Sunday, May 06, 2007


The Church of England is once again fulfilling its historic role as an object of ridicule

Please stand now for the hymn: "Switch off, switch off for Jesus". You will not have heard the vicar say that in church this morning - but you soon might. Last week the Church of England published what has been described as a set of "green commandments" in a booklet entitled How Many Light Bulbs Does It Take To Change A Christian? The booklet (4.99 pounds at all good Christian bookshops) is part of the CofE's Shrinking The Footprint campaign.

That's right: the established Church is now fully signed up to the view that man-made CO2 emissions are destroying the planet and, therefore, humanity. Meanwhile David Miliband, the Environment Secretary, travelled to the Vatican last Thursday and called on Pope Benedict to use his "global reach and influence that individual governments do not have" to fight the good fight against global warming. The Pope responded that "we should all respect God's creation".

Official Christian doctrine, however, remains rooted in the idea that the Earth was created for Man's benefit. As God told Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:28): "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air and over every living thing." This is as far removed as can be from what we might describe as the green gospel, which regards birth control as the greatest of all moral obligations and which abhors the idea that Man should be master of the planet, instead of nature itself.

In fact, the new green gospel is far closer in its appeal to the primitive cults that preceded the monotheistic faith of Jews, Christians and Muslims. It regards nature itself as a supreme deity whose wrath must be appeased. This, certainly, is the view of the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, who last year declared: "In the past, pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today, they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions."

The Church of England would, I suspect, bitterly resent this accusation. In its booklet it is not calling for human sacrifices. Its suggestions are altogether more comfortable: we should use a toaster rather than a grill on our daily bread. We should holiday locally rather than abroad. We should use a car-sharing system for our trip to Sunday worship.

These might seem as clear as the Ten Commandments, but they are not. Suppose you can't find anyone to share your car on the way to church. Should you stay at home and save the environment instead of your soul? Is it actually morally better to holiday here and hand over your money to a comfortably-off Cornishman selling pub food at London prices, instead of taking your family on safari to Zimbabwe and putting some desperately needed hard currency into that wretched and suffering country?

Since the days of the missionaries, the Church of England has always had a deep concern for Africa, and rightly so. Indeed, Africa is at the heart of the whole issue of global warming. Despite what you might have read, global warming is, on balance, beneficial to the Northern Hemisphere. It will be a big boost for agricultural production as the corn belt moves northwards and old people will have less reason to fear the winters. (It's worth reminding ourselves that carbon dioxide is not itself a form of pollution. Or, if it is, then we are all polluting the Earth simply by breathing, which would be a fantastically bleak philosophy by which to live.)

If there is to be a victim of global warming, it is most likely to be Sub-Saharan Africa. Yet your decision - having read and digested How Many Light Bulbs Does It Take To Change A Christian? - not to travel there will not save a single African life. Even if you believe there is a direct link between CO2 emissions and global temperature, man-made emissions are a tiny part of the total, and carbon dioxide itself is only a small component within the full range of greenhouse gases.

Besides which, the plane will take off without you. Yes, you can argue that if hundreds of thousands take the same decision, those flights might be cancelled - but is boosting the British tourism industry at the expense of those in less wealthy countries actually a virtuous act, however well-meaning the intentions?

Recently, Tesco announced that as part of its plan to be a responsible corporate citizen and save the planet, it had dramatically cut the amount of fresh produce it would fly in from Africa, and buy more locally. Do you think the Africans were grateful? What guidance might we expect on this from the Church of England?

Perhaps we should consult the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, who chairs the bishops' panel on the environment. Last July, Dr Chartres declared that flying was 'a symptom of sin'. That made the headlines. Unfortunately for this most pompous of prelates, what also made the headlines a few months earlier was that he had deserted his flock in Holy Week so that he and his wife could enjoy a free ocean-liner cruise for which other holidaymakers would have paid about 7,000 pounds. (To be fair to the Bishop, he was giving them the benefits of his views, as "a guest lecturer", on the rise and fall of Egypt, Rome and Carthage.)

Even though Dr Chartres had left his parishioners during the most important week in the Christian calendar, at least, say his defenders, he wasn't using a plane to get away. I suggest they consult green campaign group Climate Care, which points out that "a cruise liner such as Queen Mary 2 emits 0.43kg of CO2 per passenger mile, compared with 0.257kg for a long-haul flight (even allowing for the further damage of emissions being produced in the upper atmosphere). It is far greener to fly than cruise."

So the Bishop looks like either a hypocrite or a fool - or quite possibly both. This is not an argument against the Church of England using its authority to protect the environment. I can't help feeling, however, that it is behaving a little bit like the Conservative Party - after all, it used to be described as "the Conservative Party at prayer". Just as the Tories have jumped on the issue of global warming as a means to impress younger voters, so the Church of England is in danger of becoming an ideological fashion victim - and thus end up looking ridiculous.

Above all, I worry that it is encouraging people into forms of ritual - using the toaster instead of the grill, switching off the light in the porch - which may do no good to anyone, but which allow the performer to imagine that by acting in this way he or she has become a better person. This, after all, was exactly the objection that Jesus had to the Pharisees.


