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In Australia, the amount of imported fresh produce has reached record levels, and Mark Vogler, owner of the Aratula Markets in Queensland, says growers are facing unfair competition from overseas imports, which he says are of lesser standard. "To see how fast the farms are going backwards has been alarming," he adds. "The Australian public doesn't know about it yet. The problem is once we do lose the ability to feed our people locally, we'll have to rely on produce that has come in from overseas unregulated."
 Australia's small farmers struggling with low prices <>

According to Italy's financial police, the Guardia di Finanza, illegal business practices need to be stopped -because they provide unfair competition to companies that do pay tax. Presumably, preserving state income is the prime motivation:

"Fighting undeclared work is important as it harms and undermines many interests," says Lt Col Cosimo Virgilio of the Guardia di Finanza. "It hurts the state and the national budget, because it means taxes aren't paid. And our purpose is also to protect honest businesses. Those that comply with the law suffer unfair competition from other companies which are able to sell their goods and services at lower prices".
Jobless young Italians face life on the black market <>

Apparently, a small Brazilian farming community has been granted the right by a government agency (Incra) to live permanently on land which has also been scheduled to be flooded for a dam project. The original community was created by people, too poor to go home, who were trapped in the forest as a result of the early 20th Century collapse of the rubber monopoly (when the British stole the seeds and planted them in their tropical colonies). Part of the energy from the dam "was to go to mining companies, as vast mineral wealth, particularly gold, had been discovered in the region....... It is still unclear how the pro-dam lobby and mining companies will react to Incra's defiant act." Although the community clear some small forest areas to grow crops -"the communities have some of the best-conserved forest in the region".
Poor Amazon farming community scores land victory
oil exploration company had an effect on the government's decision to give land rights to the community living in the area previously scheduled for flooding by a new dam?
Billionaire Eike Batista's dreams crumble <>

An optimistic report, suggesting that CO2 emissions are permanently declining -despite a continued growth in the World Economy. However, it does not mention the dangers of either large scale hydro-electric schemes (which are partly responsible for reductions in China)  -or the dangers of "fracking" in the US.  Although the report does admit that the Chinese desire to limit economic growth has had an important impact on global emissions: "They want to grow economically less fast," one of the authors, Dr Greet Maenhout, told BBC News. "It is like a tiger that you have to keep under control, and you can also see in the CO2 trends, the growth is not so big." It is perhaps slightly misleading to say the "global economy expanded" -when most of the expansion was actually in the less-developed areas of the world. Areas not so directly tied in to the economic crisis in west.
Report suggests 'permanent slowdown' in CO2 emissions <>

In Britain, many young families cut back on fresh fruit and vegetables and switched to less healthy processed food as the recession squeezed budgets, a UK study of 15,000 households' data suggests. It showed rising food prices and stagnating wages had led people to buy less food and choose cheaper products.
Recession hits family spending on fresh food <>

Is being forced to send one's children to school a form of persecution?
German home-school families face US deportation

Are children given too many toys? <>

Does a booming economy necessarily provide jobs?
Europe: A jobless recovery? <>

Do Palestinian farmers still have a place in a "Two State Solution"?
Israel-Palestinian talks: Why fate of Jordan Valley is key <>

Will new ways of farmimg help reduce CO2 emmisions?
UN highlights role of farming in closing emissions gap <>

        The levels of gases in the atmosphere that drive global warming increased to a record high in 2012.
Concentrations of warming gases break record <>

BAE Systems is to cut 1,775 jobs at its yards in Scotland and England and end shipbuilding altogether at Portsmouth. Is the Industrialised economy the solution -or the problem?
BAE Systems cuts 1,775 jobs at English and Scottish shipyards <>


Third World Pressures
Native News
The Fight Against Poverty, Disease and Abuse
Africa and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
A Brief History of America and the Moros 1899-1920
Thomas Malthus (1766-1834)
Imagine a world without shops or factories

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31 October 2013 Last updated at 00:26 GMT

Australia's small farmers struggling with low prices


A near-perfect growing season for small farmers in two of Australia's biggest food belt regions - south-east Queensland and Victoria - has produced a bumper crop.

But despite a bountiful yield, there is a nasty sting for numerous family-run farms as oversupply has driven down prices.

It should be a time for celebration for growers, who have become hardened to a relentless cycle of droughts and floods in recent years. Instead many are complaining that they are being paid less at wholesale markets than the cost of harvesting their crops.

At Peak Crossing, south-west of Brisbane, Wayne Allum saw part of his 10-acre (four-hectare) property disappear under murky brown floodwaters last year, but has now enjoyed textbook weather conditions following a mild Antipodean winter. Yet still he frets about his financial future.

"It's a hard game sending your stuff to the markets and then not knowing what you're going to get for it. It is stressful and disheartening," says the former truck driver, who grows tomatoes, lettuces, cabbages, courgettes, and spring onions.

"Prices were terrible compared to what it costs you to grow them, get them picked, grade them, box them and send them to the markets," he adds. "I won't send my stuff to the markets any more."

Instead, he sells his produce from the back of a truck parked under the shade of a jacaranda tree on the main road to take advantage of passing trade.

"It's not a huge living," says Mr Allum. "I'm better off just growing what I can, do everything myself and just sell it at the farm for a profit and make a living that way."


The number of farmers in Australia is shrinking, and it's not just the current domestic oversupply that is hurting the bottom line.

The amount of imported fresh produce has reached record levels, and Mark Vogler, owner of the Aratula Markets in Queensland, says growers are facing unfair competition from overseas imports, which he says are of lesser standard.

Mr Vogler sells fruit and vegetables from local farms and wants prices to be set by the federal government to guarantee those on the land a decent return. If not, he believes the sector will continue to contract.

"To see how fast the farms are going backwards has been alarming," he adds. "The Australian public doesn't know about it yet. The problem is once we do lose the ability to feed our people locally, we'll have to rely on produce that has come in from overseas unregulated."

Export drive

Ausveg, the industry body representing 9,000 of Australia's vegetable and potato growers, which generates about 4bn Australian dollars ($3.8bn; £2.4bn) per year, believes that financial security for its members lies far beyond the horizon.

Australian carrots are an unlikely hit in Singapore and the Middle East, along with asparagus, humble fresh potatoes and leafy greens.

Last year, just 7% of Australia's fresh fruit and vegetables were exported, but Hugh Gurney from Ausveg wants that to change.

"There is a lot of product entering the market, and it makes it tough for growers to get a decent price for their product," he says.

"As a result the Australian vegetable industry is looking more and more to overseas markets to supply fresh produce to Asia and hopefully relieve some of the oversupply in the domestic market."

Yet Australia is so big that conditions for growers vary immensely, as do the triumphs and challenges, including October's bushfires in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, where some of the worst bushfires seen in New South Wales tore across vast swathes of forest and farmland.

Perched off the southern coast is the "apple isle" of Tasmania, so nicknamed because it has long produced large crops of the fruit.

The island of course grows many other crops, and artisan farming has blossomed on the island state in recent years, where small enterprises beaver away making high-value, niche specialities, including handground spelt rye flower along with boutique jams and relishes.

Crucially, the industry has established direct links to the public, according to Jan Davis, chief executive of the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association.

