Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wi Fi scare

The evils of radio-waves have been combed over exhaustively for many years but no amount of evidence will ever convince some nature freaks that cellphones are safe -- and now the same performance is revving up over WiFi -- which uses similar radio waves

Being "wired-up" used to be shorthand for being at the cutting edge, connected to all that is cool. No longer. Wireless is now the only thing to be. Go into a Starbucks, a hotel bar or an airport departure lounge and you are bound to see people tapping away at their laptops, invisibly connected to the internet. Visit friends, and you are likely to be shown their newly installed system. Lecture at a university and you'll find the students in your audience tapping away, checking your assertions on the world wide web almost as soon as you make them. And now the technology is spreading like a Wi-Fi wildfire throughout Britain's primary and secondary schools.

The technological explosion is even bigger than the mobile phone explosion that preceded it. And, as with mobiles, it is being followed by fears about its effect on health - particularly the health of children. Recent research, which suggests that the worst fears about mobiles are proving to be justified, only heightens concern about the electronic soup in which we are increasingly spending our lives.

Now, as we report today, Sir William Stewart, the man who has issued the most authoritative British warnings about the hazards of mobiles, is becoming worried about the spread of Wi-Fi. The chairman of the Health Protection Agency - and a former chief scientific adviser to the Government - is privately pressing for an official investigation of the risks it may pose. Health concerns show no sign of slowing the wireless expansion. One in five of all adult Britons now own a wireless-enabled laptop. There are 35,000 public hotspots where they can use them, usually at a price....

So far only a few, faint warnings have been raised, mainly by people who are so sensitised to the electromagnetic radiation emitted by mobiles, their masts and Wi-Fi that they become ill in its presence. The World Health Organisation estimates that up to three out of every hundred people are "electrosensitive" to some extent. But scientists and doctors - and some European governments - are adding their voices to the alarm as it becomes clear that the almost universal use of mobile phones may be storing up medical catastrophe for the future.

Professor Lawrie Challis, who heads the Government's official mobile safety research, this year said that the mobile could turn out to be "the cigarette of the 21st century".

There has been less concern about masts, as they emit very much less radiation than mobile phones. But people living - or attending schools - near them are consistently exposed and studies reveal a worrying incidence of symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness and memory problems. There is also some suggestion that there may be an increase in cancers and heart disease.

Wi-Fi systems essentially take small versions of these masts into the home and classroom - they emit much the same kind of radiation. Though virtually no research has been carried out, campaigners and some scientists expect them to have similar ill-effects. They say that we are all now living in a soup of electromagnetic radiation one billion times stronger than the natural fields in which living cells have developed over the last 3.8 billion years. This, they add, is bound to cause trouble

More here

Attitudes to autism

The following review of Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism by Roy Richard Grinker, Basic Books, 2007; Constructing Autism: Unravelling the `Truth' and Understanding the Social by Majia Holmer Nadesan, Routledge, 2005; Send in the Idiots: Stories From the Other Side of Autism by Kamran Nazeer, Bloomsbury, 2006 finds that strange attitudes towards autism have arisen in the absence of much real understanding of it. My own view is that there is no such thing as autism -- merely a range of quite different disorders that happen to have communication problems in common. And the different accounts of autism summarized below do rather bear that out.

Like Roy Richard Grinker, whose daughter was diagnosed as autistic at around the same time as my son in the early 1990s, at the time I `knew little about the condition and knew no-one else who had it'. Autism was then regarded as a rare disorder affecting three children in 10,000. A decade later, the increasing numbers of children with autism are widely described as a crisis and an epidemic, with cases occurring at a rate of 60 per 10,000 births. Grinker, a social anthropologist as well as a parent, observes that the term epidemic `implies danger and incites fear' and wisely cautions that we should `step back and take a closer look at our fears about autism'.

Through a comprehensive review of the history and epidemiology of autism, Grinker shows how a greater awareness of autism among parents and professionals, together with a widening concept of autism, have led to a dramatic increase in the recognition of cases, rather than a true increase in numbers. He challenges the conviction among many parents that an epidemic of autism can be readily attributed to toxins and vaccines and regards the search for environmental causes (and cures) as misconceived: `If there is no real epidemic, we might just have to admit that no-one is to blame.' He insists that `we cannot find real solutions if we're basing our ideas on false premises and bad science'.

