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Norman Pratt

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  • Birthday 05/08/1945

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  1. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/mar/09/google-deepmind-alphago-ai-defeats-human-lee-sedol-first-game-go-contest From The Guardian Wednesday 9 March 2016 Google’s computer program AlphaGo defeated its human opponent, South Korean Go champion Lee Sedol, on Wednesday in the first game of a historic five-game match between human and computer. AlphaGo’s victory in the ancient Chinese board game is a breakthrough for artificial intelligence, showing the program developed by Google DeepMind has mastered one of the most creative and complex games ever devised. Commentators said the match was close, with both AlphaGo and Lee making some mistakes. The result was unpredictable until near the end. Lee’s loss was a shock to South Koreans and Go fans. The 33-year-old initially was confident of a sweeping victory two weeks ago, but sounded less optimistic a day before the match. “I was very surprised because I did not think that I would lose the game. A mistake I made at the very beginning lasted until the very last,” said Lee, who has won 18 world championships since becoming a professional Go player at the age of 12. Lee said AlphaGo’s strategy was “excellent” from the beginning. Yoo Chang-hyuk, another South Korean Go master who commentated on the game, described the result as a big shock said that Lee appeared to have been shaken at one point. Hundreds of thousands of people watched the game live on TV and YouTube. The remaining four more matches will end on Tuesday. Computers conquered chess in 1997 in a match between IBM’s Deep Blue and chess champion Garry Kasparov, leaving Go as “the only game left above chess” Demis Hassabis, Google DeepMind’s CEO, said before the game. Top human players rely heavily on intuition and feelings to choose among a near-infinite number of board positions in Go, making the game extremely challenging for artificial intelligence. AI experts had forecast it would take another decade for computers to beat professional Go players. That changed when AlphaGo defeated a European Go champion last year, in a closed-door match later published in the journal Nature. Since then, AlphaGo’s performance has steadily improved. “We are very excited about this historic moment. We are very pleased about how AlphaGo performed,” said Hassabis. DeepMind’s team built “reinforcement learning” into AlphaGo, meaning the machine plays against itself and adjusts its own neural networks based on trial-and-error. AlphaGo can also narrow down the search space for the next best move from the near-infinite to something more manageable. It can also anticipate long-term results of each move and predict the winner. AlphaGo’s win over a human champion shows computers can mimic intuition and tackle more complex tasks, its creators say. Google throws down the gauntlet. But can anyone beat its computer at Go?
  2. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/08/gorbachev-cold-war-threat-berlin-wall-25th-anniversary
  3. John. Thank you for your insights into what is happening in the Ukraine. Personally I think the term 'Terrorist/freedom fighter' should always be applied in these cases, to both government and rebels, and History can decide later which was which. Given Russia's long history of being invaded, including a particularly traumatic invasion within living memory, I think the West's policies towards Russia, and particularly the expansion of NATO ever eastward, have been plain stupid. Steve, I believe Christians need to be careful about prophecies that imply the removal of human responsibility. The idea that you quote - that Russia is going to be 'dealt with' by the West so what's happening in the Ukraine is inevitable - does just that. You seem to adhere to the (fairly ancient) Christian viewpoint 'Athens has nothing to do with Jerusalem' and that 'pagan' philosophy has nothing to teach us. You use Paul's 'Epistle to the Corinthians' to back this up, and I have to say I only think I understand what you're getting at here because I have heard the same interpretations that you have. I take it that by quoting 'Corinthians' you are saying that Paul's explanation blows every other philosophy and explanation out of the water. And so, in my opinion, it does. However, consider Paul's position at the time he was writing. He was under arrest for terrorism (ie opposing the power of Rome) as well as speaking against the laws of Moses. In a series of speeches Luke records in 'The Acts of the Apostles' Paul claims that in proclaiming Christ he was demonstrating the fulfilment of the laws of Moses ie he was a good Jew and, even more surprising at a time when the Roman Emperor claimed he was God, Paul claimed in effect that he was a good Roman citizen. The interpretation of the 'Book of Revelation' has often bitterly divided Christians, so much so that it would be foolish to be confident in using to single out particular modern nations as the target of God's wrath! I personally think that the best modern scholarship points to it being very specific to the circumstances and period in which it was written - ie during a persecution of the Christian faith by Roman authorities at the end of the 1st Century. The precise allusions in the book can now only be understood and applied in a very generalised sense, except perhaps to Christians in the world today who suffer the same kind of extreme persecution as some of the Christians were then. I believe Christian principles can be applied to international politics. Paul elsewhere makes very clear that civil authorities are put there by God (a view that has, of course, been exploited by tyrants in the past - Charles l springs to mind.) However, it would have been a good principle to have applied when powerful states decided to carve up African states in the 19th Century, or for that matter to invade Iraq in the 21st.
