Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Harrods bans soldiers on Poppy Day

Might the fact that Harrods is owned by a Muslim have something to do with it?

A serving Army officer was banned from entering Harrods on Remembrance Day in case his uniform upset other shoppers. Lieutenant Daniel Lenherr had just taken part in a parade honouring Britain's war dead when the London department store turned him away at the door. The security guard told him other customers might be intimidated by the uniform.

The 26-year-old soldier, who serves in the 1st regiment of the Royal Horse Artillery, had been at commemorations in Hyde Park Corner last weekend when he decided to visit the shop with his wife Michelle and their one-year-old son. Mrs Lenherr, who lives in Tidworth, Hampshire, said: "We were horrified when we were refused entry on a day when we honoured the men who sacrificed so much for our freedom. I find it sad this can happen."

The store has stood by their dress policy, saying: "There is a long-standing tradition at Harrods that would normally preclude customers who are wearing non-civilian attire from entering the store. "A lot of people assume that somebody in uniform is either there on official duty, which could cause them alarm, or they assume they're a member of staff and ask them where the lavatories are and so on."

But the shop came under fire for its ban. Shadow Defence Minister Mark Harper said: "It's an outrageous slap in the face to our Armed Forces who are serving our country around the world. On Remembrance Sunday it's even more of an insult. I cannot see any legitimate reason for a shop not to let in members of the Armed Forces in uniform."

And Thomas Carter MBE, a former Warrant Officer in the Royal Horse Artillery, said Mr Lenherr had been treated disgracefully. The 78-year-old said: "Harrods' policy is a load of rubbish. It treats members of the Armed Forces as sixth-rate citizens. It definitely makes it worse that it was on Remembrance Sunday, as that's the day everybody wears uniform." Rival department stores Selfridges and Harvey Nichols said they had no problem with service personnel entering their stores in uniform.



That's the underlying agenda of Britain's Leftist government. First, stop awarding research funding on merit ....

Britain's elite research universities were warned last night that they could forfeit millions of pounds in a shake-up of higher education. David Eastwood, head of England's university funding council, told The Times that, in future, universities that admit a large number of students from poor backgrounds were likely to receive as much public funding as those that concentrate on research. The shift will make it harder for middle-class students to get places at university.

At present almost a third (32 per cent) of all research funding goes to just five institutions: Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester, Imperial and University College London. These admit among the lowest number of students from poor backgrounds. They said last night that they feared they would have to fight harder for fewer funds and would struggle to compete with competitors, particularly in America.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) spends 6.7 billion pounds on teaching and research in universities. Of this, 1.6 billion goes on research, 332 million on raising the number of working-class students attending university and 118 million on developing regional business links. Professor Eastwood, its chief executive, said that as students pay higher fees and employers invest more in the sector, universities must play a greater role in society. While insisting that research funding will not be cut, the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia said that ensuring more young people attended university was as important as the take-up of subjects such as maths, engineering and physics.

However, Malcolm Grant, Provost of University College London and chairman of the Russell Group of leading universities, said that while all would like to see the funding gap in teaching costs close, that gap was worst for research universities that compete globally for staff. "While we applaud widening participation, it would seem sensible for Hefce to look at ways to allow our world-class universities to compete at an international level and not to tax research funding to cross-subsidise widening participation across the sector," Professor Grant said. While universities have concentrated traditionally on teaching and research, Professor Eastwood said it was now time for institutions to work out what they were good at and act upon it. It was not possible for all universities to excel in all areas, he said, and instead of competing with the large research-led universities for diminishing returns, they should capitalise on excellent teaching and regional economic growth.

Five universities are already involved in pilot projects, including Sheffield Hallam, which has been given 1.2 million to undertake research on food waste, packaging and better ingredients with companies in the region. Forty-two per cent of 18 to 30-year-olds attend university and the Government has set itself a target of 50 per cent reaching that level by 2010. Since the introduction of 3,000 pounds-a-year tuition fees, the numbers applying to university have dropped, especially among poorer school-leavers.

The University of Reading's decision last night to close its world-class physics department, despite the prospect of a government rescue package, was met with dismay by the scientific community.


The wi-fi scare

Some British schools are ripping out their wi-fi networks because of complaints from neurotic parents

In the 1950s, anything that went wrong - the weather, a bout of flu, England losing at cricket - tended to be blamed on the effects of nuclear tests. There was, of course, no connection. Today radio signals from mobile phones, mobile phone masts and now wi-fi installations have taken over where nuclear tests left off. Feeling a bit peaky? It's probably that mobile mast round the corner.

It can't be said often enough that there is hardly a shred of worthwhile evidence to support the worries. In some US schools, and even in a university in Canada, wi-fi has been banned until it can be "proved safe". Can Canadian academic standards be so low that they do not know it is impossible to prove anything safe? The best that can be hoped for is no evidence of risk: evidence of no risk is asking the impossible.

People who worry about mobile phones and wi-fi should be asked why they don't worry about TV transmitters, radar installations, or telephones you can carry about the house, which communicate with their base stations using radio signals. Ever since Marconi, we have been enveloped in a fog of radio-frequency transmissions of various powers and wavelengths. They activate our TV sets, and play a pretty tune on the tranny. Until somebody started the alarm over mobile phones, nobody except the mentally disturbed gave radio waves a second thought.

Wi-fi works at much lower power levels and over shorter ranges than mobile phone networks, so is even less likely to cause a problem. But even writing this implies that mobile phones themselves may be a problem when there is no persuasive evidence that they are.

It would be much better if these scares could be strangled at birth, before they have a chance to become embedded in the psyche of the anxious. But they never are. Stand by for a Government inquiry, a programme of research (paid for by the industry, naturally, not the protesters) and the invocation of the Precautionary Principle. Wake me when it's all over.


Muslim Britain: "Rival groups of Muslim inmates have created a potentially explosive situation over the interpretation of the Koran in Britain's biggest jail, prison watchdogs said yesterday. Deep divisions among Muslims in Wandsworth jail developed after the appointment of an imam with particular views of the Koran's teachings. Some Muslim inmates at the jail in southwest London are also pressurising fellow Muslim prisoners to adopt more militant beliefs and lifestyle. The disclosures will fuel fears that attempts are being made to radicalise young Muslims held in jails in England and Wales."

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