"The thing that our small farmers do very, very well here in Tasmania is build on that relationship directly with consumers. So we've got a very strong farmers' market and farm gate sector down here," she says.

Tasmanian farmers are also leading the way on exporting extensively.

"We have product going right across the globe into Asia, Europe and the Americas. Just about anywhere you can think of there is Tasmanian product on a table somewhere," Jan Davis adds.

'Can't walk away'

But Tasmania's optimism gives way to a sense of gloom in other parts of Australia.

In Queensland's sugar capital, Bundaberg, Mark Presser, a fourth generation cane farmer, enjoyed a record crop last year, and is on course to harvest another reasonable yield this time around.

Yet he too feels besieged by falling prices and growing competition from overseas, most notably Brazil and India, where production costs are far less. He also complains about protectionism in Europe and the US.

"Some days you wonder why you are doing it. We've got that much money tied up (in the business) we just can't walk away," says the 47-year old farmer, who owns 270 acres (110 hectares) of land.

"The majority of the people who live in the big cities have got no idea at all how hard it is," he adds.

He warns about the fate of other family-owned operators. "There aren't too many little ones left," he says. "They are just standing on the edge of the precipice and are on borrowed time."


Jobless young Italians face life on the black market

Finding a job in Italy is hard enough, but it's only part of the battle. Many, especially the young, can find work only "on the black" - employed in the shadow economy, without a contract or the rights that go with it.

But after years stuck in this trap, Stella Sermoneta has had enough. She has decided to learn how to make pizza, a skill recognised and valued around the world. With this new skill, she hopes to find a new life overseas, perhaps in Israel or the US, where she has relatives.

She has a job in Rome, working in a call centre, but she has no contract. She's employed illegally - "on the black".

"If you work without a contract, you can't have lots of normal things like a new house because the bank doesn't give mortgages without a contract," she says.

"You can't spend money on normal things because you don't know where you are going to be tomorrow."

A black job won't give her a reference for her next step up the career ladder, and she doesn't feel she can start a family without more security.

She says more than half her friends are in a similar position, and the only way out for her is to emigrate.

Unpaid taxes

The dire position of Italy's young in the job market was highlighted in August, when the rate of unemployment among 18 to 24-year-olds hit a record high of 40.1%. It's not clear how many young people are working informally, but Italy's black economy is known to be large.

According to a study by Prof Friedrich Schneider of Johannes Kepler University of Linz in Austria, the shadow economy in Italy makes up a fifth of the country's entire GDP, higher than the EU average, and higher than Spain or Portugal.

Italy's financial police, the Guardia di Finanza, are doing what they can to crack down on it.

Last year they identified 30,000 illegal workers, of whom about 16,500 were employed completely on the black, with no contract whatsoever.

"Fighting undeclared work is important as it harms and undermines many interests," says Lt Col Cosimo Virgilio of the Guardia di Finanza.

"It hurts the state and the national budget, because it means taxes aren't paid. And our purpose is also to protect honest businesses. Those that comply with the law suffer unfair competition from other companies which are able to sell their goods and services at lower prices."

The problem is more concentrated in Italy's poorer south, with sectors dominated by seasonal or casual work such as restaurants, hotels and other service industries like call centres or care homes.

Stefano Ferraina, who runs a job centre in the south of Rome, confirms that working on the black has long been a feature of Italian working life.

"It was once a short-term, temporary bridge," he says, "to fill the gap between education and a permanent job that would give the opportunity to start a family and create a future.

"Now, unfortunately, this has increasingly become the only opportunity available."

Death threats

High employment taxes are one reason why it's tempting for employers to hire on the black. For every euro an employer spends on hiring a worker, 48 cents goes on taxes and social security payments, and only 52 cents into the employee's pocket. Cut out the taxes and payments, and workers look a lot cheaper.

On top of this, a raft of regulations makes it unattractive for Italian employers to give young workers proper contracts.

"Older workers are much more protected," says Pietro Reichlin, a professor of economics at Rome's LUISS University.

"It is much more difficult for firms to get rid of staff if they are unproductive, or to make their contracts more flexible. So it is much easier for young guys to get employed with contracts that are not officially registered."

To solve this problem, he says, Italy could look to reduce this burden of tax and regulation. But changing the rules around employment is a slow and difficult process in Italy.

In 1999 and 2002, professors working as advisers to the government were murdered by left-wing paramilitaries opposed to labour market reform. Death threats have been made to advisers of the current government.

Stella understands why employers hire people on the black. "You're not angry because you know what is behind the black market. They can't afford all the payments. They have to live too."

But it's yet another barrier between Italy's youth and a career that allows them to fulfil their dreams.


Poor Amazon farming community scores land victory

After more than a century of struggle, poor Brazilian farming families along the Tapajos river, a tributary of the Amazon, have won rights to their land, reports Sue Branford from Para state.

Their victory is being hailed as a remarkable recognition by the authorities of the rights of a traditional community over the interests of powerful economic groups.

The move is surprising because it runs counter to the government's plan to build a series of hydroelectric dams on the river, which would flood the land now granted to the families.

The decision creates a real dilemma for the government.

If it is to press ahead with the dams, it will now have to relocate these families to a comparable location, which it cannot do without expelling other communities and creating further conflicts.

Unexpected decision

Luiz Bacelar Guerreiro Junior, who is the superintendent for Brazil's National Institute of Colonisation and Agrarian Reform (Incra) in the area, is the man behind the unexpected decision to give the settlement in Montanha-Mangabal the green light.

"I am very proud to be ending a struggle like this one, giving rights to those who deserve them," said Mr Bacelar.

He has given the 550-sq-km area the status of an Agro-Extractive Settlement Project (PAE), which recognises the rights of families to continue occupying the land the way it has been occupied by their ancestors. The land cannot be sold.

When asked if he had faced opposition from powerful economic interests, Mr Bacelar replied: "I didn't listen. I did what had to be done and that's it."

Recognising rights

It is a development which Felipe Fritz Braga has welcomed.

Mr Braga is a prosecutor in the Federal Public Ministry, an independent branch of the government which defends the rights of disadvantaged groups within Brazilian society.

"The recognition of Montanha-Mangabal by the Brazilian state is an unmistakeable act of true and effective agrarian reform," he said.

"It is the first time the federal government recognises the antiquity of the occupation of this land by these communities and treats them as people having fundamental rights, especially rights to the land."

Conservation success

The Montanha-Mangabal hamlets were formed in the second half of the 19th Century, when hundreds of poor farmers from the north-east of Brazil migrated to the region to tap rubber.

After the collapse of the rubber boom early in the 20th Century, many were trapped in the region, without means of earning a living or the money to pay for the 2,000-km (1,200-mile) trip home.

Stranded far away from home, some of the men, most of whom were single, kidnapped women from neighbouring indigenous groups and settled down with them.

Seventy-five-year-old Dona Raimunda Araujo, remembers her family talking about the way her grandfather "stole" her grandmother, a Munduruku Indian.

She says the women brought to the rubber-tapper communities centuries' worth of indigenous knowledge about the ecology of the Amazon forest.