  4. Steven. With regard to your last post, and global warming, we in the UK have been receiving the leftovers of your winter weather in the form of massive storms for the last three weeks. We've seen nothing like it for 250 years. I think both experts and the general public are keeping an open mind on whether it's weather, climate, or a trend. However, I'm inclined to go with Stern: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/feb/13/flooding-storms-uk-climate-change-lord-stern And talking of open minds your earlier comment ... "JFK was killed by a lone gunman ,just check any textbook. Do you have any textbook being used in Schools that says different ??" ... doesn't really apply in the UK, where the JFK assassination remains a popular subject in secondary schools for looking at a wide range of evidence (including, often in a critical way, that of textbooks) with an open mind. The government hates this approach, and made a concerted effort to try to stop it, which spectacularly failed. I think one needs a similar open-mindedness when approaching the Bible. I don't think this story by Andrew Brown is exactly his finest hour. Because camels weren't around 3000 years ago there couldn't have been an Abraham?? The phenomenon of anachronisms in the Old Testament has been known about for years. This all sounds more like Dan Brown: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/andrewbrown/2014/feb/13/old-testament-camels-zionism-genesis Steve. Please don't be sidetracked by the Zionism bit. And thank you for all your references. I will attempt to follow some of them up, with an open mind.
  5. Steve, I agree with your comment about King David. Considering he lived about 3000 years ago I was always amazed at the readiness of the Establishment to dismiss the idea that he ruled over anything like a kingdom. A couple of years ago I attended a lecture which reported the discovery of the ruins of a fortress in Israel that dates from this period. It had two entrances, making it very unusual, and the Bible describes such a fortress on the border with Philistine territory. This is very strong evidence that an iron-age kingdom existed at that time so the readiness to disregard the evidence of the Bible as to what this kingdom was like seems odd, to say the least. Conservative biblical scholarship is, I suspect, less conservative in the UK than in the US. Denis Alexander, whom I mentioned before, was from a Conservative Evangelical background, and I think was a member of the Brethren. He and his brother founded 'Lion' publications, a leading Christian publisher in the U.K., with a multitude of books to their credit which have done much to take some of the stuffiness out of Christian publishing in this country. Their History of Christianity Handbook has a high reputation, and has been compared favourably to the Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity: for one thing it gave much greater prominence to women. I don't personally think it is either accurate or helpful to insist that “Jesus Taught a Recent Creation, Jesus Taught that Adam and Eve Were Real People”. I wanted to say more about George Price because I think he exemplifies the problems that arise out of the fragmented, quarrelling Christian church. All these quotes are from “ The Darwin Wars” that I referred to above. “He had reformulated a set of mathematical equations that shows how altruism can prosper in a world where it seems that only selfishness is rewarded. The equations had been discovered ten years before by Hamilton, but Price's reworking was more elegant and of wider application. He had provided a general way in which to measure the direction and speed of any selection process; this makes possible, in principle, a Darwinian analysis of almost anything. “When Price had first found them he was so shocked that he set himself to do the work again, sure that there must be a flaw. He ended up reformulating them more generally and more powerfully; when this work was completed, he went mad. For though his equation showed that truly self-sacrificing behaviour can exist among animals, and even humans, it also seemed to show that there is nothing noble in it. Only behaviour which helps