For Grinker, the increased recognition of autism in Western society is a welcome sign `that we are finally seeing and appreciating a kind of human difference that we once turned away from'. With insights derived from his studies in India, South Korea and South Africa (as well as in Europe), he shows how in other cultures autism is only beginning to emerge from being hidden, stigmatised and denigrated. While Grinker describes the familiar parental struggle to secure appropriate schooling for his daughter even in the USA of today, he readily acknowledges that `autism is a terrible, life-long disorder, but it's a better time than ever to be autistic'. However, when he claims that `the prevalence of autism today is a virtue, maybe even a prize', he never asks whether the current popularity of autism reflects a perverse celebration of themes of alienation and atomisation in contemporary society - for that we need to turn to a sociologist.

Majia Holmer Nadesan, who also has a child with autism, brings a welcome sociological and historical perspective to her thoughtful and thought-provoking survey of current controversies. For her, autism is not so much a discovery of the 1940s that became an epidemic in the 1990s, as a product of the social and cultural circumstances of the late twentieth century. She argues that the `classical' autism described by US psychiatrist Leo Kanner in his landmark 1943 paper emerged as a result of the development of distinctive concepts and institutions of childhood and child psychology over the preceding half-century. In contrast with the current vogue for identifying autistic personalities in history and literature, she insists that autism was `unthinkable' within the diagnostic categories of nineteenth-century psychiatry, at a time when any child presenting such behaviours would have been `abandoned, neglected or institutionalised'.

Nadesan considers that the expanding range of autism diagnoses in recent years - with a particular emphasis on cases of `higher functioning' autism or Asperger's syndrome - can be attributed to the more intensive parental and professional focus on child development fostered by cognitive psychology and to the scope offered to the more able autistic individuals within the wider culture of information technology. (Though Hans Asperger first described cases of his syndrome in Austria in the 1940s, his work did not become widely known in the English-speaking world before the 1980s.) In a perceptive discussion of `Asperger's as cyborgs', Nadesan notes the way this syndrome has been constructed as `the sublimation of humanity by technology, cloaked in the guise of human genius'. She attributes the impact of popular accounts of `autistic intelligence' to `the public's simultaneous fascination and repulsion with a stereotyped and reified form of "autistic genius"'.

Whereas Grinker uncritically welcomes the wider recognition of autism, Nadesan is alert to the danger that, in technically advanced countries in the late twentieth century, `we have pathologised people' who would formerly have been regarded as merely eccentric.

Nadesan develops philosopher Ian Hacking's theory of autism as a `niche disorder' arising from the interaction of biological and cultural factors in modern society. She challenges the one-sided emphasis on the biological determination of autism evident in both mainstream research and in popular `biomedical' alternative approaches. Emphasising the dynamic interaction of biological and social aspects, Nadesan insists that people with autism cannot be reduced to defective genetic and neurological states. Indeed, it is the recognition that genes, brain and mind are loosely coupled rather than mechanistically determined that offers scope for therapeutic intervention.

Kamran Nazeer, who was diagnosed with autism as a child, is well aware of the difficulties facing even higher functioning adults with autism. Twenty years after leaving his elementary school in New York, he has traced some of his former classmates and now tells their stories.

Craig, whose echolalic childhood phrase provides the title, was a speechwriter for the Democratic Party who became unemployed after George W Bush's 2004 election victory. After a spell in a juvenile detention centre for a serious assault, Andre lives with his sister, works in computers and uses hand puppets to facilitate social interaction. Randall works as a bicycle courier in Chicago and is now back with his parents after separating from his former partner Mike, a writer. Though Elizabeth committed suicide in 2002 at the age of 26, we hear her story from her parents, Henry and Sheila.

The most enigmatic case is that of the author. Born to Pakistani parents, he has lived in Jeddah, Islamabad and Glasgow, studied philosophy and legal theory and is now a policy adviser in Whitehall. Nazeer writes with intelligence and wit, providing finely observed and deeply sympathetic profiles of each of his former classmates, together with thoughtful reflections on matters such as the art of conversation, the question of genius and the challenges facing the families of people with autism. His account of the cruelty to psychologists of adolescents with high-functioning autism is hilarious. He concludes with a discussion of autism controversies with two of his former teachers, Ira and Rebecca, who are both still engaged in autism education, though his old school has now closed.

Nazeer observes that, with the decline of psychogenic theories and the rise of genetics, there is now `a different sense of shame about autism'. He attributes the influence of vaccine theories of causation to a `lingering, perhaps renewed, sense of shame about having a child with a developmental disorder'. He finds the quest for environmental explanations `terribly sad' as parents `throbbing with guilt and shame' have pursued `whatever external cause they could identify, to exculpate themselves'.

