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G. K. Lowell "gkl206" (London)

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Merchants of Doubt
Merchants of Doubt
Price: £5.14

5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading to understand misleading propaganda, 29 July 2014
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Recently there has been a growth in contrarian claims that major environmental problems just aren't real. If you read the Mail, Telegraph and, sadly, even the Times in recent years you might think there was a debate about whether or not global warming/climate change was really happening.
There is no debate: the basic principles were established long ago. Science is never complete, there is always scope for debate about the details, the rate at which various things will occur, models can always be improved. And this is where confusion is spread. 'Free market fundamentalists' as this book ends up defining the main players in this story use the nature of science; that there is always some uncertainty and more needs to be researched to deliberately confuse issues; to suggest that not knowing precisely how pumping CO2 into the atmosphere will affect the climate in minute detail is the same thing as not knowing that it will cause the world to heat up overall.
This book shows how an anti-science movement began when the tobacco industry recruited scientists to help obscure the harm cigarette smoking caused. (Oddly most of the scientists in this story began as cold war rocket scientists.) There was a calculated strategy of distortion and misleading the public about the harm caused by cigarettes, and the same people went on to argue against almost every ecological threat and for nuclear weapons right up to the present day. It's the same people, the same "think" tanks, the same techniques, the same funders (though in recent years the fossil fuel corporations have played an increasingly large role.)
And it all stems from wishful thinking. 'The invisible hand of the market' will create the 'best of all possible worlds' and any regulation is a bad thing. They are even trying to re-write history and claim DDT was benign!
Sadly this nonsense is now spouted widely, by Viscount (Matt) Ridley, James Delingpole, Lord Lawson and, most incredibly by Owen Paterson, until recently the Secretary of State for the Environment. Whenever a threat to the environment is identified the kneejerk reaction of the political far right is to deny the science. The market is perfect: if science tells us the market is devastating the environment it must be the science that is wrong. (Compare this with badger-culling and neonicotinoids today for example - not in this book but following the tradition and style of argument developed here.)
Read this book: learn how a handful of scientists in the pay of large corporations and billionaires have betrayed science, spread distortions and misrepresentation and obstructed environmental protection; get angry and take action to counter the lies before the damage to our planet is irreversible.

Justice For Carol - The True Story of Carol Felstead
Justice For Carol - The True Story of Carol Felstead
Price: £6.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary, Shocking and Disturbing., 28 July 2014
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It is scarcely conceivable that a healthy young woman from a close, loving family could go to her doctor complaining of occasional headaches and quickly be pulled into a spiral of being heavily medicated, hypnotised and persuaded that she had been the victim of horrific abuse and spend the next twenty years in and out of psychiatric hospitals while those who were supposedly helping her used her to promote their ideas of ritual Satanic abuse.
"Believe the victims" is the mantra, yet no one thought to check whether the unbelievable stories which emerged when she was drugged and hypnotised could actually have happened? This poor young woman was isolated from friends and family and persuaded that her early life had been a continuous round of torture and rape, bearing multiple children which were sacrificed in Satanic rituals while at the same time having an exemplary record of school attendance. attaining good grades and no-one noticed?
I had some familiarity with this story before buying the book - there have been a couple of newspaper articles which I had read - but the full, in depth account is even more shocking and disturbing. The behaviour of some senior medical professionals is at best highly questionable and I am astonished there have been no legal actions based on the detailed evidence supplied here.
Please, I urge anyone who has read this far, read this book. This young woman have been treated disgracefully and the case deserves to be better known and action taken to prevent anything like this happening again.
The authors are not professional writers and, yes the book would probably have been better with the collaboration of an experienced editor, but it's not the style which matters, it's the facts. Those are shocking, this is a scandal which deserves to be better known, and the more people who learn the facts of this case and publicise it, the better the chances that something will, belatedly, be done.

Urban Peregrines
Urban Peregrines
by Ed Drewitt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £24.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating & scholarly, 27 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Urban Peregrines (Hardcover)
While much of the news about wildlife is almost unbearably depressing there are occasional uplifting recoveries by endangered species and the appearance in recent years of peregrine falcons in many of our towns and cities is one of the most joyous of them all.
Persecuted by gamekeepers for centuries these stunningly beautiful birds were driven to the brink of extinction in the 1960s and 70s by DDT. When i was growing up they were rare birds which would have required a trip of tens, perhaps hundreds of miles to spot. Even twenty years ago seeing them was special treat and it would have seemed unthinkable that they would be a regular part of urban life. but today there are peregrines nesting and breeding in many towns and cities.
This book is full of information about how the top predators of the skies who survive by catching other birds in flight have managed to adapt to living alongside man and thrive in cities. It's full of detail - perhaps too technical for the absolute beginner of young children - but indispensable for anyone who has an interest in these glorious birds. And lots of lovely photos too.