to spread the genes that cause it can survive in the very long term. Since man, too, is an animal, the human capacity for altruism must be strictly limited; and our capacity for cruelty, treachery and selfishness impossible to eradicate. Through algebra, George Price had found proof of original sin.” [TDW p. 1-2] “Price came to biology as an amateur in 1967, when he was 44. He had trained as a chemist, working on uranium analysis for the Manhattan Project in his early twenties, and getting a doctorate in the subject from Harvard, where he taught for a couple of years. He did medical research at the University of Minnesota in the early Fifties, and then spent four years as a freelance journalist and technical writer, while trying to write a book about Cold War strategy. He then spent six years working for IBM in New York State before emigrating to London. This final move followed his divorce from a devoutly Catholic wife, and surgery for a tumour on his thyroid which left him dependent on medication to supply the missing products of his thyroid gland for the rest of his life.” [TDW p. 6] From the point of view of science George Price was important for providing the mathematical basis for the idea of 'the selfish gene' and the work associated with Richard Dawkins. However, his encounter with Christianity is also of interest: “In an overwhelming moment of spontaneous prayer, just north of BBC Broadcasting House, Price became convinced that Christianity was true. The absolute and unconditional altruism that Jesus preached in the parable of the Good Samaritan was to guide the rest of his life. He did not abandon his scientific work; indeed, he came to consider his discovery a miracle, for he had no training in biology. But he also began to help tramps, alcoholics, and all the wretched of the earth. He gave them time, sympathy, and money – eventually everything he owned. As an atheist and materialist, Price had been an insufferable zealot; as a Christian, he was just the same. He soon quarrelled with the priest who received him, whom he found insufficiently zealous.” TDW p.2-3 To put it another way, in the London of 1974 this American couldn't find a Christainity that matched either his equation or Jesus Christ's most famous parable. “At Price's funeral, the preacher told his grieving, bewildered, tiny congregation that 'The trouble with George was that he took his Christianity too seriously.' At this Hamilton rebuked him: “I think George felt that if it was good enough for St Paul, it was good enough for him.” TDW p.220 I don't think that a George Price would feel quite so isolated in his beliefs if he were living in London today. There are now many Christian groups working amongst (a rather large number) of needy people, and a self-destructive Christian approach would have more chance of developing into a self-sacrificing one within a community. British and American sensibilities are also perhaps closer now than they were then. One really odd thing about the Darwinism/Religion clash is that it was much less of an issue in 19th Century England than is generally thought. The famous Huxley-Wilberforce debate is not typical. The findings of geologists, as they began to make an impact from the end of the 18th Century onwards, were generally accepted, including by the religious. 'Intelligent Design' is therefore regarded in some Christian circles here, including me, as a recent American import, and as a re-invention of an idea that was beginning to be questioned by scientists 200 years ago. I don't pretend to understand the scientific arguments. But I do know a bit about the history of science, and if the idea of a Young Earth were true it would mean that the entire community of science must be part of a massive conspiracy – and one conspiracy too many for me. Hence my shock at seeing the “6000-years old” idea apparently casually dropped into a school textbook. If this alternative theory of the world's age is to overthrow so much of existing scientific understanding, is it not reasonable to be asking for a very detailed explanation of the genealogical tables in the Book of Genesis on which much of this figure has to be based? In particular, how certain can you be?