When Ira and Rebecca suggest to Nazeer that he is no longer autistic, his rejoinder is that `we all got better, to say it that way'. He insists that it is not `simply that we're all less idiotic than before' but that `we became that way through exposure to the world that lay beyond the horizon of our own selves'. He rejects the `notion perpetrated on' himself and his classmates, `that our minds are singular, glowing, remarkable and untouched by others' - and expectations that people with autism will be socially inept but brilliant with computers. For him, all these preconceptions derive from the same belief - `that autistic people are themselves only, self-enclosed and sealed off to the world'. He dismisses the view that people with autism `can't be reached, or shouldn't be, that self-enclosure is or ought to be permanent'.

In the course of his study Nazeer found `something rather different': `Our autism eased, in each case, because of other people, our parents, friends, and our teachers, of course.' He rejects both `credulity and cretinhood', both the notions that an alienated autistic identity should be celebrated and that autistic children are doomed, without prospect of improvement. He affirms the humanity of people with autism as participants in the networks of human society. `This realisation sometimes expands inside me until I feel as if my organs are going to bruise one another.' Let's hope that writing this book has reduced his risk of internal injury. As he truly writes, his approach `marks a big change compared to how autism is typically thought about'.

For anybody in a quandary over which books to select from the recent profusion of autism-lit titles, here are three excellent choices. If you only have time for one, choose Nazeer's. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry; above all it will make you think about autism.


British eco-imperialism

The UN Security Council this week held its first ever debate on climate change and the potential threat that global warming poses to international security. British foreign secretary Margaret Beckett, who chaired the meeting, organised the open session to highlight what she called the `security imperative' to tackle climate change. According to Beckett, climate change can exacerbate problems that cause conflicts and threaten the entire planet. She was clearly very pleased with the UK-led initiative, stating that: `This is a groundbreaking day in the history of the Security Council, the first time ever that we will debate climate change as a matter of international peace and security.' (1)

Not all the Council members agreed with her. The UK, currently holding the rotating council presidency, had to undertake a lot of `behind closed doors' lobbying to even get the Council to agree to hold the open session (2). Even so, the discussion was marked by strong disagreements over whether the Security Council had the authority to deal with the issue of global warming and, as expected beforehand, no resolution was reached.

China's deputy ambassador, Liu Zhenmin, was blunt in rejecting the session: `The developing countries believe the Security Council has neither the professional competence in handling climate change - nor is it the right decision-making place for extensive participation leading up to widely acceptable proposals.' Russia also warned that the Council, whose mandate is only peace and security, was not the place to take concrete action on climate change (3).

The main argument raised against Beckett's proposal was that the Security Council was stepping on to the territory of more democratic bodies, such as the UN General Assembly. The two major groups representing developing countries - the Nonaligned Movement and the Group of 77 - wrote separate letters accusing the Security Council of `ever-increasing encroachment' on the role and responsibility of other UN bodies such as the 192-member General Assembly (4).

However, none of the participants in the debate challenged the substance of Beckett's argument that climate change posed a major risk to international peace and security. The opposition from some of the Security Council's permanent members and from many other states was posed in terms of the Security Council's authority and mandate to deal with such an extensive issue. It would seem that even those states which spoke in favour of Beckett's position, including the EU members and Japan, were less concerned with the substance of the argument than the desire to prioritise the issue of climate change itself. This was also clearly the case for UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, who hopes that the higher profile given to the relationship between climate change and global conflict will lead the member states to support his initiative to create a new UN Environmental Organisation, in an effort to coordinate action on climate change (5).

Even in the case of the UK, which has been so keen to push the link between climate change and global security, the substance of the argument appears to be of little importance. It is as if any important issue must be, of its very nature, a security risk in our globalised and interconnected world; it seems that every threat is so great that only the concerted action of the world's governments can deal with it. The UK has been keen to situate itself in the forefront of campaigning on climate change and Margaret Beckett argued some weeks ago that she hoped that the UN Security Council discussion would `foster a shared understanding of the way in which climate stress is likely to amplify other drivers of conflict and tension. This can only strengthen the commitment of the international community to the collective action that we urgently need.' (6)

