Beef Chimichangas


Prep time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 1 hour 45 mins
 (serves 2)


  • 200g beef brisket
  • 1 tbsp butter 
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/4 tsp cumin 
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 50g Mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 2 large flour tortillas 
  • oil, for brushing
  • a dollop each, of tomato salsa, sour cream, guacamole, to serve


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Boil the brisket until the meat comes apart easily, (about one and a half hours). When cooked, shred the meat.
2. In a pan heat butter and sauté onions and tomatoes for
3 minutes. Add the shredded beef and season with cumin,
salt and pepper. Sauté for 5 minutes then let the meat cool. Mix in cheese.
3. Place half of the mixture in each tortilla and fold the tortillas completely. Brush tortilla wraps with oil and bake for about 5 minutes.
4. Serve with tomato salsa, sour cream and guacamole.

Thailand Seeks Flood Prevention Plan As Bangkok Clean-up Operation Continues


Now the car parks have been cleared of crocodiles and the store room emptied of cobras, the managers at one of Thailand's biggest electronics companies have begun reclaiming their factory from Bangkok's worst flood in a century and wondering what more they can do to prevent the climate wreaking similar havoc in the future.

Cleaners scrub the floor with chemical cleaning agents, workers rip mouldy tiles from the ceilings and engineers try to salvage what equipment they can at the Hana Microelectronics factory.

Production is expected to resume any day. But it will not be business as usual for many months, if ever. Looming over this clean-up operation – like countless others in homes, businesses and government offices in the Thai capital – is a concern that such disasters will strike with more frequency in the future unless the human flaws and climate risks are addressed more seriously.

"The big question from our customers is: 'Will it flood again?'" said Worawit Sriburanasorn, a senior manager at Hana who fought the waters with diesel pumps and protective walls.

It is a question on many minds as Thai policymakers consider issues that are likely to affect other countries in the future: whether to build stronger defences, move to higher ground or otherwise adapt to the risks posed by political mismanagement and a changing climate.

"We are on the frontline of climate change. As we see rising temperatures, more rain and a higher sea level, Bangkok will be very vulnerable," said Seree Supratid, a professor at Rangsit University and government adviser.

"In the talks in Cancun and Durban, they just talk about reducing greenhouse gases, but the disasters are already here. We should shift the emphasis from mitigation to adaptation."

Almost five months have passed since the flooding began in the northern hills of Thailand and then spread slowly down through the central plains to inundate swaths of Bangkok, killing more than 500 people, affecting 12 million others and disrupting business at some of the planet's biggest industrial parks. The World Bank estimates the damage at 1.4tn baht (£29bn), making it one of the costliest disasters in human history.

The stories from the flood are still emerging. Among the most dramatic is that of Hana Microelectronics, which is a key supplier of sensors and chips for Apple's iPhone and also makes widgets, smart-card readers and touch pads for Samsung, Texas Instruments and Motorola.

When its Ayutthaya plant was deluged, the discovery of two crocodiles in the car park and a cobra in a store room disconcerted the staff, but the potential disruption to production caused global consternation. Apple was so worried that it offered helicopters to airlift the 100m chips inside.

The government dispatched the Thai navy to ferry 450 pieces of heavy machinery to an alternative factory so that manufacturing could resume. Even so, there was a gap of about two weeks.

Richard Han, the chief executive officer, estimated the damage to his plants and equipment at more than $30m (£19m). Lost business could cost three times as much again.

"Most of my customers will come back but they won't bring all their business back," he said. He too will move some production to an expanded operation in China to hedge against future floods.

"One thing we know is that unprecedented weather events are now happening on a regular basis. Add to that gross mismanagement and a lack of infrastructure and it is clear that the government are going to have to prepare better," he said. "My big worry is that insurers may not accept flood insurance any more. That could be a trigger for the Thai government to step in. If not, we'd have to build up reserves and self insure."

Elsewhere, several districts were still underwater as the end of the year approached. Near Don Muang airport, the motorway resembled a river with trucks, buses and jeeps leaving a wake behind them as they slowly navigated through the water.

