Saturday, 28 February 2015

Rugby League Restructured for 2015 season

Since the creation of Super League there have been various different formats and the 2015 season sees another one. This one will have promotion and relegation which has to be a positive but the split halfway through the season is confusing.

Why is the competition restructuring taking place? - The fundamental purpose of the new structure is to make Rugby League’s professional competitions more exciting, by restoring promotion and relegation in a sustainable manner.

What will the leagues be called in 2015? - In the regular season, the First Utility Super League and Kingstone Press Championship will retain their current names – the only change will be that the third tier competition will become Kingstone Press League 1.

How many clubs will be in each competition? - Super League and the Championship will each feature 12 teams and Kingstone Press League 1 will comprise 14 clubs.

How will the identity of the clubs in all three competitions be determined? - At the end of the 2014 regular season the bottom two clubs in Super League will be relegated to create a 12-team competition. At the same time, the bottom five clubs in the Championship will be relegated, and the Championship One winners will be promoted to create a 12-team Championship.

The five relegated Championship clubs and the eight remaining Championship Once clubs will be joined by new entrants Coventry Bears to create a 14-team League 1.

The confusing bit -

How will the new competitions work for Super League and the Championship? - The 12 Super League clubs play each other twice, home and away, during the regular season (22 fixtures) plus one fixture at Magic Weekend. The 12 Championship clubs will also play 23 matches, home and away plus one fixture at the Summer Bash.

After playing 23 fixtures, the 24 Super League and Championship clubs will split into three groups – the Super 8s – based on league positions. The top eight will continue as Super League, the middle eight will be the Qualifiers and the third eight will be the Championship Shield.

How will the Super 8s work? - Clubs will each play seven fixtures on a league basis. Clubs which have performed strongest in their respective competitions in the regular season will be rewarded with four fixtures as follows: the top four Super League clubs will play four home matches; in the Qualifiers, the team finishing ninth and 10th in Super League and the top two teams from the Championship will have four home matches; and in the Championship Shield, clubs finishing the regular Championship season in 5th to 8th place will have four home fixtures.

In Super League and Championship Shield, the competing clubs will carry over the points and scoring records from the regular season into the Super 8s. The Qualifiers will start with zero points because the eight clubs are drawn from two different competitions.

Conclusion - We shall see how it works out. Rugby League has stagnated a bit as it tries to find a space in amongst all the other sports. But it has also always innovated from turning professional when it was created, to frequent rule changes and has even switched from playing in the winter to the summer. I suspect this change won't be permanent save for the promotion and relegation aspect.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Massive energy boost go-ahead given

"Alternative energy boost after the Government gave the go-ahead for the world’s largest offshore wind farm to be built in UK waters. The £8bn scheme is for 400 turbines to be erected 80 miles off the Yorkshire coast, covering 430 square miles of Dogger Bank. The turbines – which are likely to be 600ft tall – are expected to generate enough energy to power 1.8 million homes."

From "The Week"

It's ambitious and the technology needs to get way way better but it's a big vision with big potential and we have got rather shy at attempting grand projects. At least you won't be able to see them. If they are 80 miles off the coast.

Nuclear fission remains the dream though.

Need more houses - start with the 610,000 existing empty homes

2014 Government data on empty properties suggests that there are about 610,000 empty homes in England. The Government data is derived from individual local authority council tax base data which is a snapshot of the position in October 2014. They are the most accurate figures available but by no means complete.

The latest Government data also records over 200,000 long-term empty homes (that is homes empty over six months).

Given the rapid and continued growth of the UK population from immigration and high birth rates housing pressures have further risen. This is worsened by generally low levels of new house builds and a relatively poor overall housing stock. The planning regime is also difficult and made more so by the fact we are a geographically small land mass with lots of people and lots of issues as a result.

But as the about facts show, before concreting over what's left of our green fields with millions more new build houses of dubious quality why don't we try bringing back into use hundreds of thousands of abandoned buildings.

Some local authorities are trying to do this and are beginning to get some central government support. It still seems to be at a nascent stage though.

See the Empty Homes Agency website for more details.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

An unsurprising stat

A letter to ponder sent to The Guardian by Partha Dasgupta, Frank Ramsey professor emeritus of economics, University of Cambridge:-

Your lead story, about a finding by the Institute for Fiscal Studies that young workers in the UK’s private sector are among the biggest victims of falling living standards, should not surprise anyone familiar with an old economic finding that real wages don’t rise in a sector facing an unlimited supply of labour.

In recent months, those of us who worry greatly about the unbalanced economic growth that government policies here have given rise to, have been told repeatedly on the pages of The Guardian that unrestricted immigration from within the EU to the lower rungs of the service industry imposes no cost to our economy. To question it has been deemed a “right-wing” position. The caricature serves the interest of the wealthy because we like our lattes to be served by energetic workers from the EU, employed at rock-bottom wages.

But a systematic policy of pampering the wealthy, be they domestic or foreign, allied to a callous disregard of the interest of our own young, has led to the economic polarisation we see today. No amount of “Left” versus “Right” rhetoric should allow us to duck the question of whether we care about our young and their futures.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

China’s other “Great Wall”

The Great Green Wall: a long-term solution?

From "the week"

China is currently running what may be the largest ecological engineering project in the world – and the Great Green Wall seems to be working, reports the New Scientist. In 1978, the Chinese began planting millions of trees to create a giant windbreak across the country’s arid north, and halt the expansion of the Gobi Desert. The project is not due for completion until 2050 – by which time more than 100 billion trees will have been planted – but the latest research suggests it is already taking effect. “Vegetation has improved and dust storms have decreased significantly in the Great Green Wall region, compared with other areas,” said Minghong Tan of Beijing’s Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research.

Storms from the Gobi and Taklamakan deserts blow the top soil off land – regularly shrouding Beijing in dust – and leading to desertification. However, many experts remain unconvinced that covering grassland in an artificial forest is an appropriate long-term solution, not least because trees soak up so much ground water. More than a quarter of China is either desert or suffering from desertification.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Alibaba launches drone delivery test in China

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is testing a drone delivery system, starting Wednesday. The tests will be run in three Chinese cities — Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. About 450 customers of Alibaba's Taobao service will receive a package of ginger tea in the one-time tests. Even if successful, the experiment won't mean widespread drone delivery any time soon, as Chinese regulators limit drone flights for security reasons. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also is developing plans for drone deliveries.

Source: Fortune