It would appear that the substantive evidence for linking climate change with conflict is secondary to the concern that urgent collective action is taken. Beckett hinted as much in her speech to business organisations in New York the day before the UN Security Council debate: `[T]he, perhaps rather sad, truth is that the international community will not move with the necessary urgency or the necessary resolve if climate change is seen as primarily something that affects insects, animals and plants. To steal a slogan from Amnesty International, we need to show that tackling climate change is about saving the human.' (7)

For Beckett, the key issue is not so much the link between climate change and global conflict but the government's desire to take the international moral high ground in stressing the urgency of action in relation to climate change. It is this that has driven Beckett to engage in presenting climate change as a global security threat. She says: `Particularly over the past year, I have discussed the link between climate and security with many people. Some of them are sceptical. They respond that we can't prove that climate change will lead to this or that particular event - still less that it will cause any one outbreak of violence or hostilities. But that is to misunderstand the issue and the argument. If you are looking for a simple, linear connection between climate change and a particular flashpoint, you are only picking up a glimpse of a much wider picture. The implications of climate change for our security are more fundamental and comprehensive than any single conflict.' (8)

Beckett is clearly not, in fact, arguing that climate change causes conflict in any direct or straightforward way open to evidence-based debate. As the Guardian notes, `Britain refuses to site [sic] examples of global warming-related conflicts' (9). The reason for this obvious: it is not possible to substantiate a linkage between global warming and conflict. Even the alarmist CNA Corporation report, National Security and the Threat of Climate Change - released the day before the UN Security Council meeting, in which 11 former senior US generals, including Anthony Zinni, retired chief of Central Command, and Gordon Sullivan, formerly the US army's most senior general, called on the Bush administration to do more to tackle climate change - does not make any clear or direct links, despite arguing that `climate change is a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world' (10).

The generals' report links climate change to conflict only in the most non-specific and indirect terms: `Projected climate change will seriously exacerbate already marginal living standards in many Asian, African and Middle Eastern nations, causing widespread political instability and the likelihood of failed states.' (11) From the generalised nature of the report and its focus on poor and marginal societies, it is clear that the problem it highlights is not climate change as such, but rather the political, economic and social context upon which climate change may have an impact. To see climate change or resource shortages as a cause of conflict would involve depoliticising conflict and naturalising social and economic conditions in the countries under analysis (12).

Even given that there can be no direct link between climate change and conflict, the report gives very little concrete evidence of conflicts in which climate change can be held to have played a major role. It admits that, despite its importance, `no recent wars have been waged solely over water resources' and that `even tense disputes and resource crises can be peacefully overcome' (13). When the report does venture a few cursory attempts to claim examples where resource scarcity is held to be a contributing factor - Rwanda, `furthered by violence over agricultural resources', `the situation in Darfur, which has land resources at its root', the 1970s overthrow of Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie `through his government's inability to deal with food shortages', and the 1974 Nigerian coup `that resulted largely from an insufficient response to famine' (14) - it is clear that the meaning and consequences of resource scarcity are social and political questions, not ones of environmental science, and certainly not ones liable to be ameliorated by any reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

Beckett follows a similar approach to that of the CNA report in grouping a wide-range of problems together, including those of resource scarcity, land erosion, energy supplies and food production and distribution. Once these social, economic and political problems are reframed in terms of natural resources then she is able to proclaim that we should: `Think of the world today, then, as a dangerously simmering pot. An unstable climate risks that pot boiling over. And we ignore that risk - literally - at our peril.' (15) Of course, if the risks are so great, the cause is ever more vital and heroic: `Now it is time for us to rise to our newest and biggest challenge: to fight the first great war of interdependence, the struggle for climate security.' (16)

Underneath the Churchillian rhetoric that Beckett uses to declare that climate change is a `gathering storm', comparable to the threat posed by Nazi Germany in an earlier era, lies an attempt to re-establish the UK's moral and political standing in the world - not through old-fashioned militarism but through what the government clearly believes to be the UK's strongest card: the power of rhetoric.


Britain's trains -- what the Greenies are wishing on us all

And you thought wobbly old Amtrak was bad!

A week ago a return Virgin Train ticket for the 85 minute journey from Euston station, London, to Birmingham New Street cost me more than œ70 ($168). For the outward journey that bought a seat on a window side of the carriage; but rather than a window, the seat was up close and personal with a beige plastic wall. A pale yellow light allowed me to read, just. The seat-back table was stickier than a poodle dipped in custard. Across the PA came an announcement that at any time we "customers" could move into a first-class carriage, where we could pay an extra œ10 for the upgrade. Halfway through the journey a Virgin employee scuttled through the carriages with a plastic bag the size of a small piggery, into which we could chuck the remains of our snacks.