On Buddhamonthon Road in West Bangkok, people were camping on bridges with their belongings stacked under tarpaulin. Some had lost everything. Uthai Muangpor was wading in a waist-deep pool that had once been the hospital car park where she ran a grilled banana kiosk. "I'm looking for my stove and pans," she said. "When the flood come, everything I owned floated away. I didn't have any valuables. But now even my clothes and mattress are gone."

The extent to which climate change is to blame is hard to quantify. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says Bangkok is one of the most vulnerable cities in the world because it sits on a flood plain and has been periodically inundated for centuries. It also suffers from severe subsidence and is at long-term risk from rising sea levels.

Scientists estimate that for each degree of warming, the amount of moisture in the air increases by 7%. This year is on course to be the wettest on record, according to the Met Office, which says 1,822mm of rain fell in the first nine months.

But even the most ardent campaigners for climate action acknowledge that the government must take the bulk of the responsibility. "The blame for the floods is 30% with nature and 70% with the mismanagement of the authorities," said Srisuwan Janya, a lawyer and founder of the Stop Global Warming Association. "The government responded too slowly and made errors. It need not have been this bad."

He said upstream dams did not release water early enough in the monsoon season so they had insufficient capacity to contain the huge volumes of rainwater that fell later. One of the three main flood channels running from the north to the south was shut off, adding to the pressure on the remaining two. As the water surged southward, Bangkok found itself more vulnerable than in the past because hundreds of its canals have been blocked up over decades of poorly regulated development. Political leaders then made matters worse by placing too high a priority on the city centre, which was kept dry at the expense of deeper water elsewhere.

The erratic climate may have confused decision makers.

At the start of the year, the primary concern was drought because the dry season in 2010 had been unusually severe. As a result, dam managers retained water in upstream reservoirs even after the first big rainfall in March, which was three times more than the average in northern Thailand. Faced by these extremes, it was difficult for dam managers to make judgments based on previous weather patterns. This is a key lesson of the flood.

"The difficulty of projecting droughts and floods will increase for sure," said Gernot Laganda, a climate specialist at the United Nations Development Program office in Bangkok. "We cannot rely on historic experience in managing these hazards. The world is not the same any more. Just because this is a once-in-a-century flood, we shouldn't assume that there won't be another like it for 100 years."

Faced by an increasingly "vicious interplay of prolonged droughts and fiercer bursts of rain", Laganda says it will be important to build strong monitoring systems and to start building climate flexible systems. Instead of building high walls and river defences today, he says it makes more sense to strengthen the foundations of existing structures so they can be raised as and when risks become more apparent.

The Bangkok governor, Sukhumbhand Paribatra, said the city needed to learn from the disaster. "It's a wake up call. We need to take a hard look at the problems that may arise from climate change and take a long-term perspective on how to deal with them." He has proposed more investment in flood mitigation and prevention, namely construction of more retention ponds, drainage tunnels and pumping stations. "It will cost a lot of money. But I don't think there is any other way unless we change our conceptual approach and allow some areas to be flooded during the flood season."

While a warming planet is part of the backdrop, engineers fear that it may be a distraction from the more pressing concerns of urban planning, erosion and sedimentation.

A debate is under way. Surajit Chirawate, who sits on the senate environment committee, says the government is making a mistake by relying on walls to deal with future floods. He believes Bangkok should be downsized and government offices should be relocated to higher ground. "People should not fight with the water. They should let it through. That is how we dealt with floods in the past. That is why Bangkok has so many canals. But now rich city dwellers are too distant from nature. What they are doing with their flood protection walls is actually increasing the level of the water."

Tension rose along with the water. Amid rumours that powerful politicians protected their own constituencies at the expense of neighbouring districts, several deluged communities turned to protest.

The most dramatic demonstration occurred at Yucharoen village near Don Mueng airport, where local residents furiously tore down a wall of sandbags.

"I was angry because the government did not help us until we protested," said Pattanan Thongsawad, who was among the demonstrators. "I wasn't thinking about fairness. I was only thinking about the people who were suffering."

