Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Church of the Environment puts its money where its mouth is

Did someone mention the name "Madoff"? I am going to enjoy seeing the outcome of this. "A fool and his money are soon parted"

The Church of England's Church Commissioners have gone green, investing 150 million pounds with former US Vice-President Al Gore's environmentally minded investment firm, Generation Investment Management.

On Nov 18 the First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith reported that in late September the Commissioners had placed the funds with Gore's boutique management firm which follows an "environmentally sustainable global equities mandate." Funding for the investment came from "cash and Treasury bills", he said, and not from the sale of UK equities as initially planned.

In Oct 2007 Mr Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in raising awareness of the potential threats from climate change. Generation Investment Management was founded in 2004 by Mr Gore and David Blood, former head of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, and had almost œ5 billion under management before the market collapse. The firm invests in companies that follow "socially responsible" business model such as insulin manufacturer Novo Nordisk, Swiss food conglomerate Nestl‚, and San Francisco's New Resource Bank --- a "green" lender in the US.

Speaking at a press conference last March in Geneva, Mr Gore said private industry should take the lead in creating environmentally friendly market capitalism noting that "more money is allocated by markets around the world in one hour than by all the governments on the planet in a full year." "The principles and ways and values that have an impact on the way markets allocate resources can have an enormous effect" in tackling climate change, he said.

Institutional investors in his fund are "more attracted to the strategy we follow are managing long-term assets toward long-term goals." "Those looking for a quick hit in the market place, to skim the cream and go somewhere else, those are not the investors attracted to this strategy," Mr Gore said, according to wire service reports.


Record cold in Europe

Skiers are declaring snow conditions in Europe the best for a generation. Despite the strength of the euro, British bargain hunters are heading to the snow-covered mountains of Europe to enjoy the best start to a skiing season for more than 20 years. Record snowfalls and an oversupply of accommodation caused by the credit crunch have prompted a last-minute rush to snap up savings worth hundreds of pounds., the largest ski holiday retailer in Britain, is offering luxury chalet holidays with discounts of up to 360 pounds per person. It also has budget family deals for as little as 229 a head. Simone Clark, the company's sales and marketing director, said: "We have been bombarded by people looking for last-minute trips. They're not necessarily looking for really cheap, but good value. It is driven by the conditions. Two seasons ago, when the snow was poor, we had holidays for 99 pounds and no one wanted them."

Skiers say that these are the best European conditions for a generation, with the deepest snow to be found in the Swiss resorts of Saas-Fee and Andermatt, where the base is more than 3m (11ft) thick.

Graeme Spratley, publisher of Snow magazine, said: "I have friends in Sauze d'Oulx in Italy who say it usually looks like Basingstoke in December but this year it's thick with snow. If you've got the money, it's a great year. There is no shortage of bargains."

The "deal of the day" yesterday with Inghams, the largest independent ski tour operator, was seven nights in late February in Borovets, Bulgaria, for œ199 per person including half-board. Lynsey Devon, the company's public relations manager, said: "It's one of the best-value seasons you're ever going to see because the snow is phenomenal everywhere. On Boxing Day, the phones just went nuts. People thought, "Things are not as bad as we thought, we still have jobs, so let's see what's out there.'"


Record cold in Britain

Millions of people are expected to brave sub-zero temperatures tonight to welcome in 2009, in what is forecast to be the coldest New Year's Eve since the mid-1990s. The credit crunch will cast a further chill over celebrations, with tickets being offered at discounted prices in many venues yesterday as promoters struggled to fill events. More than a third of Britons will shun bars and clubs and stay at home to save money, a YouGov survey has found.

The Met Office warned those who do venture outside to wrap up well in readiness for a return to the deep freeze of a few weeks ago, during the coldest start to December for more than a decade. Temperatures could drop to minus 6C (21F) in parts of Scotland and minus 4C (25F) in England. "Many parts will be below zero and very frosty. It's a big contrast to the milder weather we've had in the past five years or so," a Met Office spokesman said.

In London, up to half a million people are expected to gather beside the Thames for one of the world's biggest parties. Having approved a budget for the event of 1.6 million pounds, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, appears to have the same enthusiasm for fireworks as his predecessor, Ken Livingstone.

The cold outlook was good news for Edinburgh, where heavy rain has forced the cancellations of the Hogmanay celebrations in the past. With clear skies and little wind, the conditions were considered almost perfect. At least 100,000 people are expected to cram into the city centre for the street party. Organisers released extra passes yesterday after the first 50,000 sold out four days earlier than last year, despite doubling in cost from 5 to 10 pounds.


Spokane roofs collapsing under record snow

The weight of record snowfall has caused roofs to collapse in the Spokane area, while snow was blamed for at least one death. Portions of the roof at a church, a grocery store and a building supply company were among 19 collapses attributed to the wet, heavy snow, officials said.

