Saturday, November 25, 2006

Young British Criminals are now "Trainees"

We read:

"Teenage muggers and burglars sentenced to jail by the courts will instead attend local schools and live alongside orphans in open children's homes. The hardened criminals would normally be locked in detention centres with specialist classrooms. But it has emerged an overcrowding crisis in the juvenile prison system is forcing the Government to dramatically relax the law. It will allow the criminals to mix with society's most vulnerable youngsters in the relaxed regime of a mainstream children's home for the first time. And some will even be allowed to attend local schools.

The Government has also ruled they should no longer be considered young offenders. Instead, in yet another example of political correctness, the Home Office's new Offender Management Bill refers to the tearaways as 'trainees'.


Basic physics supports solar activity as cause of global warming

Comments from a successful long-range weather forecaster:

Science, not argument about conspiracy, must be central to the debate about climate change (Letters, November 13), nevertheless Al Gore's stake in green business (Generation Investment Management) and David Miliband's closeness to the nuclear industry merit attention. Dr Wolff's claim that the climate-sceptical position "is in contradiction to everything we expect from basic physics" is bizarre, since physics is the basis of Weather Action's world-leading solar weather technique of long-range forecasting. The SWT relies on predictable effects of solar particles, not on CO2 or meteorology models - and I can assure your correspondent Richard Nunn that the SWT will be published when matters of intellectual property are sorted out

Dr Wolff admits "CO2 has indeed increased in response to temperature change in the past ..." This is a general pattern in slow changes over the last 250,000 years (Caillon et al, Science, March 2003). Furthermore proxy measurements covering thousands of years (eg Neff et al, Nature 2001) show that, in timescales of 22 years, the magnetic sun-spot cycle and world temperatures move together, whereas CO2, while following temperature in slow general terms, also moves the other way for quite long periods. This contradicts the theory that CO2 drives temperature and climate.

Current CO2 levels, or rate of CO2 rise, are not unprecedented. CO2 levels have been three times current levels (Bob Carter, Marine Geophysical Lab, Queensland). CO2 rapid rise "spikes" doubtless happened before, given the power of nature compared with man's puny activity (not even 1% of total greenhouse effect), but ice-core data smoothes them out.

The global warmers' claim that current extra CO2 causes warming which gets dangerously magnified through the greenhouse effect of extra water vapour in the atmosphere, consequent to the temperature rise, also fails. The sea absorbs extra CO2. Furthermore, increased transpiration-cooling by enhanced growth of plants, which is caused by extra CO2, cancels out the extra greenhouse warming of that same CO2. Increased greenhouse heating due to doubling CO2 is 3.7 watts per sq metre. This is negated by about the same amount of enhanced transpiration-cooling of plants, all of which grow faster in extra CO2. Therefore there is no CO2 driven net heat flow and surface temperature rise. Temperature and climate change in our epoch is therefore driven by other factors, especially solar particle and magnetic effects.

So can action against climate change make a difference? Even if temperature trends can be changed - and controlling the sun is a tall order even for a Bush/ Blair legacy - there is no evidence of connected change in weather extremes or useful outcomes. Let's save the planet from real chemical pollutants, but CO2 is not one of them. Wouldn't it be better to work to predict climate than make vain attempts to change it?



Its stupid policy of allowing non-Christian religious attire only was asking for trouble

Ms Eweida, a former member of BA's check-in staff who has lost her appeal to wear a tiny cross outside her uniform, has become a Christian cause celebre. She has the support of nearly 100 MPs. More worryingly for BA, churches are railing against the airline. There is talk of a Christian boycott of the airline worldwide. Only for the worldly is it still the world's favourite airline.

British Airways is at fault. For it is mishandling for a religious issue, betraying both its multicultural principles and a huge potential market. For, Ms Eweida not only has a strong argument of freedom of religious expression on her side, but also hundreds of millions of potential passengers. The 2001 census showed that 71.1 per cent of Britons identify themselves as Christians. According to Aquarius, a marketing consultancy focused on religious affairs, there are 2.1 billion people who call themselves Christian, by comparison with 1.1 billion who describe themselves as secular, non-religious, agnostic or atheist. The devout represent a powerful market: The Passion of the Christ has grossed $613 million at box offices worldwide.

British Airways has previously struggled with icons. When it came to removing the flag from the tailfin, it underestimated patriotism. Now, it has misunderstood the nature of modern faith. There are a growing number of Christians who feel threatened by secularism. Spiritually, the world is more polarised and politicised. Christians, particularly evangelicals, are adopting the activist habits of other religious communities.