A water mark is still visible in every home in the neighbourhood. Thongsawad said the village must prepare for similar disasters. "We want more concrete walls all the way around our community. That is the only way I'll feel secure. There will be more rain and more floods and we cannot rely on the government to deal with them."

With politics and climate both looking increasingly unpredictable, many now want more help but do not expect it.

"If it comes again, there is nothing we can do," said Sriburanasorn of Hana. "If every factory had to build its own flood defences, we wouldn't be able to afford to stay in business. The government must do it do restore confidence … I never want to go through that again."

Rory McIlroy With Breathtaking Bunker Shot From Dubai


Rory McIlroy proved he is still at the top of his game – with a series of breathtaking bunker shots from the top of Dubai's Burj Al Arab hotel.

The 22-year-old U.S. Open champion, who has scaled to the summit of the golfing world in the past 12 months, took to the seven-star venue's helipad to show off his skills.

The world No.3, who is dating Danish tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, kept his cool as he blasted the ball from 700ft above Dubai's Jumeirah beach.

Head for heights: Rory McIlroy blasted a series of bunker shots from the Burj Al Arab hotel's helipad in Dubai

Head for heights: Rory McIlroy blasted a series of bunker shots from the Burj Al Arab hotel's helipad in Dubai

Resembling from a distance the tiny figures on a Subbeteo table football pitch, the Northern Irishman was watched by caddie JP Fitzgerald.

And the global brand ambassador for Jumeirahís will be hoping to still have his head in the clouds at tomorrow night's BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2011 Award.

He is shortlisted for the top prize alongside Darren Clarke, who he pipped to win the U.S. Open and who is ranked one place above him in the world rankings.

Cyclist Mark Cavendish, cricketers Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss, golfer Luke Donald, athletes Mo Farah and Dai Greene, boxer Amir Khan and tennis star Andy Murray.

The Great Christmas Getaway Begins As Shops Open Until Midnight For The Busiest Days Of The Year…And 18 Million Cars Are Set To Hit The Road


Britons are set to swarm the high streets, roads, railways and airports of the UK in the next few days as the busiest shopping days of the year coincide with hectic Christmas travel plans. 

More than 11 million Britons are expected to take an overnight trip in Britain in the coming two weeks, according to tourism organisation VisitEngland.

Some 18 million cars are expected to hit the roads with tomorrow and Friday likely to be the busiest days, according to the AA.

Some 4.25 million people Britons spending Christmas and New Year overseas between December 16 and January 3, a rise of a quarter of a million on last year's festive period in 2010/11.

Meanwhile shopping centres and supermarkets are set to extend their opening hours to cater for the flood of shoppers still looking to snap up last minute gifts, with Westfield in London adding an extra two hours to its daily opening times and running until midnight.

Westfield spokesperson Myf Ryan, said: 'We are responding to the time-poor culture consumers are facing. People simply aren’t able to leave work early for Christmas shopping because of increased work pressures.'

But the going will not be easy on all routes as motorists and commuters contend with repair works on road and rail, as well as the heavily increased human traffic. 

It predicted that getaway traffic in the run-up to Christmas was likely to be heavy on major routes, including the M1 in Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire, the M4 between London and Newbury in Berkshire, the M25 around London, and the M4 and M5 in the West Country.

The Highways Agency, which is responsible for England’s motorways and major A-roads, said it planned to complete more than 500 miles of roadworks before Christmas while a further 60 miles will be suspended from Friday until January 3.

In total, 118 sets of roadworks should be finished by Christmas, with works staying in place at 26 locations, including a 32-mile section of the M1 near Luton in Bedfordshire.

Other areas where works will still be in place include a 15.5-mile section of the M25 near St Albans in Hertfordshire, a section of the M4 near Wokingham in Berkshire and a 12-mile section of the M62 near Huddersfield in West Yorkshire.

For those taking domestic train services in the UK over Christmas and New Year, buses are replacing trains on some rail routes.