This helps to explain why, even though they fell small areas to plant crops, the communities have some of the best-conserved forest in the region.


But in recent years the families have struggled to retain possession of their land.

The first threat came in the 1970s, at a time when it was widely believed that forests had to be empty of people to be conserved.

It was at this time that the federal government expelled the families from their homes to set up the National Park of Amazonia.

But they soon regrouped, settling higher up the river.

In 2006, it seemed as if the families' right to the land was finally to be assured.

They went through the long and difficult process of becoming a "Resex" (extraction reserve), a type of reserve created by the Brazilian state to protect traditional forest dwellers.

It would have given the families very strong rights over their land, stronger than they have with the PAE, but it had to be signed off by the then-President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

To the families' dismay, he refused to sign the necessary decree.

The president's reluctance was widely attributed at the time to the fact that the government was planning a series of hydroelectric dams along the Tapajos river.

Part of the energy was to go to mining companies, as vast mineral wealth, particularly gold, had been discovered in the region.

This is why indigenous and land right activists are hailing Mr Bacelar's decision as bringing at least a partial victory to a community that has struggled against the odds for many years.

Yet their struggle may not yet be over. It is still unclear how the pro-dam lobby and mining companies will react to Incra's defiant act.

Additional reporting by Natalia Guerrero.


Wyre Davies Rio de Janeiro correspondent

Billionaire Eike Batista's dreams crumble


Once listed as one of the top 10 wealthiest people in the world, Eike Batista boasted he would one day become the richest person on the planet.

In little over a year, he is thought to have lost almost his entire fortune.

OGX, the huge oil exploration company he controlled, has sought protection from bankruptcy.

It was from a luxurious art deco building in the heart of Rio de Janeiro, overlooking Botafogo Bay and Sugar Loaf mountain, that Batista ran his vast empire.

Now, like the rest of the family silver, it is up for grabs as Batista's dreams crumble.

Batista's rise mirrored that of Brazil itself. His corporate videos showing how, by selling commodities to meet insatiable Chinese demand, he became very wealthy.

"[In 10 years] I think I could be worth about $100bn (£62bn)," said Batista with a shrug of his shoulders during an appearance on American Public television.

"$100bn!" responds the interviewer, almost incredulously.

"Yes, that's right," confirmed the man who, a little more than a year later, would be facing one of the biggest losses in corporate history.

Super port

Making his first millions in mining, Batista wasn't modest about where he wanted himself and Brazil to be.

All ending in the suffix X, representing the multiplication of wealth, his companies had elevated him to super-rich status by 2012.

Through those companies Batista liked to control almost every aspect of his business, not just the mining or the exploration but also infrastructure as well.

He built huge oil tankers, bought trucking companies but the icing on the cake was a massive new super port at Acu, five hours' drive north of Rio de Janeiro.

It was to be a port for Brazil, attracting not just the biggest ships in the world but big multinational companies which would help develop the immediate area around Acu as the most important industrial park in the region.

Today, work at the super port has virtually ground to a halt.

Already sold off, like many of Batista's other assets, it's unlikely to be anywhere near as grand or create as many jobs as he had promised.

In the local community, they had convinced themselves Batista and his grand plans would bring unlimited benefits.

"When the port project started, we had huge expectations," says hotel owner Sergio Rangel Soares.

"But the thousands of jobs we thought would be created, simply haven't materialised."

Soares now says he is trying to survive on an unrealistic 30% occupancy rate.

Many other businesses, he said, have already gone under but even if the new American owners at the port manage to resurrect just a fraction of what Batista had promised it would be something.

Bravado and promises

Batista's oil exploration company, OGX, which was to have used this vast Acu facility, has now filed for protection from bankruptcy after being unable to meet a $45m interest payment.

Alarm bells began ringing earlier this year when the company's reserves proved to be hopelessly over-exaggerated and Batista's promises to investors about the validity of the oil fields were way off the mark.

Batista himself has lost more than $30bn, sliding off the Bloomberg index of billionaires. His dream of becoming the world's richest person has evaporated in the space of a few short months.

Prof Marcos Pedlowski, from Rio de Janeiro State University, is a long-term critic of the Batista "model", saying there was little substance to all the talk, bravado and promises.

Feeling somewhat vindicated after years of ridicule from others who though Batista was untouchable, Pedlowski says the Brazilian government should shoulder some of the blame for Batista's excesses - having helped him to expropriate vast areas of land and given him easy access to credit.

"He's partly to blame himself of course," says the professor as we stand on the beach near the eerily quiet Acu port complex.

Trucks come and go but, says Pedlowski, construction work has almost ground to a halt as new investors pick over what remains of Batista's empire.

"Everybody supported the idea that he could not fail. That was the image, not only provided by him but it was supported by the Brazilian government and the Brazilian press," says the professor.

The city of Rio de Janeiro, in particular, might feel the impact of Batista's demise more than most.

Batista was one of the biggest backers of Rio's regeneration ahead of the 2016 Olympics. His downfall may be seen by many as bad news for this city - but he has vowed to bounce back.


31 October 2013 Last updated at 09:19 GMT

Report suggests 'permanent slowdown' in CO2 emissions


Global emissions of carbon dioxide may be showing the first signs of a "permanent slowdown" in the rate of increase.

According to a new report, emissions in 2012 increased at less than half the average over the past decade.

Key factors included the shift to shale gas for energy in the US while China increased its use of hydropower by 23%.

However the use of cheap coal continues to be an issue, with UK consumption up by almost a quarter.

The report on trends in global emissions has been produced annually by the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency and the European Commission's Joint Research Centre.

It finds that emissions of carbon dioxide reached a new record in 2012 of 34.5bn tonnes.

But the rate of increase in CO2 was 1.4%, despite the global economy growing by 3.5%.

Breaking the link

This decoupling of emissions from economic growth is said to be down to the use of less fossil fuels, more renewable energy and increased energy savings.

The main emitters, accounting for 55% of the global total, were China, the US and the European Union. All three saw changes that were described as "remarkable" by the report's authors.

Emissions from China increased by 3% but this was a significant slowdown compared to annual increases of around 10% over the past decade.

There were two important factors in reducing China's CO2. The first was the ending of a large economic stimulus package. As a result electricity and energy prices increased at half the rate of GDP.

"They want to grow economically less fast," one of the authors, Dr Greet Maenhout, told BBC News.

"It is like a tiger that you have to keep under control, and you can also see in the CO2 trends, the growth is not so big."

China also achieved exceptional growth in the use of hydropower for the generation of electricity, increasing capacity and output by 23% in 2012. This alone had the effect of curbing the country's emissions by 1.5%.

In the US, the shale revolution continues to make waves. Overall emissions were down by 4% in the year mainly because of a continuing shift from coal to gas in the generation of electricity. Shale is now responsible for one third of US gas production and almost one quarter of total oil production.

"It is amazing, shale gas has been growing since 2007/8, I think it will continue but that is speculation," said Dr Maenhout.

"I think there is an economic benefit to further expansion, I am not expecting it to go down."

Off the road

The other major decline came in the European Union where economic recession in the 27 nation bloc saw emissions decline by 1.3%. This was down to a decrease in energy consumption of oil and gas, with a 4% decline in road transport.