SanDisk Sansa Clip+ 4 GB MP3 Player - Black (SDMX18-004G-E46K)
SanDisk Sansa Clip+ 4 GB MP3 Player - Black (SDMX18-004G-E46K)
Offered by PreisCompany
Price: £47.14

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3 things which may make you want to throw this out of the window (&ways to solve them.), 29 May 2014
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When this is delivered the first reaction is, inevitably "it's so small!" It's about the height and width of a matchbox but half the depth. Absolutely tiny: far too small to be real.
The first thing the instructions tell you to do is to plug it into your computer to charge. Do this. Do not, however, be fooled by a message your PC may flash up telling you "this device is up-to-date and ready to use." This is just a little jape so that when you try out all the functions, put the Sansa Clip+ into 'Radio' mode and no button or combination of buttons will allow you to leave 'Radio' mode and re-enter the main menu you can spend a couple of hours throwing things around in a temper tantrum, then, when you've gone to the manufacturer's website, downloaded the software updater and the latest firmware and the buttons do what they're supposed to do once more you can say to yourself, "my, what generous fellows they are at Sandisk giving me a couple of hours of extra, unadvertised fun, the scamps."
Point 2. You may notice that the Clip+ is irrevocably stuck on a loading screen. You may puzzle over this for several hours, and wonder why no matter what controls you press the display does not change. You may even pack the thing up intending to return what is clearly a faulty device, before noticing you have not removed the protective cover from the screen. And then realising that the 'Loading' screen which no control would affect was in fact printed on the protective screen cover obscuring the real display and the controls do actually work and the display does change when you can see it. When I first realised what I had done I thought it was just me being an idiot, but looking at the maker's forum a lot of other people have had the same experience. So do make sure you've taken off the misleading protective cover from the screen before returning this as faulty.
The third thing is that the audio jack socket is initially very tight: it's very, very easy to think you have pushed the jack right in and have no sound coming out. Just push harder, don't be afraid of breaking the device and eventually the audio jack will click into place and after a few insertions it will no longer require excessive force.
Once the initial obstacles which might lead to the thing being stamped on in frustration have been overcome what do we have?
On one hand a technological miracle: only a few years ago to have 4,000 songs available on a minuscule device (expandable almost indefinitely with Micro SD cards) with no moving parts for such a modest price would have been unimaginable. Sound quality is reasonable with the supplied headphones. As an experiment I tried plugging my Sennheiser closed headphones and it's possible to improve the sound quality a little with better headphones but I didn't buy this for hi-fi sound quality. I had two specific uses in mind and it works perfectly adequately for those. Background music while exercising, where light weight is the main concern and listening to audiobooks in bed to help me drop off to sleep. Again ideal for that.
Controls aren't perfect: sometimes the display will say Left or Right and in fact Left will give the desired result and Right will do something else entirely, so be prepared for a bit of frustration figuring it out.
If I were planning to use this mainly for music I would be very tempted to install the Rock Box free alternate Operating System, but as listening to Audio Books is a major part of my intended use and most of the Audio Books I already have have DRM and Rock Box can sometimes cause problems with playback on DRM-protected material (especially Audible Audio Books) I'll pass.
So in summary, cheap, highly portable, decent sound quality, controls not perfect but usable and great value for money.