But Virgin is luxury compared with First Great Western. One journey from Oxford to London Waterloo was plastic-rubbish-bag-free. Customers stepped carefully over floor puddles of food and drink remains, or kicked them aside.

Now for the stations. London Euston, a destination for 55 million passengers a year, is to be demolished and redeveloped at a cost of œ250 million. Early publicity promises a "light and airy thoroughfare" to replace the grey floors and grey-block ceilings that match the grey, dive-bombing pigeons. A tribute to the Brutalist architectural philosophy of the 1960s when it was built, Euston was demolished this month in print by the columnist Richard Morrison, who wrote: "The design should never have left the drawing board - if, indeed, it was ever on a drawing board. It gives the impression of having been scribbled on the back of a soiled paper bag by a thuggish android with a grudge against humanity and a vampiric loathing of sunlight."

Euston is so depressed that even its lavatories have gone on strike. After my trip from Birmingham New Street - a grotesquely ugly station itself - customers were forced to hop and shuffle in line to enter the Euston ladies and gents. Two of the three gates, demanding 20 pence each, were out of order.

Ealing Broadway, west London - there's another wrist slasher of a station. Late last month I booked online for a journey to Oxford, with plans to pick up the ticket at a Fast Ticket machine at the station. With 15 minutes to spare, I discovered every Fast Ticket machine at Ealing Broadway carried an "out of order" sign, strangely reminiscent of those black felt-tip pens on brown cardboard pleas: "Help, down on my luck." The queue to buy tickets was 30 people long. With my train due in less than five minutes, one extra ticket counter was s-l-o-w-l-y opened and my ticket handed over.

Finally, the entirely lift-free Stratford-on-Avon. To board a train to London, customers must carry their bags from one platform up a flight of steps, across a bridge, and down another flight to reach the right platform.

More here

Britain's Anti-education education

In recent years, there has been concern over the underachievement of black boys in UK schools. Compared to a national average of 59 per cent, only 34 per cent of African-Caribbean boys attain five or more GCSE passes. Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), seems to think that black boys' cultural outlook is partly to blame. `There is an anti-learning culture whereby learning isn't seen to be cool.' (1) For Phillips, black kids just don't want to learn.

Phillips is right to blame `an anti-learning culture'. But this has little to do with hip-hop `playas' and everything to do with the government and the cultural elites. Blaming the gormless bravado of street culture for hostility to education suggests that Phillips is more in awe of 50 Cent and Eminem than the black kids I teach. Urban entertainers may loom large in the popular imagination, but they're hardly able to dictate the agenda on education, learning and culture. After all, it wasn't Jay-Z who grabbed headlines by declaring that `learning history is a bit dodgy'. That was the former education secretary, Charles Clarke.

Yet this wasn't just a rash comment by Clarke. Instead, hostility to learning for learning's sake currently informs every aspect of the education system. For example, the government has long attempted to put vocational learning `on a parity of esteem' with academic subjects. The drive to vocationalise education won't necessarily bolster the status of NVQ's in Hair & Beauty, but it has cast academic courses in a negative light. When Clarke suggests that academic subjects are dodgy, he really means that they are not `accessible' enough. Middle managers in further education colleges are following suit. At one inner London college at which I have taught, the Sixth Form Centre was constantly threatened with closure by the management, which deemed teaching A-levels as elitist.

Such an anti-learning culture is also prevalent in today's classrooms. Teachers are discouraged from extended their students' vocabulary in case it `alienates' them. And if students are having trouble participating in classroom discussion, teachers are recommended to introduce kindergarten-style games to pass the time. In the past, educationalists would seek to overcome the barriers to learning. Today learning is seen as a barrier to developing that all-important self-esteem. Indeed, the current teaching adverts suggest that learning is an alien concept for most schools. Classrooms are represented as similar to `crazy' youth centres where teachers simply turn up, arrange the chairs and distribute soft drinks. The apparent upside is that adults `get to hang out with Raj' and, in a spectacular reversal of roles, get to learn a `new language'.

This isn't merely the outcome of a daft advertising agency. In PGCE courses, student teachers are encouraged to incorporate as many hip-hop tracks and videos into lessons as possible. But such tricks are more likely to irritate students than bring them onside. Nothing is more grating for clued-up students than teachers getting down with `the kids'. My authority would be seriously undermined if I scribbled `blood, this is the shiznit!' on their work, or delivered sociology in a series of raps. Compared to Trevor Phillips, most of the black students I teach don't take hip-hop's ludicrous postures seriously.