But rail chiefs have said that the number of replacement buses has halved compared with the 2010/11 festive period, and around 54,000 more trains will be running this year compared to last.

As much as £109 million of work is being done on the rail network over Christmas and the new year, with projects including work at Birmingham New Street station and at Reading station in Berkshire.

Travel will be free on Tubes and London buses from 11.45pm on New Year’s Eve until 4.30am on New Year’s Day.

Those heading abroad via train to Brussels tonight and tomorrow will be affected by a strike in Belgium.

This will mean Channel Tunnel high-speed rail company Eurostar will have to start and finish its London-Brussels services at Lille in northern France, with a limited coach service running between Brussels and Lille.

This affects today’s 7.04pm London to Brussels services and all the Eurostar services between London and Brussels tomorrow.

This year, around 1.7 million festive travellers will be leaving from Heathrow airport, 425,000 from Stansted, 750,000 from Gatwick and 210,000 from Luton.

Also, 340,000 will be departing from Manchester airport, 165,000 from Birmingham and 120,000 from Glasgow, while many thousands will be crossing the English Channel or travelling through the Channel Tunnel.

Passengers using Heathrow over the festive period are expected take 6,000 tonnes of luggage each day – equivalent to the weight of 20 jumbo jets.

Heathrow’s most popular destinations this Christmas are New York, Dubai, Dublin, Amsterdam and Paris.

Popular destinations for Britons travelling abroad include the Canary Islands, Cuba and Mexico, while top city break destinations include Paris, Rome, Dublin, New York and Reykjavik in Iceland.

Woman Who Swallowed Pen 25 Years Ago Has It Removed… And It Still Works


We've all lost pens down the back of a sofa but one woman managed to misplace one for 25 years – after she swallowed it by accident.

The surprising find only came to light after the 76-year-old woman visited her doctor suffering from weight loss and diarrhoea.

An urgent investigation revealed areas of the woman's large intestine had become inflamed, which was causing the abdominal pain.

Doctors at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital Foundation Trust then took a CT scan of her abdomen where they were amazed to find a 'linear object' that looked much like a pen.

When questioned, the patient remembered that 25 years before she had used a felt-tip pen to poke her tonsils while looking at them in a mirror. However, she had then fallen forward off a step and swallowed the pen by accident.

Her husband and GP had dismissed her story at the time after plain abdominal X-rays came up normal.

The doctors performed a gastroscopy, which confirmed there was a plastic felt-tip pen sitting in the lumen of the woman's stomach.

It hadn't caused her any gastric damage – indeed the symptoms that had prompted the investigation in the first place had resolved themselves.

The medical team her decided that they should remove the pen as there was a small risk it could perforate her stomach lining.

It was removed under general anaesthetic and amazingly the doctors found the pen was still in working order.

Reporting the case in British Medical Journal Case Reports, the team led by Dr Oliver Waters, concluded: 'Occasionally it may be worth believing the patient’s account however unlikely it may be.'

Abu Dhabi’s Hyatt Capital Gate Hotel


The Hyatt Capital Gate hotel, which offers 189 five-star rooms, will finally open its doors December 21 in Abu Dhabi.

The hotel leans a record-breaking 18 degrees — more than four times that of Italy’s famed Leaning Tower of Pisa, which is angled at just under four degrees.

The striking style of the building earned it a place among Guinness World Records last year, despite a two-year delay in the handover.

Now, guests will be able to sleep in guest rooms that hover over nothing but air, with the Hyatt occupying floors 18-33 of the structure — each floor protrudes by between 300mm to 1400mm.

Among the features is the Rayana Spa, a ‘sky-spa’ perched on the 19th floor offering “a refreshingly elevated oasis experience” along with a suspended outdoor pool and whirlpool.

Restaurant options include eastern Mediterranean cuisine at the 18˚ restaurant, a chic bar called Privé, the “residential-style” Lounge, a pool bar and the Lobby Café.

Hyatt Capital Gate 468x308 Abu Dhabis Hyatt Capital Gate Hotel

EU To Charge Global Airlines For CO2


Europe's most senior court is expected to rule on Wednesday that airlines based outside the continent should have to pay for their carbon emissions on flights to or from EU member states, in a crucial test of climate change regulation.