  6. Steven, I didn't say “... the Bible doesnt say much about suicide ...” as you suggest in your headline: I was quoting the Christian Medical Fellowship article which you cited in your previous post. I acknowledge your impressive list of instances of biblical suicides, but I don't think they would be of much help in counselling a depressed or suicidal person, where other parts of the Bible, some of the Psalms for example, might be more relevant; or not, as the case may be: Job's 'comforters' apparently got it right for the first week of their 'comforting' when they simply sat with Job and didn't say a word. As you yourself make clear, with numerous biblical references, it is the overall picture that the Bible paints of God's relationship with people that is particularly relevant to this sensitive subject. Perhaps it would help if I explained my own standpoint more clearly. I was converted to Darwinism at the age of 11, and became a Christian at the age of 18. I personally see no conflict between these two, but I recognise that some Christians reject Darwinism (including, as it happens, my vicar). Please don't assume that because my keyboard has an aversion to writing words like 'hermeneutics' that I am unaware of what it means. I tend to think historically rather than theologically (despite having had a licence to preach from the Bishop of Chelmsford for the last twenty years.) I think the story of George Price is important as an illustration of the relationship of Christianity and Darwinism in the 20th Century. Basically I find it fascinating that working on an equation that transformed scientific understanding about Darwinism forced an atheist to believe in original sin, and become a Christian. A parallel 20th century story – which I think is relevant to what happened to George Price, is, I believe, the essential over-defensiveness of Western Christianity in the face of science, of which I think the Young Earth theory is a symptom. On this issue, Steven, we will no doubt disagree, but I would still be interested in your understanding of the biblical evidence. Now I've found 'The Darwin Wars' on my shelves I can perhaps tell George Price's story in more detail.
  7. Steven. The CMF article goes on to say: “One of the difficulties facing the Christian who wishes to arrive at an ethical understanding of suicide is that the Bible has little to say about it either directly or indirectly, probably because it was an extremely rare event in ancient Jewish society.” I would suggest that this difficulty faces Christians who wish to arrive at an ethical understanding of anything: you need not just a translation of a relevant passage but an understanding of its context, and an interpretation. I'm not sure you would end up with a “Biblical Law” as the website suggests, but you would find some useful guidelines. “... the common finding that religious adherence is associated with low suicide”, even if statistically true, seems an odd bonus offer for a faith that promises eternal life. I also find a similar oddness in the idea of the world being “6000 years old”. I am pretty sure that the mathematics textbook I previously mentioned presented this figure about 7 years ago, so shouldn't that figure be 6007 now? My suspicion would be that the 6000 figure is a token one, meaning “comparatively recently, and not nearly so long ago as Darwin thought”, whilst appearing to have the mathematical precision that modern society respects and has come to depend upon.
  8. Someone I knew at university, Denis Alexander, wrote an excellent book 'Creation or Evolution Do we have to choose?' [Monarch Books 2008]. He wrote with some authority from both a scientific and a theological point of view. What is even more remarkable is the way that he set out many of the different viewpoints sympathetically, even though his personal answer to his question is 'No'. (Such an approach would be very dull on this forum but it makes for a very good book.) No doubt one of Denis' motivations was to stop Christians quarrelling, but tensions can run high amongst agnostic and atheistic scientists too. Andrew Brown in his book ‘The Darwin Wars’ (Simon and Schuster UK Ltd 1999) charts the debate over ‘the selfish gene’, and its place in understanding human behaviour. The book tells how Richard Dawkins attempted to build a moral philosophy on the discovery of the selfish gene. But it really centres on how evolutionary scientists could teach Christian theologians a thing or two about in-fighting! It includes the sad story of George Price, the man responsible for the mathematics behind ‘the selfish gene’. A convinced atheist, a consideration of the implications of his discovery produced a nervous breakdown, religious mania, a period of Tolstoyan Christianity where he gave all his worldly goods away, and ultimately to his suicide in 1974.
  9. I came across a Primary School Maths textbook that used the '6000 years ago' figure as the basis for an arithmetic exercise. This was unusual, to say the least, for a schoolbook published in the UK. Where does this figure come from, and why was the author of the textbook so sure of this as a fact that he felt able to use it in this way? Was he simply reiterating Archbishop Ussher's gestimate, or is there other evidence for this startlingly exact date?