Feral: Searching for enchantment on the frontiers of rewilding
Feral: Searching for enchantment on the frontiers of rewilding
Price: £4.49

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It made me very angry, 4 Mar 2014
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Rarely has a book annoyed me quite as much as this one: for two very different reasons.
Firstly the argument is very powerful. That much of our landscape has been stripped of most of the natural animal and plant life, that for as long as modern humans have existed they have exterminated species on a terrifying scale, that much modern conservation is applying a sticking plaster to the stump of a crudely amputated limb and trying (and failing) to keep a landscape already reduced to far below its natural state from decaying further. and stories of how even modest attempts to redress the balance are blocked by governments total servitude to a tiny number of immensely rich owners of enormous estates.
"The British countryside" seems to be run for the benefit of three species: sheep, red deer and red grouse even when they drive out all else. There is much in this book which deserves to be more widely known, discussed,argued about and ideally changed.
This is also, unfortunately, a deeply personal book. Which is the second thing which made me angry. The very important issues raised struggle for space among endless personal anecdotes: George gets in his kayak and goes fishing, George runs across the African savannah with a Masai warrior and frightens him with a chameleon, George lives among miners in South America, George takes his kayak somewhere else and fishes some more, and these anecdotes, told in a rather over-blown, purple prose, crowd out the arguments, like the author's hated sheep overwhelming all vegetation. At times during these stories I was reminded of the classic review, "this is not a book to be tossed aside lightly; it is one to be thrown with great force."
Despite my irritation I would recommend the book: there are important issues raised which could have horrific consequences if we continue to have such a short-sighted view of mankind's relationship with the natural world and the author does have some interesting ideas - though I doubt we'll see wild elephants roaming the English countryside as he hopes. Beavers quite possibly, wolves in the Scottish Highlands I very much hope, but not elephants for quite a while, I fear. But I do wish he cut out the kayak stories.

PureFitness & Sports Foldable Magnetic Rower with Hand Pulse
PureFitness & Sports Foldable Magnetic Rower with Hand Pulse
Offered by PureFitness & Sports
Price: £279.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Class Product and Service, 2 Dec 2013
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I chose this item mainly on the strength of the reviews it received so it seems only fair to add my opinion to help others decide.
Delivery was astonishingly good: I ordered at 3pm on a weekday and received my package at 9.30 the following morning with standard delivery.
I began to doubt my choice when I looked at the assembly instructions - at first glance they seemed dauntingly complex, but as I followed them I realised they were a model of clarity explaining exactly which part went where and in what order. Much easier to follow than the over-simplified diagrams and arrows which most assembly instructions use, and I had it all fitted together and running in roughly half an hour. My only minor criticism of the instructions is that for the display they simply consist of 'poke it until it does what you want' - but isn't that what we all do, regardless?
The machine itself feels pleasantly solid and looks as if it's built to last. I've only had it for a couple of weeks and as I was very out of condition initially it hasn't had a huge amount of work yet, but the guarantee is reassuring and it's performed faultlessly to date.
It's fairly easy to stow away, two bolts to slide in and out and one large screw with a very large, easy to hold head to take in and out are all it takes to switch from store to use positions and when it's folded up the footprint is surprisingly small: it only takes up about as much cupboard space as a couple of large vacuum cleaners. Very impressed so far.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 14, 2013 2:03 PM GMT

Ozeri Precision II Digital Bathroom Scale (200 kg / 440 lbs Capacity), in Ultra Sturdy Tempered Glass with Blue Xbright LCD & StepOn ActivationOzeri Precision II Digital Bathroom Scale (440 lbs Capacity), in Ultra Sturdy Tempered Glass with Blue Xbright LCD & StepOn Activation
Ozeri Precision II Digital Bathroom Scale (200 kg / 440 lbs Capacity), in Ultra Sturdy Tempered Glass with Blue Xbright LCD & StepOn ActivationOzeri Precision II Digital Bathroom Scale (440 lbs Capacity), in Ultra Sturdy Tempered Glass with Blue Xbright LCD & StepOn Activation
Offered by Ozeri UK
Price: £29.95

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stylish, accurate and reasonably priced., 2 Dec 2013
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I needed a more accurate pair of bathroom scales so I picked these, which claim to be accurate to within 100g and I'm delighted with them. They look attractive, very low to the floor with a transparent centre which makes them fit with any décor. They're easy to use, not fussy tapping, just step on and the weight appears and accurate to within 1/4lb for those of us who use old fashioned units, and all for a reasonable price too.