At stake are millions of tonnes in carbon dioxide emissions from aeroplanes, as airlines at present have little or no incentive to cut their greenhouse gases.

The signs are that the EU will be cleared to impose a system of carbon trading on all passenger flights taking off or landing in member states. In a preliminary ruling in October, the court backed the EU's plans. But whatever the 13 judges in Luxembourg decide on Wednesday, it is unlikely to be the end of the story as the long-running legal battle will open up on new fronts.

Already legislators in the US are attempting to make it illegal for their airlines to comply with EU rules on carbon, and it is understood that China is issuing similar guidance, in a serious escalation of hostilities.

The hard-fought battle pits the US and Chinese governments as well as numerous international airlines against EU legislators, who have insisted that airlines must pay for their share of the potential damage from climate change. The US and Chinese governments have threatened a trade war over the issue, and airlines have protested that if the EU rules are allowed to go ahead, they will be landed with billions of dollars of new costs in the next few years.

But the amount is likely to be small, according to analysts. Research carried out this year by the analyst company Thomson Reuters Point Carbon put the probable total cost to all airlines at about €1.1bn next year, but that was based on a carbon price of €12 per tonne – whereas prices have plunged to just over half of that in recent weeks. As a result, the true cost is likely to be much lower.

"The battle has been extraordinarily fierce, given the real implications of emissions trading, which are not really that big," said Andreas Arvanitakis, associate director of Point Carbon. "It's a minute incremental cost compared to the costs of jet fuel. This is certainly not a game-changer for aviation."

Airlines will also be treated equally on each route, in order to make competition between them fair.

On 6 October, an advocate general – a senior legal adviser appointed by the Court of Justice of the European Union – issued a formal recommendation to the court supporting the legality of the EU law. The 13-judge grand chamber has been deliberating the case since the advocate general's opinion was released.

Arvanitakis warned that if the judges ruled against the EU, it would be a "serious blow to political support" for the EU's emissions trading system. "If this entire sector is taken out, it would open the window for doubters within the EU to ask where this is going," he said.

Under the EU's proposals, all airlines operating flights taking off or landing in member states would be subjected to its emissions trading scheme – the system introduced in 2005 by which carbon-intensive industries are issued with permits to produce carbon dioxide. Cleaner companies can trade these permits with laggards, giving them an increasing incentive to cut carbon.

The US, China and numerous airlines argue that the system is in effect a tax on aviation, which would be banned by longstanding international agreement. However, the EU counters that the system is not a tax but represents fair regulation in order to tackle climate change. Airlines based within the EU will already be subject to the carbon trading rules from next year.

As a result of the system, passenger ticket prices are likely be pushed up, though some airlines may choose to absorb some of the costs.

Carbon prices within the European Union have fallen sharply as the euro crisis has taken hold, and are now close to their record lows.

Airlines also argue that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is preparing its own system of carbon trading, which could be operating from 2013. However, EU officials are doubtful that this would come up to the same standards as its scheme and could be open to manipulation by the airlines. Campaigners said the move to have ICAO bring in a scheme was merely a delaying tactic, and pointed out that ICAO has been talking about such a scheme for more than five years, without any concrete result as yet, with no guarantee of a future outcome.

Bill Hemmings, programme manager at Brussels-based campaigning group Transport and Environment, said: "Let's allow the judges to decide whether it is legal or not [for the EU to draw aviation within emissions trading], but it is certainly not unfair. All airlines are being treated equally when they come into and leave Europe and that is fair."

He said studies of the cumulative effect of civil aviation since its inception showed it was responsible for about 4.9% of carbon and equivalents in the atmosphere. As that amount is growing, while emissions must be cut to avoid dangerous global warming, aviation would be an increasing part of the problem, he said.

The EU is also looking at ways to regulate the carbon output of international shipping. Proposals to curb greenhouse gas emissions from aviation and shipping have been under discussion since the negotiations leading up to the Kyoto protocol in 1997, and in recent years have focused on a levy on shipping. But that proposal was knocked back yet again at this month's UN climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa.