  10. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/10356972/General-Vo-Nguyen-Giap.html General Vo Nguyen Giap, who has aged 102, was the diminutive and brilliant Vietnamese general who led communist forces in the wars that forced three powerful adversaries – Japan, France and America – out of his homeland. Such was his morale-boosting determination and genius for the feint and swoop that he was often described as a guerrilla leader equalled only by Mao Tse Tung and Che Guevara; and Giap was certainly adept at utilising terrain and highly mobile troops to outwit stronger and better equipped enemies. But he was far more than just an able coordinator of the small-scale jungle skirmish. Major set-piece battles and broad offensives were well within his compass too, though often at high cost. At home, only Ho Chi Minh was better loved. Abroad, even Giap’s opponents – perhaps particularly his opponents – suggested that he merited a place in the pantheon of great military leaders of modern times, alongside such figures as Wellington and Rommel. The figure Giap himself most admired and studied, however, was Napoleon. By the time Giap had left school he was able to outline in chalk the phases of all Napoleon’s most celebrated battles. It was an irony later lost on few that, having absorbed those lessons, Giap would score perhaps his most dramatic victory against France. That moment came in March 1954, after more than seven years of fighting between French forces and Giap’s Viet Minh anti-colonial communist revolutionaries. The French, looking to draw the Viet Minh into a decisive engagement, had parachuted thousands of soldiers into an airbase located in a valley in north-western Vietnam, on the border with Laos. They were unaware, however, that Giap too was looking for a knockout blow, and that his forces had acquired heavy artillery pieces. Despite the extraordinary difficulty of moving these around the jungle, Giap managed to ring Dien Bien Phu with men and heavy guns, placed on the high ground overlooking the airbase. When the artillery fire began raining down at the beginning of March it became clear that the French were sitting ducks. Related Articles Vietnam's 'Red Napoleon' Vo Nguyen Giap dies aged 102 04 Oct 2013 For two months they resisted, fending off incursions which came between each new barrage. But on May 1 the Viet Minh launched a huge offensive, and within a week overran French positions. The last words of the radio operator before being cut off were: “Vive la France!” More than 11,000 men were taken prisoner; fewer than 4,000 returned to France alive. This shattering defeat forced France to the negotiating table, with talks beginning on May 8, one day after the garrison’s surrender. The result was a Vietnam split into a communist north and French-backed south. Though this division was supposed to be temporary, and the last French forces withdrew in 1956, South Vietnam immediately found a new sponsor – and Giap a new enemy – in the United States. Vo Nguyen Giap was born on August 25 1911 in Quang Binh province in what is now central Vietnam but what was then, along with Laos and Cambodia, the French protectorate of Indo-China. His father was a literate farmer who sent Giap to the French college at Hue. Giap’s nationalism – a key characteristic throughout his life that saw him resist overt interference from either Moscow or Beijing – emerged early. He was in his mid-teens when he joined the underground Newannam movement, which called for a unified, independent Vietnam, and he was arrested for fomenting revolution before his 18th birthday. After his release from several months in jail, he attended the University of Hanoi, and while he studied Politics and Law he taught history at a private school, where his deep knowledge of military strategy, and of Napoleon’s battles in particular, impressed his students. It was while he was in Hanoi that Giap joined the Indo-Chinese Communist Party, which had been founded by Ho Chi Minh in 1930. Throughout the 1930s he read widely, deepening his knowledge of military strategy and earning a living as a journalist and from teaching. In 1939 the Communist Party was banned by the French authorities, and Giap fled into exile in China, leaving behind his wife and members of his family, some of whom died after being locked up and tortured in French jails. It was in China that he met Ho Chi Minh, and in 1941 they together rebranded the Indo-Chinese Communist Party to form the Vietnam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoa (the League for the Independence of Vietnam) — better known as the Viet Minh. Ho appointed Giap his military leader and, with