Renewable energy also continued its upward trend, at accelerating speed. It took 15 years for the renewable global share to increase 0.5% to 1.1% - but it took only six years for it to double again, to 2.4% in 2012.

Looking ahead, the report suggests that if the push for shale continues in the US, if China sticks to its published plans and if renewables continue to grow - particularly in Europe - global emissions might slow down permanently.

"It is good news but still not sufficient," said Dr Maenhout.

"We are still having increases every year which are cumulative. Since CO2 lives for 100 years in the atmosphere, we will still not be able to cope with a 2C target for 2050."

The report was welcomed by green activist Bill McKibben, who is campaigning for a divestment from fossil fuel stocks and shares.

"It is good news but nowhere near good enough," he told BBC News.

"The solution we need here is dictated by physics, and at the moment the physics is busy melting the Arctic and acidifying the ocean.

"We can't just plateau or go up less, we have to very quickly try and get the planet off fossil fuels."


Recession hits family spending on fresh food


Many young families cut back on fresh fruit and vegetables and switched to less healthy processed food as the recession squeezed budgets, a UK study of 15,000 households' data suggests.

It showed rising food prices and stagnating wages had led people to buy less food and choose cheaper products.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said pensioners, single parent households and families had the biggest drop in the nutritional quality of their diets.

Food campaigners expressed concern.

The Children's Food Trust said the move to processed food was a "huge worry".

The report's authors used food purchasing data from 15,850 British households from 2005 to 2012, enabling them to analyse the impact on spending of the recession.

They found that households spent 8.5% less on food in real terms across the period as disposable incomes failed to keep pace with rising food prices.

People also swapped the type of food they bought, shifting from fresh fruit and vegetables to "calorie dense" processed food, with a resulting increase in saturated fat and sugar content, the Food Expenditure and Nutritional Quality over the Great Recession report said.

Food prices rose by 33% between 2007 and 2013, official figures show. Butter, meat and fruit prices all increased by more than average while processed food rose by 28%.

The IFS researchers found that on every measure, pensioner households, single parents and families with young children experienced a worse-than-average decline in nutritional quality.

Pensioners tended to increase their purchases of fatty foods while households with young children chose more sugary products.

IFS research economist Kate Smith, one of the authors of the report, said: "Over the recession households have responded to higher food prices and the squeezes on their incomes by switching to cheaper calories.

"This has coincided with a fall in the nutritional quality of foods purchased, with moves away from fresh fruit and vegetables and towards processed foods. As a result, the average saturated fat and sugar content of food purchases has increased over this period."

Children's Food Trust chief executive Linda Cregan said: "Feeding children well is absolutely crucial for their future health - these figures are an indication of just how tough this has become for many families in recent years.

"Some of the trends in this report are a huge worry - we need to see the foods children eat containing less saturated fat, salt and sugar, not more."

Long-term calorie fall

A second report from the IFS, looked at longer term trends.

Between 1980 and 2009, households bought 15% to 30% fewer calories, but average weight continued to climb.

During this time there was a big rise in snacking and eating out, but an even bigger fall in calories bought for the home during the 30-year period.

"We were surprised to find that there has been a substantial decline in total calories purchased at a time when obesity has increased," said one of this study's authors Melanie Luhrmann.

"This does not mean that poor diet plays no part in rising obesity. But understanding the interaction between diet and physical activity is clearly crucial."

Both reports are being presented as part of the Economic and Social Research Council's Festival of Social Science in London.


German home-school families face US deportation

Uwe and Hanalore Romeike want to educate their seven children at home, rather than in the school system.

But in Germany where they come from originally, home schooling is illegal.

It isn't just discouraged, it is punishable by heavy fines and imprisonment and their children could be taken away from them.

So along with other German home-schooling families they have come to the United States and are seeking asylum.

But the claim they are being persecuted has not been accepted and unless the Supreme Court intervenes they face deportation from the US.

"We are being persecuted, as are many other home schooling families in Germany," says Mr Romeike.

"Parents should have the right to choose the best education for their children. That's what's lacking in Germany. We don't have freedom of education."

Family choice

The family arrived in the US in 2008 and settled in Tennessee. In 2010 a state court granted their request for asylum but two years later the Obama administration called for a review and a higher court overturned the decision.

The Romeikes' only hope of staying in the US now rests with the Supreme Court which still hasn't decided whether to hear their appeal.

"We started home schooling because our two oldest children were in public school for a few years and from the beginning had problems.

"Our daughter started having headaches and stomach aches, our son's personality changed. After we started home schooling all these symptoms disappeared. We didn't want to stop," says Mr Romeike.

"Home schooling is not about motivation or methodology. Home schooling is simply about parents making the choice as to what's best for their children," says Michael Donnelly, a lawyer for the Home School Legal Defense Association.

The HDLA is assisting the Romeikes and other German parents including Dirk and Petra Wunderlich. German police recently placed their four children in temporary care because the Wunderlichs refused to send them to school.

"There was no other question about this family - they weren't abusing or neglecting their children - the only issue was that they were not in school," says Mr Donnelly.

"It's really quite striking when you look at a free country - as Germany claims to be - and you see how they treat parents who want to exercise a freedom."

The children have been returned to the Wunderlichs, but the German government has banned them from leaving the country, says Mr Donnelly.

Meeting other children

Like many families who decide to educate their children at home, the Romeikes and the Wunderlichs are evangelical Christians.

But some law experts say they their grounds for claiming religious persecution in Germany are weak.

"Germany is a democratic country and it chooses to make attendance in schools mandatory. It offers many choices of school - Christian, Jewish, Muslim, private, public - every imaginable sort," says Professor David Abraham an expert on immigration and citizenship law at the University of Miami School of Law.

"But its legislature has decided that children need the social context of meeting other children.

"Parents have a responsibility to raise their children properly, but that does not mean they have a right to counter democratic legislation. What they can't call persecution is the obligation to attend school with other children. That's an important social value that the German legislature has adopted," he says.

'Praying together'

Many children educated at home in the US also attend home school co-ops where parents pool their skills to enable specialised or more advanced subjects to be taught. They also meet other families who share similar values.

"It's a very nice environment. Everything is very Christian and I really enjoy that. I also enjoy being able to pray with my mom whenever I need to," says 13-year-old Esther Reinhold who lives in Sterling, Virginia.

Her parents, Ulrike and Matthias Reinhold, emigrated from Germany and became US citizens in order to home school their six children.

"We enjoy home schooling because it is very family oriented, it strengthens our family," says Mr Reinhold.

"We spend time teaching them the regular subjects but they also have time to pursue their interests in a stronger way than they would in a normal school setting."

"I'm definitely glad we are allowed to home school here," says 15-year-old Ruth Reinhold who also attends a co-op and has private piano lessons.

"I could go to a public Christian school but even there, there's still a lot more drama about the dating thing and there's a lot more foul language. I know that if I went to public school within about four weeks I would be going along with the others, cursing and dishonouring God especially."

More than two million children are taught at home in the US and the number is growing.

The modern movement started in the 1970s when Christians began questioning the type of education their children were receiving in state and privately run schools, says Professor Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute.

But he says it's too simplistic to describe home schooling as a religious movement.

