Saturday, 4 August 2007

Foot and Mouth Returns to the UK

An outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease has been discovered on a Surrey farm close to Wanborough. Sixty animals at the farm tested positive and they have been slaughtered. Gordon Brown, in an interview for Radio4, said that the mistakes of the previous outbreak in 2001, would not be repeated. In 2001, it took days after the first reported outbreak for there to be a ban placed on the movement of all cloven-hoofed animals in England and Wales. Scottish countryside is still, "open," but farmers are being asked to be vigilant.

Foot and Mouth disease is highly contagious and can be spread by direct contact with an infected animal, by contact with foodstuff or it can be airborne. For this reason,
a 3km protection zone has been put in place around the Surrey farm. There is also a 10km surveillance zone where nearby animals are monitored, as well as an 8km air exclusion zone around the site.

Foot and Mouth disease is rarely fatal for adult animals. It does have serious economic implications for farming and for tourism. In the 2001 outbreak, the worst hit area was Cumbria, where there were over 800 cases of the disease found. There were severe restrictions on access to the countryside, which had huge effects on the Lake District where tourism is a very important industry.

By the time the outbreak had been halted, over 7 million animals had been slaughtered and the cost to Britain was estimated at over £8bn.

Wikipedia 2001 UK Foot and Mouth Crisis

With vaccines, introduced in 1938, and sanitary controls, foot-and-mouth disease has been excluded or eliminated from North and Central America, Australia and New Zealand , Japan, and Ireland. One of the biggest problems with vaccination is that there are at least seven strains of the virus, and vaccination is specific to particular strains. Also, countries which are FMD free without vaccination have the greatest access to export markets and so, many countries like Canada, the USA and Britain attempt to maintain their FMD free without vaccination status.

Because FMD rarely infects humans but spreads rapidly among animals, it is a much greater threat to the agriculture industry than to human health. Farmers around the world can lose huge amounts of money during a foot-and-mouth epidemic, when large numbers of animals are destroyed and revenues from milk and meat production go down."

So, we've had the floods in Britain and now comes the pestilence! Not a good year for British tourism, really; first the rain and now possibly no-go areas in some of the most popular areas for visitors.

The scenes during the 2001 outbreak of FMD are still vivid in the memory. Rural Britain took on a totally uncharacteristic nature. The fields were empty. Driving through countryside where you would have expected to see cattle in the fields and sheep on the hillsides, there was not an animal in sight. Thick, acrid smoke drifting across the fields and roads was choking reminder of what had happened to all those animals. Sheep and cattle were killed, then heaped into enormous piles in the fields, doused with accelerant and incinerated. It was thought by many that the fumes from the pyres contained toxic gases.

I don't think my diet will be affected by the restrictions on the movement of cattle and other farm animals. The lack of animals going to market and then to the slaughterhouses will not make any difference to me, since I have been vegetarian for many years. I do feel sad about the possibility of the culling of thousands of animals, or even millions, as in the 2001 outbreak, the empty fields and the burning of the bodies. Just over 2,000 animals tested positive for FMD in 2001, yet over 7 million were slaughtered. It's about economics, of course, since there have been very few recorded cases world-wide, of humans being affected by FMD. Apparently the virus is killed off by stomach acid in humans.

Perhaps if there is no plan to change intensive farming methods, and let's face it, intensive farming is here to stay, the British government should be considering a vaccination programme. There are definite problems with a vaccination programme; identifying the strains of the virus, having less access to export markets, but surely the cost to animal life and to the livelihood of people who work in farming, tourism and associated industries, would render this a very good option.

Meanwhile, that sighting in Belgium, a missing Swiss girl and renewed search of Robert Murat's house.

Most of the UK daily newspapers, as well as the online news channels, carried carried the story on Friday August 3rd, about that sighting in Belgium. A child therapist is reported to have said that she is 100% sure that she saw Madeleine in a restaurant.

