Thursday, December 07, 2006

Racist Rolf

Rolf Harris is an Australian-born artist and singer who is particularly popular as a children's entertainer in England. He has received the highest accolade possible for a portrait painter in that the Queen recently sat for him.

He has now apologised for using racist language in the song that launched his career, Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport, written in 1957:

"The opening lines tell of a dying stockman giving his friends instructions on how they should treat his pet animals, such as "keep me cockatoo cool, Curl" and "take me koala back, Jack" before the fifth verse:

Let me Abos go loose, Lou,
Let me Abos go loose.
They're of no further use, Lou,
So let me Abos go loose.
Altogether now!

In an interview with Radio Scotland to be broadcast on Sunday, 76-year-old Harris admitted that those lines were racist and said he wished he had never written them.


At the time, it was common for Aborigines (often abbreviated as "Abos") to work in the Australian cattle industry as cowboys etc. They were however viewed as unreliable employees (principallly because of their custom of "going walkabout" (decamping) at unpredictable and inconvenient times) and were paid less than white employees. It was however one of the few employment avenues open to many of them because of their low levels of education etc.

Subsequently, empoyers were forced by law to pay Aborigines at the same rate as white employees -- thus bringing to an almost total end Aboriginal employment in the cattle industry. They are now heavily dependant on welfare payments from the Federal government.

Interestingly, the judges who brought down the equal pay ruling said at the time that they knew that the Aborigines were less valued employees and that the ruling would throw most of them out of work. The Harris song did then express the common view of Aborigines at the time -- as being of little use. Similar views are probably still widely held but can no longer be safely expressed, of course.

Some people of ill-will have apparently suggested that the line in the song, "Let me Abos go loose" implies that Aborigines were enslaved at the time. Only a Leftist would think so. The evident meaning of the line is to "Let them go" in modern parlance -- i.e. cease to employ them.


The closure of accident and emergency services at some hospitals is in the interests of patients, the Government said yesterday. Presenting them as part of a plan to create "super-A&Es" to deal with heart attacks, strokes, and aortic aneurysms, Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, sought to halt a tide of opposition to the closures. They were not about saving money but about saving lives, she asserted.

If that were true, Andrew Lansley, her Conservative opposite number retorted, it could have been done before, not after, financial deficits in the NHS had come to light.

The Department of Health published two reports to support the claims by Ms Hewitt. They called for "reconfiguration" of A&E services, to allow specialist centres for the most serious conditions to be created, and enable more people to be treated in their homes. According to Professor Roger Boyle, the national director for heart disease and strokes, local A&E units are not the best places for providing good care for patients suffering from either of these conditions. Specialist centres might mean a longer journey for many people, but they would produce better results, saving the the lives of 500 people suffering heart attacks every year, preventing 1,000 further heart attacks and saving 1,000 more stroke victims from death and disability, he said.

Sir George Alberti, the national director for emergency access, said: "We have to be up front and tell the public that, in terms of modern medicine, some of the A&E departments that they cherish are not able to provide this type of care and cannot and will not be able to provide the degree of specialisation and specialist cover that modern medicine dictates the public deserves." It would be better, he said, for many patients to bypass the local hospital and be taken by highly trained paramedics to specialist centres. " `But won't I die on the way?' many people ask," he said. "No, you won't. Long ambulance journeys do not lead to more deaths."

Ms Hewitt said: "Whenever the A&E starts to talk about reorganising, people think it's all about money and it isn't. It's about saving more people's lives, it's about making care more convenient, it's about getting the money into the right place so that people get the best care from the right person at the right time."

The Government fears that it is losing the argument over NHS reconfigurations, which involve A&E and maternity services, among others. The reports, published yesterday, are designed to present the issue more positively, by showing that change might not mean worse care. But the argument assumes that the money saved by closing some A&Es is devoted to building others into specialised centres. That is not guaranteed. Karen Jennings, the head of health at the public sector union Unison, said: "The climate of debt in the NHS puts the development of new policy under suspicion. We are extremely concerned that these policies may be being driven by deficits, not what is best for patient care. "If we move towards more specialist units we still need to ensure that patients have access to really good local A&E departments."