the support of China, Giap prepared to lead an army back into Indo-China, which Japanese forces had been occupying since the start of the Second World War. The Viet Minh guerrilla campaign against Japan began at the end of 1944, and Giap’s fighting men quickly forged a working alliance with American forces, sharing intelligence and helping to shelter US pilots who had been shot down. Soon after the Japanese surrender, the Viet Minh proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and named Ho Chi Minh President and Giap Minister of the Interior. In elections in January 1946, the Viet Minh won 230 out of 300 seats in the new state’s national assembly. France, however, refused to cede its colonial possessions and, while in theory recognising the Democratic Republic, in fact continued to exert a powerful economic influence in the country that amounted to a rival administration. By December 1946 this uneasy arrangement had exploded into conflict, with Ho calling for the French to be expelled in a national war of resistance. Once again Giap was given the job of leading Ho’s army. This time, however, his task was more than to harass an army in retreat, as the Viet Minh had done with the Japanese. Instead, Giap had to mobilise, equip and drill an army capable of taking on a highly-trained Western opponent. To do so he produced a handbook on guerrilla tactics, published in 1962 under the title People’s War, People’s Army. This encouraged his soldiers to cultivate the loyalty of locals, without whose support victory would be impossible, and always to engage the enemy at a time of their choosing. “The enemy may outnumber you 10 to one,” he advised, “but if you compel him to disperse his forces widely you may outnumber him 10 to one locally, wherever you choose to attack him.” The most important quality he tried to instil was patience. Time, he counselled, would inevitably stretch the resources and morale of a colonial occupier. For Giap, meanwhile, the “cause” was more important that the fate of individuals. Absorbing huge losses was not a concern. After all, he noted, “every minute thousands of men died all over the world”. His plan to sap the French was divided into three stages: guerrilla skirmishes; concerted battles; all-out counter-offensive. By 1951, having spent five years in guerrilla attacks, Giap moved into stage two. By 1953, as France wearied of war, he had moved into stage three and prepared for Dien Bien Phu. But by 1956, following the French withdrawal, Ho and Giap’s dreams of a united, independent Vietnam appeared as distant as ever when the new American-backed president of South Vietnam refused to call the national elections that had been part of the ceasefire deal after Dien Bien Phu. Vietnam’s “temporary” division appeared to become permanent, and nationalists in the South went into hiding and mobilised as the guerrilla Viet Cong. Over the next decade, as America intensified its military aid to the South’s government in Saigon, so Giap increased aid to the Viet Cong. Finally, in 1965, America committed hundreds of thousands of troops and launched an air campaign against the North. Giap, in turn, dispatched troops to fight in the South, led by Nguyen Chi Thanh, though Giap remained in overall command. While Thanh sought decisive engagements, Giap once again counselled patience, taunting America as early as 1967 that its Army was bogged down in an unwinnable war. When Thanh was killed that year, Giap took direct command of the campaign against America in South Vietnam and within months had pulled off another tactical masterstroke. This came in early 1968, when he appeared to be mustering his forces for a Dien Bien Phu-style ambush on an American fortress at Khe Sanh during the lunar New Year, or Tet. But as America reinforced Khe Sanh, Giap’s men instead launched a general attack on a host of targets across the South. The Tet Offensive, as it became known, did not sweep America from Vietnam or force its diplomats immediately to the negotiating table. But with Tet, Giap, a man who barely stood 5ft tall, had forced a fundamental change in attitudes to the Vietnam War in America, where commitment to the conflict soon began to crack. The level of Giap’s contribution to the planning of the Tet offensive has since been disputed, with reports of wrangling over detail between him and his senior commanders. But its effect is not in doubt. Peace talks began in Paris the following year. It would be another four years, punctuated by a series of bloody campaigns, before the last American troops left Vietnam. Even without American military financial backing, which was swiftly suspended, anti-communist