the loss of sea ice increased the absorption of the sun's warmth by the sea.