Geoff Martin, of the campaign group Health Emergency, said: "Claiming that closing local A&E departments, trauma units and intensive-care facilities will improve services turns all logic on its head. People are fighting these closures in their tens of thousands up and down the country because they know that closing local services and increasing journey times puts lives at risk."

Mr Lansley did not dissent from the idea of specialist units, which he has championed for some years. But he said that the patients who would be sent to them represented, at most, 5 per cent of all A&E attenders. "I accept the need for specialisation, but this should not be used to justify taking accessible A&E departments away from district general hospitals," he said.

Ms Hewitt said that casualty services in future would divide into three kinds, with "super- A&Es" for people with the most serious conditions, local A&Es for most treatment and the A&E that "will come to you" for less serious injuries. "Financial problems are forcing people to look at changes they ought to be doing anyway, and in a few cases financial problems are driving people to make changes they should have done years ago," she said.

The report by Sir George Alberti arrives at a similar conclusion. "Finances may have been the issue that drew the media's attention, but they are not the reason for reform," it said. "Reforming emergency care is about responding to medical advances and providing new and better services in ways that allow the NHS to save more lives."

Beverly Malone, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "Any changes must be subject to full and proper consultation with staff, unions, patients and local communities - after all, it's our NHS and we all deserve a say in how it is run and reformed." The Government has not produced a list of trusts where A&E departments have closed or are threatened. But the Tories say they have identified hospitals in 29 NHS trusts


Cheating in British schools

Schools should consider using signal blocking devices to prevent pupils using mobile phone text messaging and two-way pagers to cheat in examinations, a leading expert on exam fraud said yesterday. Jean Underwood, a Professor of Psychology at Nottingham Trent University, also called for the introduction of photoidentity checks to prevent pupils getting someone else to sit their exams for them.

In a report published yesterday by the exams watchdog, the Qualification and Curriculum Authority (QCA), Professor Underwood said that although most of the debate on the use of new technology and cheating had focused on universities, the problem was likely to be more widespread in schools. "The problems of academic dishonesty may be less well researched in the school system than in the tertiary education sector, but all the evidence points to the problem being both real and on a significant and growing scale," she said.

The report by Professor Underwood, Digital Technologies and Dishonesty in Examinations and Tests, lists a range of digital techniques that students routinely use to cheat. Some have been caught getting friends outside the examinations hall to text or page answers cribbed from the internet; others have used hand-held electronic personal organisers to store notes and to exchange answers with other exam takers in the same hall.

During coursework, students routinely cut and paste essays bought over the internet and present them as their own work. In one survey, three quarters admitted to cheating: 15 per cent had obtained a paper from the internet, while 52 per cent had copied a few sentences from a website without revealing the source.

Professor Underwood noted that while digital technology may have made cheating easier, it does not seem to be the sole cause. About 90 per cent of students who use the internet to plagiarise have also plagiarised from books. Younger students are more likely to use digital devices to cheat, possibly because their understanding of the technology is more sophisticated.

While the introduction of "honour codes" for students can reduce cheating, Professor Underwood also calls for a more practical approach. Most mobile phone jamming devices are illegal, because they may interfere with other equipment, but devices that detect signals are available and schools should investigate their use, she said. The banning of mobile phones in exam halls tends not to be effective. "There are now very inexpensive devices (about 100 pounds) which can silently detect mobile technology devices as they are switched on or off and when in use. These devices have a limited range so would need to be walked around an examination hall."

Her report also highlights more low-tech, traditional forms of cheating. Because teachers no longer routinely invigilate in examinations and the job is often carried out by external examiners who do not know pupils personally, the scope for impersonation was greater than before. Photo-identity checks and biometric identification methods could be used to combat this, she suggested.

Isabel Nisbet, director of regulation and standards at the QCA, said that last year 1,900 pupils were caught taking a mobile phone into an exam hall. "This is only a minute proportion of the numbers taking exams and these are just the cases we know about - we don't know what the actual position is, but we do need to be aware of it," she said. She said that the QCA would look into the recommendations. "We can use technology to foil technology, but that is not the whole answer. The real answer is to create an attitude and culture among young people that they should not cheat," she said.