Lenovo Ideacentre K430 Desktop PC (Intel Core i7 3770 3.4GHz Processor, 16GB RAM, 2TB HDD, DVD, LAN, WLAN, Nvidia Graphics, Windows 8) (discontinued by manufacturer)
Lenovo Ideacentre K430 Desktop PC (Intel Core i7 3770 3.4GHz Processor, 16GB RAM, 2TB HDD, DVD, LAN, WLAN, Nvidia Graphics, Windows 8) (discontinued by manufacturer)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and reasonably priced PC., 15 Oct 2013
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I've had two of these things. The first had a fault of some kind - I suspect the graphics card - and needed replacement which was carried out with very little fuss. The delivery van which brought the replacement took the old one away.
My first arrived on Monday afternoon. That evening I tweeted that setting it up had been "remarkably painless" - although the display would occasionally cut out for a couple of seconds. The next day I sat down to finish setting it up and the problems began. I downloaded Windows Updates. When it restarted a blank display. I have encountered this before, I thought to myself. A Windows update kills the display usually means the video drivers need updating. Unfortunately the only way to get a picture to uninstall the Windows update was to restore the computer to factory settings - which did not work as it should, at least one program I had installed was still present, or partly present. After a struggle I got the video drivers updated and then tried to get Windows up to date, but Windows updates would not install. Trying to install them involved several reboots and after one a blank screen which nothing would fix. I could not restore to factory settings, nothing.
But one quick email to Amazon and a replacement was on its way which arrived on Friday afternoon, just 72 hours after I gave up on getting the original to work.
Setting up the replacement convinced me that there had been something wrong with the video card in the original. Things which had been a struggle, updating the video drivers configuring my TV to work as a second monitor just worked first time on the new machine.
And it's worked like a dream since. It's very quiet although what noise it does emit is a rather disconcerting gurgling sound. Windows 8 makes transferring files very simple and back up is now "set it and forget about it" though I found I needed both the external hard drives I had - one for system image and one for files.
I'd agree with those who say it's well worth investing $5 for Stardock Start 8 to get rid of the more irritating features of Windows 8 (actually as it tends to run everything in full screen rather than windowed, why call it Windows at all? Why not Apps?)
It's an attractive looking machine and I'd rather have it on top of the desk but the inputs set at an angle on the top front corner would work very well if it was placed below a desk. 2tb is a large hard drive, the graphics card is fine for my casual level of gaming though it might struggle as a specialist gaming machine.
Overall I'm perfectly satisfied with performance and specifications, it's attractive and quiet. I did get a slightly dodgy one first time round, but that happens from time to time with any manufacturer and it was replaced quickly and without fuss so I'd happily recommend this to a prospective buyer.

The Gone-Away World
The Gone-Away World
Price: £3.59

0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not half as good the author thinks it is., 11 May 2013
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If you find names like Gonzo William Lubitsch, Sally J Culpepper, Jim Hepsobah and Dick Washburn hilarious this may be the book for you.

Sort of Kurt Vonnegut meets Robert Sheckley via Mad Max, told in an infuriating 'Oirish' long-winded, hyper-macho vernacular: everyone is constantly appraising their toughness relative to everyone else.

If this book were a person it would be a coked-up bore who corners you in a pub with a stream of anecdotes designed to impress you with how fabulous they are and lacks the sensitivity to grasp hints that they might like to entertain someone else.

At a time when there is much debate about the role of the traditional publisher it's not a great argument in favour of their role as gatekeepers that a book like this received a huge advance and massive publicity budget when many established, high-quality writers receive neither, and it certainly disproves the argument that traditional publishers guarantee a high standard of editing: this book would be much better if it were severely edited.

Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World
Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World
by Nicholas Shaxson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.69

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and Important, 4 April 2013
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Have you ever wondered how just after the 2nd World War when Britain was almost bankrupted by the War effort government could afford to set up the NHS, have a massive house-building programme, hugely expand education (unbelievable as it may seem to young people today when I went to University there were no Tuition fees or loans and students were paid a grant to cover living costs.)Today we live in a much richer society yet we're told every element of public spending is "unaffordable".
This book explains how the rich stopped paying their share. How huge amounts of money avoids tax by being routed through the likes of the Cayman Islands or Jersey. How large countries like Britain and the USA have virtually given up attempting to stop tax evasion and instead become tax havens themselves.
If you want to understand how we've created a society where a few people are incredibly rich and getting richer at an ever increasing rate while real incomes after inflation have been falling for everyone else for over thirty years this book explains the huge role tax havens have played in creating it. If you read this book the next time a politician boasts about "deregulation" you'll understand that it doesn't just mean horse-meat in burgers. it's also the reason Warren Buffet pays a lower proportion of his income in tax that his receptionist and the reason there's no money to run the local library or fix potholes in the street.
I can't recommend this book highly enough.

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