Sky News

She was 100% sure it was Madeleine and is a trusted witness. She works with children and noticed something unusual, that is why we are taking it seriously."

The police have taken a drinks bottle, which the child used, for DNA testing, the results of which will be available next week.

In the journal Typically Spanish, I came across an article about a missing five year-old Swiss girl.

Police check possible links between Madeline McCann and the Swiss girl, Ylenia Lenhard"

Typically Spanish

If you look at the photo of the Swiss child posted to the Typically Spanish article, you will see that there is some resemblance to Madeleine McCann. I am not sure at the moment of the date of the sighting in Belgium, because I seem to have read conflicting reports about dates, but I wonder if the child seen in the Belgian restaurant was the little Swiss girl? Similar in many ways to Madeleine, but probably quite a bit taller as Madeleine's height is reported as being 90cm, small for a four year-old. This may be why the waitress described the child at the restaurant as being aged 5-6 years old.

Meanwhile! The BBC reports that today, Saturday August 4th, there is a renewed search at the home of the chief suspect, Robert Murat.

Police in Portugal investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann have renewed their search of the home of 33-year-old Briton Robert Murat.

Up to 10 officers returned to the home of the only official suspect in the case, in Praia da Luz, in the Algarve."

The investigation appears to be taking on a totally different emphasis this weekend, or maybe it just appears to be so, since the Potuguese police have maintained silence about most of the investigation so far. Kate and Gerry are in Spain, handing out leaflets, the Portuguese police are searching Murat's home and sniffer dogs, according to Sol, have, "marked," the death of the child inside the apartment where the family had been staying on the night Madeleine disappeared. Are Kate and Gerry living in La La Land?

Sol Article August 4th. Madeleine Thought To Be Dead

I have lifted the translation of an article in the journal Sol, straight off the pages of the Daily Mirror forum, with thanks to Astro for the translation. I am copying and pasting the translation in its entirety.

"In Sol on August 4, 2007:

A report by Felicia Cabrita with Margarida Davim
(Translation by astro)

Looking for Maddie’s body

The investigations have returned to their initial course. Portuguese and british police search for the body of the child in the surroundings of Praia da Luz

“There are strong signs” that Madeleine, the english child that disappeared from Praia da Luz almost one hundred days ago, “is dead”, police sources have told Sol.

The 180º turnaround that the investigation by the Policia Judiciaria (PJ) from Portimao seems to have done in the past few days, even led the Attorney General, Pinto Monteiro, to postpone the making of an interview that had been requested by british media chain BBC – an interview that would be focusing on the fact that, so long after Maddie’s disapperance, the authorities still remain without real clues concerning her whereabouts.

Although an official source from the PGR justified the postponing of the interview with “agenda issues”, the moves by the PJ and some elements from the british police during these last days – accompanied by two dogs, in Praia da Luz – seem to indicate that the investigation is now centered on the McCann family and their group of friends.

Sol could find out that the english dogs are trained for different tasks. One, to detect human remains originating from dead flesh, and the other one to detect human blood or fluids. A specialist that was contacted by Sol explains that the technique of these animals rests on scientific bases, and that while “one of the dogs can distinguish between natural death or death by accident that does not involve bloodshed, the other one can diagnose whether someone died a violent death, with bloodshed or other spilled fluids”.

Tuesday night, a black and white cocker spaniel that is trained to detect death, spent several hours in the apartment that the McCann family occupied in the Ocean Club resort, and from where Maddie disappeared on May 3. According to sources within the investigation, the dog marked the death of the child inside the apartment.

On the dogs’ trail

The english dogs do not contradict the clues that were detected by the sniffer dog that GNR sent to the location, on the day following the english girl’s disappearance. It’s an animal that only follows odours, and that “detected the movement of the child from the room to another point inside the apartment”, according to a source with the Guarda.

The same source said that “based on that signal, it was not possible to conclude whether the child was alive or dead – because a sniffer dog will smell both the living and the dead”.