The underachievement of black boys is a concern for educationalists and wider society. But the causes of the problem are varied and complex, and can't just be reduced to students' listening habits. Because there is an obsession with interpreting social groups purely in cultural terms, it is rarely acknowledged that African-Caribbean students are predominately from poorer working-class backgrounds. This isn't to suggest that social class is the only factor in determining their educational performance. But it is an important explanation for why a significant proportion of white and Bangladeshi boys also fall behind the national average.

Nevertheless, softening the education system can't compensate for the negative effects of social and racial inequalities. In fact, the government's measures are likely to make them worse. If learning appears alien and `uncool' to some African-Caribbean students, Trevor Phillips should look less at `the street' and a lot closer to home.


Must not expose the chaos of Britain's schools

A whistleblower who should get a medal is being prosecuted by a rotten system

A supply teacher who covertly filmed her pupils swearing, fighting and attempting to access pornography on the internet was misusing her professional position, a tribunal was told yesterday. Angela Mason recorded footage in late 2004 and early 2005 at 18 schools in London and the North of England for Classroom Chaos, a documentary shown on channel Five. She arrived at classrooms with a miniature camera disguised as a button that allowed her to record pupils smashing furniture and making false accusations that teachers had touched them.

Mrs Mason, from London, was accused of unacceptable professional conduct yesterday at a hearing in Birmingham of the General Teaching Council, the professional body that regulates teachers. She faces a second charge of failing to promote the education and welfare of the children by failing to manage their behaviour properly. Five concealed the identity of all the pupils and schools caught on film before the programme was broadcast.

Bradley Albuery, the presenting officer outlining the case against Mrs Mason, said that by filming teachers and pupils without their knowledge or consent she created a conflict of interest. “She was there not as a broadcaster but as a teacher,” he said. “All of her attention should have been directed at the education of the children. That she took a camera into the classroom shows that her agenda was not . . . focused wholly on the needs of the children.” Mr Albuery said that teachers and students had reacted with anger to the programme. Pupils from one school were “angry and upset”, he said. Another student, who said he could be identified from the footage, felt “embarrassed and humiliated”, the tribunal heard.

During the documentary, which was shown to the tribunal, one boy tells Mrs Mason to “take a nap” when she attempts to restore order to the class. Another is shown using a school computer to look for “anal sex” on an internet search engine.

Mrs Mason admits the secret filming, but denies that it amounted to unacceptable professional conduct, claiming that she acted in the public interest. Mrs Mason, who is married with two children, originally left teaching in the 1970s to work in educational broadcasting but enrolled with two supply teaching companies — Brent Supply Service and Teaching Personnel — to take part in the documentary. If the case against Mrs Mason is proved, she could be banned from teaching.

Clive Rawlings, appearing for Mrs Mason, said that she had embarked upon a “responsible and reasonable” piece of journalism, and that her actions had contributed to the public debate on classroom behaviour. “Angela Mason’s actions were in the public interest in its broadest sense,” he said. “She is merely the messenger, and we submit that you should not shoot the messenger.”

Outside the hearing Mrs Mason said: “It’s not my profession — I left it 30 years ago — but I still feel strongly about it. I believe there is a major public policy issue to do with pupils in classrooms and poor behaviour. I’m standing up for the supply teachers and other teachers who have to endure this every day.”


Al Qaeda regrouping: "British authorities arrest six suspected terrorists. As discussed on yesterday's show with Melanie Phillips and Gerard Baker, and as will be discussed with Lawrence Wright today, the evidence of efforts by al Qaeda to strike in the west is growing, and the indifference of the public to the threat is astonishing. Al Qaeda is regrouping in some strange places like Mali, and while its forces in Iraq are repeatedly defeated and its leadership there killed or captured, the network's propagandists continue to push out messages claiming success there and encouraging jihadists to come to Iraq to join in the war. In the U.S., despite efforts by some serious journalists like Wright and Michael Barone to keep some focus on the threat from al Qaeda in Iraq and elsewhere across the globe, the public is repeatedly told by the Democrats and the MSM that the U.S. can withdraw from Iraq and fight terrorism effectively in Afghanistan. This is delusional and dangerous, but so seductive that it will probably take another spectacularly lethal attack for the west to confront the menace with renewed resolve". [More on the British arrests here].

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