"I've met many non-Christian parents who would say the same thing: it's not the government's job to indoctrinate my children," he says.

"The core issue is who is in charge of a child's education. Whether home schoolers are agnostic, Jews, or Christians they all believe in parental responsibility for the child's education and they don't think the state should be doing it."


6 November 2013 Last updated at 01:03 GMT

Are children given too many toys?


Retailers are starting to gear up to sell the latest generation of Christmas toys, but some campaigners are advocating a change in attitude. Do some Western children have too many toys, asks Joanne Furniss.

I stood in the playroom holding an empty suitcase. We were emigrating and could only pack a few toys to keep us going until the rest arrived by ship months later.

In went the Story Cubes - ingenious picture dice that inspire stories, drawings or full-scale theatrical productions. Both kids are "crafty", so in go pom-poms, pipe cleaners and paper punches. Next, a kingdom of animal figurines marches two-by-two into the case.

I subject the rest to an eligibility test before I transport them half way round the world from Switzerland to Singapore - has either child shown the slightest interest in the toy in the past month?

An ancient game of Pass the Pigs passes muster. A bucket of unisex Duplo and then, after a tantrum, a second bucket of pink Duplo. At the last minute, I spot a "snakes and ladders" game that my son enjoys (provided he gets to take all the turns).

But the rest has not been touched in a month - and the shelves are still packed with dolls and jigsaws and trains and kazoos and knitted muffins and the emergency vehicles of several nations and enough wooden blocks to build a bridge to Singapore.

So why do we have so many toys?

Psychologist Oliver James, author of the parenting book Love Bombing, believes children don't "need" a vast panoply of toys.

"Most children need a transition object," said James, "their first teddy bear that they take everywhere. But everything else is a socially-generated want."

It seems we are keen to generate our children's wants - the Toy Retailers' Association reports that the British alone spend £3bn each year on toys.

At London's V&A Museum of Childhood, Catherine Howell oversees a collection that includes a 400-year-old rocking horse and Buzz Lightyear. She agrees that children typically have far more toys than any previous generation.

But while spin-off merchandising has been a huge hit ever since Star Wars figures appeared in the 1970s, Howell says traditional toys like dolls and building blocks have retained a consistent popularity. "A child always comes back to a set of bricks because it allows them to use their imagination."

Certainly, my own three-year-old is a marketer's dream, desperate to adventure with the Octonauts (an animated series). And yet, when his much-anticipated Gup-B arrived last Christmas, his underwater enthusiasm had ebbed by Boxing Day.

According to James, toys that pre-determine play - and this is especially true of merchandising - offer limited possibilities for fun. So while Buzz Lightyear can only ever be a space ranger, a doll might become a hungry baby, a tea party guest - or a space ranger - depending on the child's desires.

These prescriptive toys could even be damaging, says James. "Young children discover their identity through fantasy play. If their toys offer a limited repertoire, this process is eroded."

It is the "play value" that is most important, says Liat Hughes Joshi, author of Raising Children: the Primary Years. "There are enormous benefits to toys - they bring joy, creativity and learning."

She sees three factors that make a brilliant toy: "Social value - a dolls house allows children to play together, versatility - Lego bricks can be made into anything, and durability - such as a wooden train track that the child will use for years."

But James says it's even better for children to "colonise objects". A quick glance into the bedroom shows me that my two have recently colonised my baking trays (drums), towels and pegs (den) and a large plastic storage box (my son's ark, decorated with a portrait of God). It also explains their fascination with sticks, the Swiss Army knife of the imaginary world.

The sheer creative potential offered by found objects is a force that toymakers do try to harness. That old favourite, Meccano, recently won an award that recognises the traditional value of toys.

Thierry Bourret, the founder of the Slow Toy Awards, says there are many ways that well-designed products surpass "colonised objects", but one in particular is crucial. "How do you know an object is safe? Every toy we recognise has been safety tested and develops life skills."

Other 2013 Slow Toy winners included a stylish Danish-designed dolls pram, a set of ecological building blocks called TWIG, and a classic trike.

But how many toys is too many?

Those who advocate fewer toys say it is not just the nature but also the sheer number that threaten to overwhelm our children. And for parents who think that sibling rivals will bicker less if they have a wide choice of novelties - more toys could actually make them more selfish.

Joshua Becker, a father of two who writes about how to simplify both home and lifestyle, says: "People co-operate better and share when resources are limited, and the same is true for children."

This minimalism extends to the whole Becker family, with the kids given a confined space to store their toys, forcing them to adopt a "one in, one out" policy.

He sees his kids "filling their time with creativity" - taking their scooters to the park, practising baseball and football, inviting friends over to play with dolls, and devising art projects. In addition, he says, they develop longer attention spans, take better care of their possessions and grow more resourceful.

Crucially, Becker hopes these habits will last a lifetime. "The children realise they don't have to conform and be consumed by consumerism."

In his book Affluenza, James outlines how the populations of the UK and the US suffer a high degree of emotional distress related to the kind of materialism that Becker rejects. Meanwhile, residents of continental Europe are only half as likely to be plunged into misery by their frustrated desire for more stuff.

Is it a coincidence that the educational cultures of mainland Europe promote real-life learning experiences? The forest playgroup - or Waldspielgruppe - is a rite of passage in Switzerland, where I lived for seven years.

Starting at age three, my kids toddled off to nail their lumberjack skills with normal-sized hammers and saws. They built fires, cooked food and collected soggy pine cones. There was not a toy in sight. Just contented children - and a wealth of pine cone-themed ornaments.

Now that Swiss cold-snaps have been replaced by Singaporean monsoons, I'm grateful I didn't leave all the toys behind. Maybe the kids don't need them - but their busy parents do. The move forced us (willingly) to minimalise, and with all those empty packing boxes waiting to be colonised, we're not short of ways to play more with less.


Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

Europe: A jobless recovery?


The European Commission rolled out its autumn forecast on Tuesday. There was plenty of optimism, but it was guarded.

Olli Rehn, the EU's Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner, declared: "There are increasing signs that the European economy has reached a turning point". He spied confidence gaining strength.

Growth in the eurozone in 2014 is forecast to be 1.1%. That is less than the commission predicted in May, but private consumption has remained subdued and credit in many countries is tight.

But the news for the 26 million out of work in the EU was bleak. The recovery in economic activity is expected "to translate only gradually into job creation", said Mr Rehn.

In the eurozone, it is expected to remain at a record high of 12.2% this year and next. That, also, is a revision upwards from 12.1%.

The hope was that jobless levels would decline next year as the recovery took hold, but European officials are now not so sure.

Indeed, it is possible that the number out of work in the eurozone will surpass 20 million. The best that European officials could offer was a modest decline in unemployment in 2015 to 11.8% in those countries that use the euro.

'Lost generation'

Of course, there will be wide differences between countries.

Unemployment will stay low in Germany and Austria. It is falling in Ireland, and there are some hopeful signs in Portugal.

But the outlook in the weaker countries remains fragile.

Take Spain. In October, the number of people registered as unemployed grew by 87,000 - as the tourist season wound down.

The government in Madrid rightly points out that, compared with a year ago, the number of jobless claimants has fallen, albeit very slightly.