Yet, outside the house, both through the windows that faced the Tapas restaurant – where the McCanns had dinner with their seven friends – and through the main door, “the dog lost the trail, as if the child had exited, for example, rolled up in a blanket”, that source said.

A team from Sol, on the terrain for the last two weeks, could observe the work of the cocker spaniel from the british police, performing several diligences along the water in Praia da Luz and in a nearby valley.

The animal’s path, on Wednesday night, seemed to test the deposition from several witnesses that were heard by the PJ in late May – namely an irish family that have been living in Luz, and who, on the day that Maddie vanished, reportedly crossed ways with a man that carried a child that seemed to be asleep.

According to their deposition to PJ, Martin Smith, his wife and his children, after leaving the Kelly bar, which is located approximately 400 metres from the Ocean Club, around 9.50 / 10.00 p.m., saw an individual described as caucasian, measuring 1.70 – 1.75 m, walking towards the beach.

The irish man told Sol that he knew Robert Murat (the only arguido in the process) visually for years – and also remembered seeing the anglo-portuguese man in a bar that evening, “already a bit intoxicated”. Therefore, the irish dismissed the possibility that the person he saw carrying a child could be Murat: “If it was him, I guarantee to you that I would have recognized him”.

Concerning the clothes the man he saw on that night was wearing, Smith only refers the “beige trousers”, given the fact that his upper body was hidden by the child’s body, which was not covered. It is curious that one of the elements that formed the group of Maddie’s parents’ friends, guaranteed to PJ several days before Smith was heard, that - at a moment when she left the table to check on the group’s children - she had crossed ways with a man that was wearing trousers that fit the description that was also made by the irish man.

That individual was also carrying a sleeping child. And the witness, who even managed to see what pyjamas the child was wearing, just “thought it was strange that the child was barefoot and uncovered”. This witness said it would be 9.15 p.m.

Direct access to the PM

According to the course the PJ from Portimao is now conducting the investigation, and considering the trail that the british police’s cocker spaniel tracked along the sea shore, the individual would have descended to Praia da Luz, where he could have disposed of Maddie’s body. Sol knows that the english team contacted Joao Alveirinho Dias, a professor at the University of Algarve and a specialist in oceanography, in order to collect information about the sea’s dynamics and the beach area where everything may have happened. The investigator, who was not briefed about the context of the police inquiries, told Sol that he was consulted on “the sand movements, where they come from and where they go to”.

The police investigation has therefore, and according to our sources, returned to its initial course, and it becomes increasingly clear, as Sol had reported previously, that there is no proof against Murat.

Yet, the british media continue to point a finger at the anglo-portuguese man, although the criminal investigation has returned to clues that relate to the group of friends of Madeleine’s parents.

A journalist with the Daily Express – who has repeatedly contacted Sol searching for new information on this case – recognized this week that it is “difficult for an english newspaper to adopt a critical tone concerning Madeleine’s parents”.

The Daily Express cited, in one of its last reports, the news that have been published by Sol, describing them as a “hate campaign” against the McCanns. The same journalist ended up confessing that “it’s the only way we can transmit your data”.

Sol knows that Gerry McCann has regular contact with Gordon Brown, the british Prime Minister. Clarence Mitchell – who was the first spokesman for the McCanns and is now in the press cabinet at Nr. 10, Downing Street – confirms those contacts. “I know there is a communication line between Gerry and Gordon Brown. I know they talk. But I don’t know what they talk about, because those are informal conversations”, he clarified, further adding: “The Madeleine case is treated whenever there are bilateral meetings between Portugal and the United Kingdom. Gordon Brown is sensitive to the case and wants it solved quickly”.

The above article reports that one of the specially trained sniffer dogs, "marked," the death of Madeleine inside the apartment. Also, I note that a professor of Oceanography has been asked about the movements of the sand around Praia de Luz and the sniffer dogs have been seen along the edge of the sea.