forces in South Vietnam continued to fight. But, under Giap’s guidance and – for once – with the odds very much on their side, communist forces eventually swept into Saigon in the spring of 1975, proclaiming the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Giap was named Defence Minister and, the following year, Deputy Prime Minister. But his influence with the Communist Party never matched his own popular standing and, following his departure from the defence ministry in 1980, he was removed from the Politburo in 1982. He retained his position as Deputy Prime Minister and served on the Central Committee until 1991. Some analysts have suggested that his fiery temperament and his greater devotion to uniting Vietnam than to the global anti-capitalist cause stymied his rise. Vo Nguyen Giap’s first wife, a fellow communist, died in a French prison after he had fled to China in 1939. For the past three years he had been living in a military hospital in Hanoi, and he is survived by his second wife, Dang Bich Ha, whom he married in 1949, and four children. General Vo Nguyen Giap, born August 25 1911, died October 4 2013
  11. Ooops. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7097101.stm [ Thursday, 15 November 2007] BBC British nukes were protected by bike locks By Meirion Jones Newsnight producer Newsnight report Newsnight has discovered that until the early days of the Blair government the RAF's nuclear bombs were armed by turning a bicycle lock key. There was no other security on the Bomb itself ... While American and Russian weapons were protected by tamper-proof combination locks which could only be released if the correct code was transmitted, Britain relied on a simpler technology. The Dr Strangelove scenario The British military resisted Whitehall proposals to fit bombs with Permissive Action Links - or PALs - which would prevent them being armed unless the right code was sent. President Kennedy ordered that every American nuclear bomb should be fitted with a PAL. The correct code had to be transmitted by the US Chiefs of Staff and dialled into the Bomb before it could be armed otherwise it would not detonate ... Safeguards Crews in missile silos also had a dual key arrangement so one man could not launch Armageddon. They are familiar from numerous Hollywood films such as Broken Arrow with John Travolta, The Peacemaker with Nicole Kidman and various James Bond films ... Under control Papers at the National Archive show that as early as 1966 an attempt was made to impose PAL security on British nuclear weapons. The Chief Scientific Adviser Solly Zuckerman formally advised the Defence Secretary Denis Healey that Britain needed to install Permissive Action Links on its nuclear weapons to keep them safe. "The Government will need to be certain that any weapons deployed are under some form of 'ironclad' control". The Royal Navy argued that officers of the Royal Navy as the Senior Service could be trusted: "It would be invidious to suggest... that Senior Service officers may, in difficult circumstances, act in defiance of their clear orders". Neither the Navy nor the RAF installed PAL protection on their nuclear weapons. The RAF kept their unsafeguarded bombs at airbases until they were withdrawn in 1998. Bicycle lock key With the help of Brian Burnell - a researcher into the history of the British nuclear weapons programme who once designed bomb casings for atom bombs - Newsnight tracked down a training version of the WE 177 nuclear bomb at the Bristol Aero collection at Kemble. Tornado and earlier V-bomber crews trained with these, which were identical in every way to the live bombs except for the nuclear warhead. To arm the weapons you just open a panel held by two captive screws - like a battery cover on a radio - using a thumbnail or a coin. Inside are the arming switch and a series of dials which you can turn with an Allen key to select high yield or low yield, air burst or groundburst and other parameters. The Bomb is actually armed by inserting a bicycle lock key into the arming switch and turning it through 90 degrees. There is no code which needs to be entered or dual key system to prevent a rogue individual from arming the Bomb.
  12. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/exclusive-met-investigating-rupert-murdoch-firm-news-international-as-corporate-suspect-over-hacking-and-bribing-offences-8771560.html
  13. But who decides what is a correct word to begin or end a sentence with?! Has Michael Gove provided Exam Boards with his 'Times' Style Book from his former job? Have examiners been given sufficient training to even be consistent in their new role as grammar police?