Growth, however, is at an anaemic 0.1%. The International Monetary Fund has warned that Spain could face five more years with an unemployment rate of over 25% unless firms start reducing wages rather than laying off staff. The prospect of a lost generation remains high.

There are some hopeful indicators in the eurozone. Deficits are coming down. The outlook for manufacturing and services is improving. Exports are the driver behind what growth there is.

There are also some strong headwinds: the strong euro may weaken exports.

Italian Finance Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni has warned the strength of the euro could damage Europe's economic recovery: "The euro is now the strongest currency in the world," he complained.

Drivers of growth?

Then there are the two economies which drive the eurozone: France and Germany. In Mr Rehn's view, they hold the key.

He was asked whether Germany needed to do more to boost domestic demand which would help other countries in the eurozone.

He sidestepped answering the question directly, but he spoke about the need for sustained wage growth in Germany and for boosting investment in sectors like infrastructure.

Official Brussels is pinning a lot of hope that the SPD (Social Democrats) - the new coalition partner in Germany - will push for more domestic spending.

Then there is France.

France will miss the agreed targets to cut its public deficit to 3%. The latest forecasts predict the French government deficit will be 4.1% this year and will still be at 3.7% by 2015.

President Francois Hollande will face pressure to reduce that deficit more quickly. It is hard to see how France, in the short term, can do much to boost the eurozone economy.

Mr Rehn said it was "too early to declare victory: unemployment remains at unacceptably high levels".

He said the labour market typically lagged about six months behind what was happening in the rest of the economy.

But the news is sombre for the millions of young people looking for work.

Europe, for the time being, may have silenced those predicting a eurozone break-up. The concern has "disappeared", said Mr Rehn.

But Europe faces a more difficult political question. It might have seen off market attacks on the single currency, but can it deliver jobs or will this turn out to be a jobless recovery?


Israel-Palestinian talks: Why fate of Jordan Valley is key


Rows of date palms stand sentinel across the vast, flat stretch of land along the border between the West Bank and Jordan.

The view is dotted by dozens of Israeli settlements and Palestinian villages.

This is the Jordan Valley, captured by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War, most of it now still under Israel's military and administrative control.

However the fertile, largely undeveloped strip - which makes up a quarter of the West Bank - would form an integral part of a future Palestinian state if the Palestinians have their way. Israel, on the other hand, says it cannot give up the valley for reasons of security.

Peace talks which resumed in August are being held in secrecy, but the fate of the valley is said to be one of the points on which Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are struggling to find a compromise.

At a Palestinian family farm in Jiftlik the date harvest is just finishing.

Teenagers reach up from a platform to shake the ripe fruits from each tree while their elders sort them into crates.

The farm's owner, Hazaa Daragma, tells me his date production suffers because of the Israeli occupation.

"The Israeli farmer has more benefits than the Palestinian farmer," he says. "He has water and resources. He gets government services and marketing. He sells his dates to Europe. We can't export so we just get a low price in the West Bank."

Israel controls all crossing points between it and West Bank, making it by-and-large not economically viable for Palestinians to directly export their produce. Many sell their produce to Israeli companies, or rely on just trading within the West Bank itself.

Hazaa's father, Majid, who is in his 80s, remembers better times when he cultivated crops by the River Jordan before the land there was confiscated and turned into an Israeli military zone.

"We used to have a lot of land. Now we have a small amount and they are surrounding us more and more," he says.

Line of defence

The settlements are widely seen as a breach of international law, although Israel rejects this.

The first ones in this border area were set up with national security in mind. The valley is now home to about 9,000 settlers and 56,000 Palestinians.

"We are the people that the government sent to settle the Jordan Valley," says David Elhayani, who chairs a regional council, representing more than 20 settlements.

"As a Jew, I tell you we can't take any risks. The Jordan Valley has to remain under Israeli sovereignty. I'm not talking about our claims from the Bible. I'm talking about safety. By staying here we protect the people in Tel Aviv and all of Israel."

"Something will happen between the Arab countries and Israel, this will be the defence line."

Israeli soldiers can be seen on patrol near the border, and there are signposts warning of the presence of landmines.

Israeli border authorities also control Allenby Bridge, the only crossing to Jordan that can be used by Palestinians with West Bank ID.

Economic importance

The absence of information from inside the talks has not stopped the leaders on both sides from restating their long-held positions concerning the Jordan Valley.

In October, on the anniversary of the assassination of one of his predecessors, Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a Knesset meeting, "Our strength is the guarantee for our existence and peace… This requires a security border in the Jordan Valley, as Rabin said in his last speech."

Previously the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had addressed graduates from a new police academy in Jericho.

"The eastern borders of the Palestinian state, stretching from the Dead Sea, through the Jordan Valley and the central highlands, to the borders of Bisan [Beit Shean in northern Israel] are Palestinian-Jordanian borders and will remain so," he said.

The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who comes from Jericho, took foreign diplomats and reporters on a tour of the valley, stressing its economic importance.

A recent report by the World Bank calculated that the Palestinian economy would be boosted by $918m (£576m) a year if it could exploit Dead Sea minerals in the southern Jordan Valley.

A further $704m a year could be added if it had more access to farmland and water in parts of the West Bank fully controlled by Israel, the report said.

The Jordan Valley makes up the largest single segment of what is known as Area C - Israel's zone pending a final peace agreement, as defined under the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords.

"In Area C, which is 60% of the West Bank, Palestinians have got to be able step-by-step to develop it," says Tony Blair, who represents the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers and has been working on a Palestinian economic initiative.

"Along the Jordan Valley you have immensely rich agricultural land. It's hard to see frankly how in the future you're going to have a Palestinian state that doesn't include that."

Mr Blair has been pressing for an easing of restrictions, such as extending the opening hours of Allenby Bridge.

"What we've got to try to do I think, even in advance of final agreement, is to give people on the Palestinian side a sense that the world is changing and that they can see the prospect of a genuine state opening up before them," he told me.

"Likewise for the Israelis of course [we must show] that the security concerns… are going to be taken account of."

Regional uncertainties

In previous inconclusive peace talks, it is said a tentative deal was reached on setting up a few Israeli-manned early warning stations in the Jordan Valley.

However Mr Netanyahu is now said to favour a much stronger presence even within the framework of a Palestinian state.

Israeli media report that he plans to build a new security barrier in the Jordan Valley and rejects an idea favoured by his chief negotiator, Tzipi Livni, to introduce international forces to guard the border.

"Our experience has been that international forces just don't do the job," says Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs. He points to the limitations of Unifil, which was given responsibility for the southern Lebanon border after the 2006 war.

"Israel has absolutely nothing against Palestinian economic success and there are agreements we can reach so we can share in the economic potential of this area," Mr Gold says.

"But giving up the security of the Jordan Valley in a Middle East that's full of chaos? Who knows what's going to happen to Syria - maybe we'll have a new jihad stand to our east - that's a major worry for the Israeli army today."


In the Jordan Valley, many residents - Israeli and Palestinian - admit to feelings of uncertainty as peace talks continue.

There are regular incidents that highlight the broader struggle over the area.

In September, the Israeli army demolished the Palestinian village of Khirbet al-Makhlul.