I have not read this anywhere else and I have no way of knowing how reliable Sol's police contacts are, but this is very worrying news. I really don't feel that I can add anything in the way of comment to the above Sol article. I have remained hopeful that little Madeleine would be found safe and well, but this most recent development, if reported accurately by Sol, does not leave a great deal of room for hope. Maybe, like the hope left in Pandora's box, my hope has been delusional.

On my travels real and virtual!

I love going to Stratford-Upon-Avon, even though nowadays it's becoming like all the other clone towns; all those multi-national chain stores. And the cafes and restaurants! There's one that calls itself a traditional English tea house that looks more like something you'd find on the Boulevard Montparnasse. Then there's Cafe Uno and most of the other chain coffee houses are represented. Could be anywhere, really, except for the signs to Shakespeare's birthplace and the theatres that remind you that you really are in the bard's home town. Thank goodness for the few little specialist shops that are left there, like the wonderful, "Paxton and Whitfield Cheesemonger's."

Well, I was doing my usual trot round the market, looking for bargains on the fruit and veg stalls, when I spied something that even from a distance looked like special food goodies. And let me tell you, it was! I found this delightful Italian man selling the most delectable little cakes, called pasticceria. There's no way I can describe these delights properly and give you an idea of just how enticing they look. There's, Limoncello Cream Bigne, Little Swans Chantilly Cream, Truffle Moka Coffee, Cannoli Siciliani, Panna Cotta Cream Caramel, and lots more wonders. If you live in Solihull you can have these cakes delivered! Unfortunately, the web site is under construction, but as soon as it is up and running, I shall post some pics!

So, onto my virtual travels. In my quest for news items about Madeleine McCann, I have strayed into some really weird (well, I think so!) territory! I found an article on Ben Fairhall's blog about, "The Potter and The Magdalene."

Ben Fairhall Blogspot

"Just what manner of ritual is it, that unites the most powerful energies in the world to its cause? In which mere superstars- Ronaldo, the Beckhams- are dwarfed by the globe-spanning giants of religion and politics; and a writer so effulgently successful as to hold the mind of millions in her capacious grip? The one and only JKR, whose stellar career is forged on lies; and whose greatest feat of characterisation is unquestionably her own self-mythology. Like claiming that the books were all mapped out in her head long before writing the first; which, considering how closely The Half-Blood Prince mirrors 'security' fears propelled by the War On Terror, would require either Nostradamus-like foresight; or else a degree of foreknowledge that even wild-eyed conspiraloons would rightly scoff at."

Fairhall explains later on why he says that JK's career is forged on lies. I'm not sure if he's being serious. Sometimes I am just naive, I suppose.

Looking down the list of links on the right of the page, I found things the like of which, in my naivete you understand, I have not encountered before, all together in one place. There's lots of links to sites about the Freemasons and Freemasonry. I can now do all sorts of secret handshakes and signs. There's links to conspiracy theories, including forums and you can read about David Icke. I learned that the Illuminati are all lizards who want to eat the rest of us. I think I'm alright because I don't think I know any Illuminati, though you never know! How do you tell if someone is really an alien lizard?

I was very brave this evening! Well almost, since I did turn off the volume on my computer before I did the brave thing! I visited the Find Madeleine site to see what Gerry might be saying in today's blag, I mean, blog! None today! No blagging or blogging. Must be still poorly with the, "probable virus."

There's a rumour going around on the Mirror forum tonight that Chair13, she who thinks it would be hilarious if someone's child was abducted, has been made a moderator of the forum. The natives are restless, to say the least! Cat3 is behaving like the cat that got the cream! I guess she thinks it's buddy-buddy time for her with the mods now. Well, I guess it might be that old cliche about being friends with the crocodile in the hope that it will eat you last.

It must be gettin late now, the cats are coming in and choosing their beds, the drunks are beginning to stumble out of the local community club and I will be clearing the McDonald's litter as usual from the garden tomorrow morning!

Good night all, from my big desk!