  14. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/jingoistic-and-illegal--what-teachers-think-of-michael-goves-national-curriculum-reforms-8656120.html “THE INDEPENDENT ‘Jingoistic and illegal’ – what teachers think of Michael Gove's national curriculum reforms Over 100 historians claim Education Secretary’s plan ‘lacks balance and promotes political views’ RICHARD GARNER WEDNESDAY 12 JUNE 2013 Education Secretary Michael Gove is flouting the law over his plans to revamp the national curriculum, a group of history teachers will warn tomorrow. In a letter to The Independent signed by more than 100 teachers from a variety of schools - including independent, grammar and comprehensive, they claim the draft plan are a breach of their legal duty to avoid “the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school”. The draft proposals place an emphasis of “how Britain influenced the world” and say five to seven-year-olds should be “taught about the concept and of a nation's history”. The bias, they add, “is also evident in more subtle ways such as its handling of slavery... which is listed (in the document) as 'the slave trade and the abolition of slavery', implicitly giving equal weight to the two.” However, the history teachers have been more incensed by what they perceive to be the “jingoistic” way Mr Gove and Prime Minister David Cameron have promoted their plans. In a speech Mr Cameron talked of teaching about “our island story in all its glory” while Mr Gove spoke of portraying Britain as “a beacon of liberty for others to emulate”. Katherine Edwards, one of the signatories, said: “The rhetoric has been extremely bellicose. ”I think pupils will feel switched off by history if these proposals go through - partly because they will feel they are having a particular agenda forced on them. “The proposals are very dry and certain sections of the community will feel excluded - ethnic minority groups and girls even.” The signatories include author and retired history teacher John Clare and Oxford University porofessor of history Robert Evans. The letter says the proposals fall “fall well short of the requirement to be 'balanced and broadly based' set out in the Education Act of 2002. The proposals have already been attacked by many eminent historians such as Simon Schama, who acted as an adviser the the Government on the national curriculum. He called the final draft ”insulting and offensive“ in remarks at the recent Hay Literary Festival said it was like ”1066 and all that - but without the jokes“. He said the proposals were too focussed on white males with too much emphasis on how Britain had influenced the world. In particular he singled out the inclusion of Clive of India, who established the supremacy of the East India company in 18th century Bengal and whom he described as a ”sociopathic, corrupt thug“ who made ”our dodgy bankers look like a combination of Mary Poppins and Jesus Christ“. In their letter, the teachers describe the inclusion of individual such as Mary Seacole, the black nurse in the Crimean War who was included after a campaign by historians, as having ”rightly been described as a garnishing of tokenism by... Professor Schama“ . They say the Department for Education ”has not made a serious attempt to refute or address the charge of political bias“ and that Mr Gove has branded his critics ”Marxists“ and ”Lefties“. ”We therefore consider that there are strong grounds for believing that this curriculum, should it be implemented and any further changes to the history of teaching which seek to impose a political bias or flout the requirement for breadth and balance, would be unlawful,“ they conclude. A spokeswoman for the Department for Education added: “It is absolutely absurd to claim that teaching the history of Britain is illegal or politically biased.” Mr Gove, in a recent speech to state schools heads, did indicate he was reviewing the proposals and that the final draft would include a commitment to studying elements of foreign history in detail. This week's review of the GCSE syllabus gives a commitment to spending 40 per cent of time on British history and 25 per cent on overseas.” ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ I always think it's a good test of whether something is nonsense is if you insert the word 'not' into it, and see if it makes much difference. Actually, in this case, it seems actually to make more sense if you read it as “It is NOT absolutely absurd to claim that teaching the history of Britain is illegal or politically biased.” - assuming that we remember, as clearly the spokeswoman obviously didn't, that we're considering a possible future History syllabus, not the current one.
  15. Out of the scores of things that are wrong with the proposed Programme of Study, I'm pleased that Simon Schama singled out the inclusion of 'Robert Clive' - for its crass insensitivity. One of a number of questions I sent via my MP to the Department of Education: 'Was the Curriculum team aware that the term 'Indian Mutiny' is not used in India, or even, I imagine, by most historians?'
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