Defence ministry officials say construction there was unlicensed and Israel's Supreme Court had rejected a petition against the demolition orders.

However the action was internationally condemned. Human rights groups say it is almost impossible for Palestinians in the Jordan Valley to get building permits because of what they say are discriminatory practices - a charge Israel strongly denies.

"When applications are rejected, this is not due to discrimination," a government official told the BBC. "Building permits are in fact granted to Palestinians in the Jordan Valley when proper requests are made... [but] The Jordan Valley is in part a security-sensitive area, since it is a border zone (with Jordan), and this makes certain areas unsuitable for private development."

In the village of Abu al-Ajaj, which is still threatened with demolition, an elderly woman, Jamilla Adeis worries for the future.

"The Israelis don't want us to live here. They want to kick us out and give the land to the settlers so that they can plant dates," she says gesticulating to the Massua settlement nearby.

Although Palestinian labourers work in the settlements, there is an uneasy relationship between the communities.

And with the murder of an Israeli settler in the Jordan Valley community of Brosh Habika last month, and the arrest of Palestinian suspects, tensions have only increased.


5 November 2013 Last updated at 14:06 GMT

UN highlights role of farming in closing emissions gap


Changing farming practices could play an important role in averting dangerous climate change says the UN.

In their annual emissions report, they measure the difference between the pledges that countries have made to cut warming gases and the targets required to keep temperatures below 2C.

On present trends there is likely to be an annual excess of 8 to 12 gigatonnes of these gases by 2020.

Agriculture, they say, could make a significant difference to the gap.

This is the fourth such report, compiled by the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) in conjunction with 44 scientific groups in 17 countries.

It says the world needs to reduce total emissions to 44 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2020 to keep the planet from going above the 2C target, agreed at a UN meeting in Cancun in 2010.

But when all the pledges and plans made by countries are added together, they show an excess of between 8 and 12 gigatonnes per annum in seven years time, very similar to last year's report.

To put it in context, 12 gigatonnes is about 80% of all the emissions coming from all the power plants in the world right now.

Tempering tillage

The authors highlight a number of ways in which this gap can be closed, including tightening the rules for counting emissions and expanding the scope of pledges already made.

They believe around half the gap could be closed in this way.

But they say that simple changes in agriculture could cut emissions by four gigatonnes, about two thirds of the remaining difference.

Emissions from farming, including nitrous oxide from applying fertiliser and CO2 from ploughing fields accounts for more than 10% of the global total right now.

"The potential is enormous," said Dr Joseph Alcamo from the UN Environment Programme.

"It's not with anything very exotic, it has to do with the way we apply fertilisers to our fields, it has to do with conservation tillage so you don't plough the fields very rigorously."

Conservation tillage includes a number of methods including leaving the previous year's crop residues on the fields to help protect the soils.

The UN cited the example of Argentina where 100 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions have been avoided by a shift to conservation tillage that took place in the 1990s.

They argue that not only would it curb global warming, it would help poor farmers as well.

"You could take a big step down the pathway of sustainable agriculture," said Dr Alcamo,

"You can unite ideas of sustainable agriculture for the whole world together with ideas of controlling emissions by 2020."

Sobering perspective

The report highlighted a number of other measures that could bridge the looming gap including energy efficiency, greater emphasis on renewables and reform of fossil fuel subsidies.

"A lot of these actions have been done not for climate mitigation but to further national and local interest," said Dr Alcamo.

The study makes the point that if action on curbing greenhouse gases isn't taken in the short term, then the possibilities of getting emissions down in the future becomes much more difficult.

"Remember 44 gigatonnes by 2020 just sets the stage for further cuts that will be needed," said Unep executive director Achim Steiner.

"We need 40 gigatonnes by 2025, 35 gigatonnes by 2030 and 22 gigatonnes by 2050.

"At the moment the trend is in the opposite direction, we are over 50 gigatonnes."

Next week, delegates from all over the world will gather in Warsaw to continue negotiations on a new global climate agreement that is expected to be signed in 2015.

According to Mr Steiner, the emissions gap report shows just how much needs to be done.

"This report provides a very sobering perspective of where we are and still heading and quite how far- reaching the implications are of maintaining this trajectory."


6 November 2013 Last updated at 10:07 GMT

Concentrations of warming gases break record


The levels of gases in the atmosphere that drive global warming increased to a record high in 2012.

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), atmospheric CO2 grew more rapidly last year than its average rise over the past decade.

Concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide also broke previous records

Thanks to carbon dioxide and these other gases, the WMO says the warming effect on our climate has increased by almost a third since 1990.

The WMO's annual greenhouse gas bulletin measures concentrations in the atmosphere, not emissions on the ground.

Carbon dioxide is the most important of the gases that they track, but only about half of the CO2 that's emitted by human activities remains in the atmosphere, with the rest being absorbed by the plants, trees, the land and the oceans.

Upsetting the balance

Since 1750, global average levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased to 141% of the pre-industrial concentration of 278 parts per million (ppm).

According to the WMO there were 393.1ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 2012, an increase of 2.2ppm over 2011.

This was above the yearly average of 2.02ppm over the past decade.

"The observations highlight yet again how heat-trapping gases from human activities have upset the natural balance of our atmosphere and are a major contribution to climate change," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

"It is a worry. The more we delay action the bigger the risk we cannot stay under the 2 degree Celsius limit that countries have agreed," he said.

While the daily measurement of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere exceeded the symbolic 400ppm mark in May this year, according to the WMO the global annual average CO2 concentration will cross this point in 2015 or 2016.

Levels of methane also reached record highs in 2012 of 1,819 parts per billion. Concentrations have been increasing since 2007 after a period when they appeared to be levelling off.

The WMO report says that it is not yet possible to attribute the methane increase to either human activities like cattle breeding and landfills or natural sources such as wetlands.

They believe that the rising emissions come from the tropical and mid-latitude northern hemisphere and not from the Arctic, where methane from the melting of permafrost and hydrates has long been a concern.

Emissions of nitrous oxide have also grown, with the atmospheric concentration in 2012 at 325.1 parts per billion, 120% above pre-industrial levels.

Nitrous oxide gas, although its concentrations are tiny compared to CO2, is 298 times more warming and also plays a role in the destruction of the ozone layer.

Recent research indicates that the rate of increase in emissions might be slowing down, but the gases can continue to concentrate in the atmosphere and exert a climate influence for hundreds if not thousands of years.

Scientists believe that the new data indicates that global warming will be back with a vengeance, after a slowdown in the rate of temperature increases over the past 14 years.

"The laws of physics and chemistry are not negotiable," said Michel Jarraud.

"Greenhouse gases are what they are, the laws of physics show they can only contribute to warming the system, but parts of this heat may go in different places like the oceans for some periods of time," he said.

This view was echoed by Prof Piers Forster from the University of Leeds.

"For the past decade or so the oceans have been sucking up this extra heat, meaning that surface temperatures have only increased slowly.

"Don't expect this state of affairs to continue though, the extra heat will eventually come out and bite us, so expect strong warming over the coming decades."