More here


In the hands of Shane Warne [a champion Australian bowler (pitcher) who has just devastated the England cricket team presently touring Australia], a cricket ball is an offensive weapon. A total of 650 fallen wickets prove it. Police on a London Underground station thought it was an equally dangerous item in the hands of Chris Hurd, a 28-year-old City accountant who occasionally bowls leg spin for his local team in Belsize Park, North London.

Mr Hurd claimed that he had been merely holding the ball as he rode the escalator at Baker Street station in London when he was stopped by a female British Transport Police officer and subjected to a ten-minute inquisition and allegations that he was carrying "a very hard object", which he should not have done in public as it was a potentially lethal weapon. He had, he said, taken the ball to work because he planned to watch the opening Ashes Test between England and Australia in a pub with friends later in the evening. Earlier in the day he had been throwing it in the air to strengthen his spin-bowling muscles.

But by the time he got to the station, he said, he was holding it firmly in his hand. He accused the officer of ridiculous overreaction. "There was a policewoman on the step below me and she was staring at the ball all the way up. As we got to the top she tapped me on the shoulder and said she wanted a word."

Mr Hurd, who works for Ernst and Young, the accountants, said the officer asked him if he knew he was carring a very hard object and he replied: "Yes, it's a cricket ball." She confiscated the ball while she questioned Mr Hurd for ten minutes, gave him a verbal warning and filled out a stop-and-search report.

"I told her I was only carrying it because the Ashes were about to start and I was very excited. I was wearing a very boring suit and looked every inch the bean-counter I am. It is not as if I was unshaven and looked dangerous. But she was completely humourless and showed no understanding of my excitement," Mr Hurd said. "When she let me go and gave me my ball back, she said she was being extremely lenient with me. She failed to realise that I presented no threat whatsoever and I left feeling completely misunderstood."

Mr Hurd said the encounter had shaken his faith in the police, and had caused him to sympathise with members of ethnic minorities who were subjected to stop-and-searches. "How can a cricket ball be an offensive weapon? I don't think it would be anyone's weapon of choice, and all I was doing was holding it. It wasted ten minutes of time for both of us, and left her with paperwork."

A spokesman said that British Transport Police had no knowledge of the incident but added: "Though we recognise England need all the help they can get at the moment, we would advise that the escalator is not the place to practise. "What if the ball was dropped and hit an old lady further down the escalator? "We would advise passengers to be careful, both for themselves and other people at this busy time. To ensure that the Underground is free of crime and free of the fear of crime, our officers maintain a highly visible presence."



Thousands of young women desperate for a "size zero" figure are putting their lives at risk by taking laxatives in the mistaken belief that it speeds up weight loss. Mintel, the consumer goods analyst, has found that the British market for laxatives is now worth œ52 million, up 33 per cent from 2001. The company is is no doubt that desperate slimmers are behind the surge. "On the flipside of over-eating in Britain, we have seen a pre-occupation with undereating and perpetual dieting," said David Bird, senior market analyst at Mintel.

Experts on eating disorders say laxative abuse is now rife, with young people in particular totally unaware of the huge danger it poses to their health. Typically women take "lifestyle laxatives" after bingeing on high-energy, sugar-rich food, hoping that this strategy will prevent the calories from being absorbed. A smaller group of people suffering from bulimia nervosa use laxatives, as well as making themselves sick, to "purge" their systems after a binge.

Steve Bloomfield, a spokesman for the Eating Disorders Association, said that because laxatives are widely available at chemists and supermarkets, young women in particular think they are totally harmless. "Most people binge on sugary foods which are absorbed very quickly, so taking laxatives doesn't actually work if the intention is to lose weight. But they rob the body of vital vitamins and minerals, and, most significantly, potassium, which can result in heart failure."

Research commissioned by the Eating Disorders Association found that one in five women took laxatives to lose weight, with the figures far higher (11 per cent) among female students. The association said that cases it had studied showed a clear pattern of young women who started out just taking one or two laxatives a day but ended up taking dozens as their digestive system adjusted. In extreme cases it ceased to function without the aid of large doses of pills. Mr Bloomfield said that with laxatives cheap and now advertised on prime-time television, girls are learning about them from an earlier age. "A few years ago young people didn't really know about laxatives or where to get them. Now they are in no doubt."