By sticking to its guidelines on uniforms, BA is insensitively, perhaps unintentionally, appearing to use its professional code to make a secular case. People of faith expect not just tolerance, but respect. BA needs to show it.



One in eight secondary schools was judged "inadequate" in the past year, while more than a third were no better than satisfactory, Government inspectors said today. Chief Inspector of Schools Christine Gilbert condemned the high failure rate and said it was "unacceptable" that the gap between the best and worst state schools was so wide. She demanded urgent action to raise standards, warning: ""The report card for English education has been increasingly encouraging over the past 10 years, but it is still not good enough."

In her first annual report since becoming Chief Inspector, Ms Gilbert said a good education can "liberate and empower" children. "The story is not always positive, however," she added. "That is why I am so concerned at the gap between the best provision and that which makes an inadequate contribution to improving the life chances of children and young people. "Too many schools are inadequate - about one in 12 of those inspected, and in secondary schools this proportion rises to just over one in eight."

Ms Gilbert said many secondary schools, which are often far larger than primaries, faced a "substantial" range of issues which held them back. "However, more needs to be done, and swiftly, to reduce the number of secondary schools found to be inadequate," she said. Ofsted's annual report was based on evidence from inspections of 6,000 state schools during the 2005-06 academic year. The watchdog found:

11 per cent of all state schools were outstanding, about half were good, 34 per cent satisfactory and 8 per cent inadequate; 13 per cent of secondary schools were inadequate, and 7% of primaries; School attendance was not good enough in one in 10 schools, with particular problems in London and the North of England. In nearly one in three secondary schools, behaviour is "no better than satisfactory overall, and in these schools there are also instances of disruptive or distracting behaviour from some pupils".

The findings follow the first year of a new inspection system, in which Ofsted conducted "shorter and sharper" inspections, giving schools only a few days' notice before visiting. The new criteria for schools were also tougher than before, which explained in part why so many schools were judged to be poor. Ms Gilbert said: "The new inspection arrangements have raised the bar, but without putting it out of reach. "The performance of schools, and the public's expectations of them, have both risen, and it is right that inspection should reflect that."

Schools Minister Jim Knight said it would not be fair to make comparisons with previous years. "Direct comparisons between school judgments in this year's report and previous ones would be misleading," he said. "This report reflects the first year of the toughest inspection regime we have yet introduced. "Schools that may have been judged as good in previous years might only be judged as satisfactory now. "However, we make no apology for raising the bar - expectations are higher than ever and judgments need to be tougher than ever. "No school should be inadequate and there should be no hiding places for under-performance or coasting. "That is why the Education and Inspections Act is introducing tough new powers to turn around schools, closing or replacing them if they do not make adequate progress within 12 months."

Shadow education secretary David Willetts said: "It is still not good enough that four out of 10 schools are regarded by Ofsted as merely satisfactory or downright inadequate. "There is one success story - special schools. "But the Government is putting more effort into closing good special schools than closing inadequate secondary schools. "We need a moratorium on special school closures. "The wide gap between the best and worst-performing schools is also very worrying. "The best way to bridge this gap is by concentrating on discipline, improving behaviour and more streaming and setting in all schools."



Plenty of money to pay an army of "administrators", though

The cost of making the breast cancer drug Herceptin available on the NHS will mean that health trusts have to deny patients other treatments, according to doctors writing in the British Medical Journal. Herceptin works for up to 25 per cent of breast cancer patients with a particular defective gene. But the cost of treating 75 patients with the 20,000 pound-a- year drug is equivalent to providing cancer treatment for more than 350 patients - while still requiring 500,000 pounds in extra funding.

In July the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommended Herceptin for those with HER2- positive breast cancer. But three cancer specialists have now challenged the wisdom of the decision. Writing in the BMJ, the doctors, from Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Trust, calculated that in drug costs alone they would have to find 1.9 million pounds to treat 75 patients with Herceptin. Supplementary costs pushed the figure to 2.3 million, according to Ann Barrett, Tom Roques and Matthew Small.

The team, working with Richard Smith, a health economist from the University of East Anglia, said that they could fund Herceptin if they dropped post-surgery cancer treatments for 355 other patients - 16 of whom were likely to be cured. Or they could stop palliative chemotherapy for 208 patients. Either way they would also need to find 500,000 pounds. The doctors write: "These untreated patients will be people we know. We will be the ones to tell them they are not getting a treatment that has been proved to be effective, which costs relatively little, because it is not the `treatment of the moment'."


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