Emissions from international aviation and maritime transport are excluded from the Kyoto protocol and the 2009 Copenhagen accord, and there is no guarantee they will be included in any new international climate agreement to come into force from 2020. If aviation is included in the EU emissions trading scheme, it will be the first time carbon emissions from the sector have been regulated.

Emirates Launches A380 Wi-fi Connectivity


Middle Eastern airline Emirates has announced the launch of wireless internet access on board its fleet of flagship super-jumbo A380 aircraft.

Customers flying the massive planes, which operate between Dubai and destinations such as Paris and London, will now be able to use wifi-enabled devices on selected routes, Emirates confirmed December 12.

Eleven of the airline’s 19 planes have now been kitted out with the technology, with the remainder of the fleet following suit in the coming months.

Emirates, which has a total of 71 A380 aircraft on order, says that from next summer, the planes will be delivered with the technology as standard.

Prices start from $7.50 for mobile devices, which will be sufficient to keep a Blackberry user connected all the way between Paris and Dubai, and $15 for laptops.

Emirates A380 468x305 Emirates hooks up A380 planes to wi fi

New York Twin Towers: Ninety Floors And Counting…


When it is completed, it will be the tallest building in Manhattan and one of incredible poignancy for New York City. 

One World Trade Center reached its 90th floor this week – with just 14 more floors to go until the top. The structure can now be seen from all five boroughs of the city.

Stunning pictures showed how the area has been reborn since the 9/11 attacks more than a decade ago.

One World Trade Center is on track to be completed by 2013 with construction workers approximately finishing a floor a week in downtown Manhattan.

Electrical contractors at the tower agreed to give it a festive feel and wrapped the exterior lamps they use with coloured cellophane in time for Christmas. 

Developments can be followed on One World Trade Center’s Twitter feed @WTCProgress. Glass now covers up to the 65th floor and concrete has been added up to the 82nd level. There will be 104 floors in the completed building, making it the tallest in Manhattan.

The site designed by the winning team of Michael Arad and Peter Walker. One World Trade Center, designed by renowned architect David Childs, standing in the north-west corner, is the site’s centrepiece. The first cornerstone was laid down on July 4 2004 and as the building rose it was known as Freedom Tower.

Christmas spirit: Exterior lights at One WTC were covered in coloured cellophane by electrical contractors for a festive feel

Christmas spirit: Exterior lights at One WTC were covered in coloured cellophane by electrical contractors for a festive feel


It stands in the footsteps of the original twin towers among a small forest of oak trees in an eight-acre plaza. It features two 50ft-deep pools, each containing fountains, along with a museum with exhibitions and artefacts to teach visitors about the events of September 11.

At One World Trade Center, there is almost 3million square feet of office space – half of which had already been leased. There is also an observation deck planned more than 1,241ft above ground, fine-dining restaurants and a sprawling public lobby boasting 50ft ceilings. There will be eventually be six skyscrapers on the site altogether.

Breathtaking: Looking east from the 77th floor as construction work carries on below

Breathtaking: Looking east from the 77th floor as construction work carries on below

The heart of New York City: One World Trade Center, from the 80th floor looking North, is due for completion in 2013 and will be the city's tallest building

The heart of New York City: One World Trade Center, from the 80th floor looking North, is due for completion in 2013 and will be the city’s tallest building

Place of remembrance: The eight-acre plaza features a small forest of oak trees and a museum to teach visitors about the events of September 11

Place of remembrance: The eight-acre plaza features a small forest of oak trees and a museum to teach visitors about the events of September 11

Forging on: Construction work carries on internally within One World Trade Center (left) as the polish concrete floor of the 9/11 museum is laid

Forging on: Construction work carries on internally within One World Trade Center (left) as the polish concrete floor of the 9/11 museum is laid

Forging on: Construction work carries on internally within One World Trade Center (left) as the polish concrete floor of the 9/11 museum is laid.