Celia Badley, 42, now an anorexia counsellor, took 20 to 30 laxatives a day in her teens. "When I took them, they made me feel I was losing weight because my tummy was flat, but I didn't lose any weight longer-term. "The side effects were shocking - terrible stomach pain and the inevitable rushing to the loo at inappropriate moments. They were easy to get, even years ago. I would just go from chemist to chemist until I had enough. I now have a very sluggish digestive system and need to eat huge amounts of fibre to avoid constipation. "The key thing to stop people using laxatives is not really to campaign on the dangers, even though they are dangerous. The only thing that would have stopped me taking them at the time was if I had known they did not make me lose weight."

However, the risks of taking large numbers of laxatives are serious. Melissa Booth died of heart failure, aged just 17, as a result of her use of laxatives and diuretics. Speaking to The Times yesterday, Melissa's father Gary recalled how she promised not to take any more laxatives after having undergone hospital treatment for her bulimia. "The Saturday after she came home she begged us not to send her back and promised she wouldn't take them any more," he said. However, she had a heart attack during the night and was found dead the next morning. "She didn't die of bulimia. She died because of a lack of potassium in her system, which triggered a heart attack. "Nothing has changed since then," said Mr Booth. "In fact I think these tablets are even easier to get now."


Tough test of Britishness widened

Mainly applicable to white immigrants from Eastern Europe. Not applicable to hordes of illegal Muslim immigrants of course

Britain has almost doubled the number of new arrivals who must sit new tests on the English language and British way of life. The Blair Government announced yesterday that the tests would be extended to all people seeking to stay in the country indefinitely, after first imposing it last year on applicants for British citizenship. About 200,000 people applied for citizenship last year but another 180,000 would have been covered by the new requirement on people seeking indefinite leave to remain, a status one step short of citizenship.

The so-called Britishness test has also been widened to cover questions about the nation's welfare system, a move lampooned by critics as training new arrivals how to apply for welfare.... The Britishness test involves 24 multiple-choice questions to be answered in 45 minutes, with applicants needing to get at least 18 correct. Sitting the test will cost $34 but failed applicants can sit it as many times as they want, unlike the tougher policy in The Netherlands where there is a maximum of three attempts.

People over 65 will be exempt from the tests, and those with poor English can opt to take a "skills for life" and language course rather than doing the test.

More here

Britain: Adulterer wins the right to privacy: "A high-profile figure in the sports world who had an affair with another man’s wife has won a court order banning the betrayed husband from naming him in the media. In what is believed to be the first case of its kind, Mr Justice Eady granted a temporary injunction to the adulterer — who is in the “public eye” but can be identified only as CC — against the husband, AB. The judge ruled that even a public figure engaging in an adulterous affair had a “right to privacy” under the European Convention on Human Rights to protect his wife and children. The order, which stands until further order or the main trial on February 12, gags the husband from spilling the beans about the affair from “revenge” or “spite” or to make money from the story... The judge, who could find no legal precedent from the 19th or 20th centuries, said that he was faced with “the striking proposition that a spouse whose partner has committed adultery owes a duty of confidence to the third party adulterer to keep quiet about it”. ... He added that since English law did not offer an enforceable right to privacy, CC’s claim was that publication would be a breach of confidence"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A REAL judge would have ruled that it was up to CC to behave in such as way as to protect the "privacy" of his wife, and also to respect the privacy of another man's marriage. Having done neither, CC has lost any claim to privacy, including the fake vicarious claim on behalf of his put-upon wife.

As it is, we now have fancy-pants academics in judicial robes making up bizarre new laws from the bench for the benefit of moneyed litigants.

The fact that this is an interlocutory (preliminary) injunction case excuses nothing - what Eady has done is to muzzle an Englishman's right to free speech in the interest of protecting a newly "discovered" European-style right to inequity. It is a long-established legal principle that "there is no equity in the non-disclosure of iniquity".

And yes, free speech is PRECISELY the right to say unpleasant, spiteful things for reasons of revenge, a desire to make money, or for any other reason.