 6 November 2013 Last updated at 22:57 GMT

BAE Systems cuts 1,775 jobs at English and Scottish shipyards


BAE Systems is to cut 1,775 jobs at its yards in Scotland and England and end shipbuilding altogether at Portsmouth.

The firm said 940 staff posts and 170 agency workers will go at the Portsmouth site, which will retain repairs and maintenance work.

Some 835 jobs will be lost at yards in Govan and Scotstoun, on the River Clyde in Glasgow, and Rosyth in Fife and at the firm's Filton office, near Bristol.

The cuts follow a drop in work after the end of aircraft carriers work.

BAE Systems employs a total of 4,400 people in shipbuilding in the UK, 1,200 in Portsmouth and 3,200 across Govan, Scotstoun, Rosyth and Filton.

The company said it had made the cuts because of a "significant" drop in demand.

The defence contractor and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have together announced measures which they hope will offset the effect of the job cuts.

Among the plans are more than £100m of investment to expand the dockyard at Portsmouth.

Three new ocean-going Offshore Patrol Vessels for the Royal Navy will also be built at BAE's Govan and Scotstoun yards in Glasgow.

This could help sustain shipbuilding at the yards until work is due to begin on the Type 26 Global Combat ships.

BAE, which heads a consortium that includes Babcock and Thales UK, said it had agreed changes to the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier contract it signed with the MoD in 2009.

This would see the consortium's fee move to a 50-50 risk share arrangement which would provide greater cost performance incentives.

A statement released by BAE Systems said: "Under these proposals, shipbuilding operations at Portsmouth will cease in the second half of 2014.

"Subject to consultation, Lower Block 05 and Upper Blocks 07 and 14 of the second Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carrier will be allocated to Glasgow.

"The company remains committed to continued investment in the Portsmouth area as the centre of its Maritime Services and high-end naval equipment and combat systems business."

BAE said it had agreed with the MoD "that Glasgow would be the most effective location for the manufacture of the future Type 26 ships".

"The company proposes to consolidate its shipbuilding operations in Glasgow with investments in facilities to create a world-class capability, positioning it to deliver an affordable Type 26 programme for the Royal Navy," BAE said.

It said the cost of this restructuring would be borne by the MoD.

BAE said it would now begin consultation to cut 1,775 jobs "to result from these restructuring proposals".

This would see 940 posts go in Portsmouth in 2014 and 835 across Filton, Glasgow and Rosyth, through to 2016.

The statement added: "The implementation of these restructuring activities will sustain BAE Systems' capability to deliver complex warships for the Royal Navy and secure the employment of thousands of highly skilled employees across the UK."

The MoD confirmed that it would commission three new ocean-going Offshore Patrol Vessels to play "a key role in counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and anti smuggling operations".

These will be built, it said, at BAE's Govan and Scotstoun yards in Glasgow.

Work on the new vessels is due to begin next year with the first ship being delivered to the Royal Navy in 2017.

'Vital skills'

The ships are expected to replace the current, smaller River Class vessels which have been policing the UK's waters since 2003.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: "This deal will provide the Royal Navy with three brand new maritime patrol vessels with a wide range of capabilities which will support our national interests and those of our overseas territories.

"This is an investment not only in three ships but in this country's warship building industry. It prevents workers standing idle and sustains the vital skills needed to build the planned Type 26 frigate in the future."

Mr Hammond is also announcing that more than £100m will be invested in Portsmouth.

The money will be used to expand the dockyard to ensure it is ready for the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales as well as the Type 45 destroyers which are based in Portsmouth.

The defence secretary added: "I am also pleased to announce additional investment in Portsmouth Naval Base to prepare for the significant increase in tonnage as the home port for the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers and destroyers."

The MoD said under the terms of the new arrangements that "Portsmouth will maintain its proud maritime heritage as the home of much of the Royal Navy's surface fleet and the centre of BAE Systems ship support and maintenance business".

Speaking at Prime Minister's questions in the Commons, David Cameron said his thoughts were with the workers affected by these "extremely difficult decisions".

He added: "We want our Royal Navy to have the best and most modern ships and the best technology.

"That means we will go on building warships on the Clyde, we will be announcing three new offshore patrol vessels, keeping that yard busy rather than paying for it to remain idle as the last government proposed.

"In Portsmouth, yes there will be job reductions, but there are many more people involved in ship servicing than in ship building, so the workforce will go from 12,000 to 11,000."

Labour's Shadow Defence Secretary Vernon Coaker said it was "a difficult day" for the shipbuilding industry and his first thoughts were with those facing job losses.

Referendum issue

He added: "Two things are clear. Firstly, the MoD is to meet the cost of restructuring the naval shipbuilding business across Britain. We need to see all of the detail about how much that will cost and how the cost will be met.

"Secondly, Britain must retain a sovereign shipbuilding capability. None of us want to see Scotland leave the United Kingdom, but we need clarity from the government about what safeguards are in place to meet all eventualities after next year's referendum."

Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC she was relieved Govan was not closing, but said the 800 job losses were a "devastating blow" for the Clyde and Scottish economy.

"The Scottish government will be working very closely with the company and with the trade unions, firstly to minimise the number of job losses, but also to work very hard with those affected to help them into alternative employment," she said.

Ms Sturgeon the Clyde yards would be the best place to build the new Type 26 ships.

She said: "The investment that we've seen in the Clyde yards in recent years, the skill mix of the workers in the Clyde, make the Clyde the best place to build these ships - there's no doubt about that."

David Hulse, GMB national officer and chair of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions' shipbuilding national committee, said the announcements had been part of a "devastating day for the UK shipbuilding industry".

"We have arranged a two-day meeting with the company at Farnborough next Monday and Tuesday that will be attended by officers and shop stewards from all the yards and all the unions," he said.

"This meeting will examine in detail the business case and all aspects for scheduling work in the yards to complete building the carriers, starting work on the Type 26 ships and any other work."

The independent MP for Portsmouth South, Mike Hancock, said ending shipbuilding at Portsmouth would be a difficult decision to reverse.

He added: "The expertise is very, very much dedicated to shipbuilding. And once they disperse the workforce in various parts of the south of England I don't think it's going to be easy to put that back together."

Workers at BAE's Scotstoun and Govan yards in Glasgow were sent home for the day after being told the news.

They were told by management there would be about 800 jobs lost in Scotland but no breakdown was given.

Workers who left the yards said they were worried and disappointed, but that the announcement was not unexpected.

Alex Taylor, 63, a plater at Govan, said: "We've known for a while that the workload isn't there to carry the amount of people that we had building the carriers, but hopefully voluntary redundancies will take up the slack."

He added that those affected by the job cuts at Portsmouth were "working class guys the same as ourselves, they're just shipbuilders.

"We're obviously relieved that things are looking better for the Clyde, but that doesn't mean to say that we've not got feelings for our comrades in Portsmouth."


Third World Pressures
Native News
The Fight Against Poverty, Disease and Abuse
Africa and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
A Brief History of America and the Moros 1899-1920
Thomas Malthus (1766-1834)
Imagine a world without shops or factories


Index Source Data
Think Tank

Land index
Project HomeFarm
Garden Diary

Trevor Batten
 <trevor at tebatt dot net>
 Baclayon 2013