The latest snowstorm that brought some 10 inches to the Spokane area this week was also blamed for the death of Venita Johnson, 85, of Rockford, about 15 miles southeast of Spokane, the Spokane County sheriff's office said. She suffocated over the weekend when snow apparently fell from her rooftop and buried her as she shoveled her sidewalk, the sheriff's office said. A neighbor stopped by the victim's home Sunday and found the front door open. He checked the yard and found her body, deputies said.

More than 59 inches of snow has fallen in Spokane in December, a record for one month.

The Spokane Fire Department responded to several collapsed roofs, including one at a Rosauers grocery store on Monday that caused one minor injury. Roofs also partially collapsed Tuesday at Evergreen Building Supply and at Trinity Baptist Church. There were no injuries, officials said.

The National Weather Service on Tuesday forecast more hazardous weather for Eastern Washington. Snowfall ranging for 1 to 3 inches was expected in the Wenatchee, Omak, Spokane and Pullman areas Tuesday evening. A major winter storm also was forecast to begin New Years' Day and last into Friday, followed by another storm Sunday, bringing moderate to heavy snow accumulations.

Elsewhere in Washington, a winter storm warning was posted for the Olympics and Cascades through Wednesday afternoon, with a strong weather system bringing 1 to 2 feet of new snow. Much of Western Washington, including Seattle and the Puget Sound area, can expect rain and gusty winds of up to 50 mph as the storm blows through.

As of Tuesday, the weather service said Spokane had received 59.7 inches of snow in December., breaking the one-month record of 56.9 inches set in January 1950. Snowfall records in the area have been kept since 1893.


Australia: Greenie laws create shark danger for swimmers

The number of man-eating sharks in Australian waters is growing, according to experts, who blame the surging numbers on a ban on killing the predators. Marine biologist Adam Smith said initial research and accounts from fishermen and divers pointed to a rise in the number of sharks in Australian waters. Dr Smith, who has created the Great Australian Shark Count to obtain firm data on numbers, said great white sharks were no longer allowed to be hunted and fishermen faced fines of about $20,000 and a possible jail sentence for breaking the law, The Australian reports. "They were once targeted as trophy fish by game fishermen, or caught by commercial fishermen because they were a nuisance," he said. Dr Smith said globally shark numbers were under threat, but Australian law protected them.

Shark researcher Terry Peake, who established the Shark Research Institute of Australia, agreed that the ban on killing great whites had helped their numbers. "Nobody is fishing for the great white, it has no human predators and commercial fisherman are telling us they're seeing an increase in numbers," he said. Mr Peake also warned that increasing contact between great whites and humans could occur as many of the shark's traditional food sources, including salmon species, are more aggressively fished. "For every one shark attack, there are reports of 20-50 close calls," he said.

The news came as a Western Australian couple reported a close encounter with a 5m shark in the same waters where a 51-year-old man was killed in a shark attack four days ago.


Below is the sort of thing Australians now have to put up with. I think it would chill the bones of most people:

A man has described how a giant shark eyeballed him and his wife while crabbing off the Port Kennedy beach where Brian Guest was killed on Saturday. The Warnbro pair was tending crab pots when the shark -- that they said was longer than their 4.5m boat -- swam alongside and rolled over before swimming off. The terrified couple immediately headed for shore and raised the alarm.

The sighting came just before 9.30am and authorities were quick to get people out of the water and clear the beach. Water police, sea rescue vessels and aircraft were sent to the area and the shark was spotted heading out to deep water.

Paul Vickery and his wife Lesley from Warnbro were fishing and drop-netting for crabs when the shark came out of the water. ``We were about 50m off the beach and pretty close to where the guy (Brian Guest) got taken the other day. ``We had burlied up and had the crab nets down in the water when he came up and had a look at us. ``It was just like Jaws except he had his mouth closed. ``The boat lurched when he rolled over and he either touched it or the displacement of water made us tip. ``It was pretty violent and gave us a bit of a scare. ``He seemed to be curious. I don't think he was going to attack but we weren't hanging around to see if he was coming back. ``It scared the 'bejesus' out of us. ``We got out of there as quickly as we could and a guy on the beach who saw it had already rung the police. ``When we were on the beach the shark started to feed in the shallows. ``We normally go snorkelling but in light of what happened we thought we'd take the boat out. ``My wife didn't even want to go and my name's mud now. She was crying on the beach afterwards.''

Fisheries boat tracks giant shark: ``They've noticed quite a large shark swim under their boat and . . . decided the best course of action was to head back,'' Fisheries regional manager Tony Cappelluti said. ``Our boat then immediately headed in that direction and picked up a shark, which was reported to be about three to four metres. ``They followed it but it went into the weed and disappeared . . . so they then proceeded back to shore to help these people back to the boat ramp. ``About half-way there they saw some swimmers in the water so they thought it prudent that the swimmers got out. ``So the couple (who) had originally seen the shark made their own way back to the boat ramp and our boat then rounded up any swimmers and told them to get out of the water.''



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