How the British police protect you from gun crime

They systematically ignore most complaints -- and people die helplessly

A teenage gunman was jailed for 25 years yesterday for shooting a young father who had been subjected to a campaign of violence and threats after confronting local thugs. Bradley Tucker, 18, aimed eight shots at Peter Woodhams, a 22-year-old satellite television repairman, and left him bleeding to death in front of his fiancée, Jane Bowden, and their three-year-old son Sam.

Mr Woodhams died in a final confrontation with Tucker and a gang of youths close to his home in Custom House, East London, last August. Seven months earlier he was stabbed in the neck, and slashed across the face after confronting teenagers who had thrown stones at his car.

Nine officers now face a misconduct inquiry into allegations that they failed to investigate the assault. Miss Bowden called the police every day for five weeks after the stabbing but officers did not take a statement and youngsters regularly taunted the family.

Sentencing Tucker, who was convicted in March, the Recorder of London, Judge Peter Beaumont, QC, ordered that he should not be released until he has served a minimum of 25 years. The judge told Tucker: “There are in my judgment no mitigating matters. You were not provoked in any legal or real sense to do what you did. “You perceived disrespect. You feared the loss of face in a challenge that you perceived from the man you killed, a challenge to the standing that you felt you had in the eyes of those around you.”

Ms Bowden, 24, was in tears as she left court. In a statement to the court on the impact of the murder she said her son was convinced his father was a star in heaven and looked up at the sky, saying: “Look, there is daddy looking down on me.”

Outside the Old Bailey the dead man’s father, Peter Woodhams, said: “We have got to bring out to the public that parents need to be responsible for their children." He said his family were “contented” to know that for 25 years Tucker would not be able to inflict what he had done to them on anyone else.

Tucker, from Canning Town, East London, left school at 13 with no qualifications and was thrown out of the family home when he was convicted of dangerous driving at the age of 16. In January last year Mr Woodhams was driving past a group of shops when a gang of teenagers pelted his car with stones. When he stopped, one of the youths grabbed hold of him while a boy said to answer the description of Tucker shouted: “Hold him, hold him. I’m going to do him.” He pulled out a knife and slashed Mr Woodhams’s face before stabbing him in the neck, narrowly missing his jugular vein.

In August Mr Woodhams was driving home when he saw Tucker hanging around near his home smoking cannabis with other youths. Mr Woodhams chased the youths away and went home as Tucker shouted: “F***ing tosser, if he wants it he can have it. If he comes back round he will get it. I will have him”. Tucker armed himself with a pistol, put his hood up and sprinted towards Mr Woodhams, who had left his house to confront him. The teenager’s shots penetrated Mr Woodhams’s chest, piercing the heart and both lungs and causing massive blood loss.

Tucker ran away from the scene but later gave himself up to police. He was captured on CCTV wearing a distinctive high-visibility jacket he had put on while working at a construction site in Shadwell earlier that day. Tucker admitted pulling the trigger and pleaded guilty to manslaughter but denied murder, claiming he thought the gun fired blanks. He said that a 14-year-old friend supplied him with the gun but was told: “It just makes a bang”. A 17-year-old said to have acted as his lookout was cleared.


More NHS superbug deaths

A virulent strain of the Clostridium difficile superbug has been linked to the recent deaths of 17 elderly patients at a hospital. A further eleven who have the bug are being treated and five more sufferers have had bowel surgery at the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston, Norfolk. Health experts at the hospital said yesterday that they had not identified the source of the 027 strain of Clostridium difficile, commonly known as C.diff, and could not say whether patients contracted it in the hospital or in the outside community.

The bug was a contributory factor in the deaths of the patients between December 1 and March 28 and not the actual cause of death, experts said. Of the 17 patients who died, the majority were over 65 and some in their 80s. Of the five who had surgery to alleviate the worst symptoms, several are said to have recovered and left the hospital.

Medics said that the fit and healthy had little to fear from the bug but those patients in hospital or outside who had been taking antibiotics were at risk because of imbalances in the gut brought on by taking the drugs. To prevent more cases developing, different antibiotics were being given to patients in the hospital and the outside community. The hospital has also spent 400,000 pounds on new health precautions.

A statement from the James Paget University Hospitals NHS Trust said: “At the beginning of December 2006 we became increasingly concerned about a rise in our normally low background rate of C.diff. “Our concerns were heightened by the increasing severity of illness which led us to believe that a new strain was present in the hospital. “We immediately responded to these changes in the patterns of patients’ illness by putting in place a wide range of additional infection-control measures.”

Precautions include putting patients suspected of having the bug in isolation rooms, revising antibiotic prescribing policy, upgrading cleaning procedures and introducing new deep-cleaning techniques, involving the recruitment of 15 new staff. Visitors to the hospital are being asked to wash their hands with soap and water as an extra precaution as the usual alcohol gel is not a protection against the bug.

Mr Nick Coveney, director of nursing and patient services at the hospital, said: “This strain of C.diff is much more virulent than any strain we have experienced previously.” It was not yet possible to say whether all the patients who died had the 027 strain of the bug as more tests were being carried out. In the two years prior to December 2006 the hospital had 11 patients who had experienced C.diff complications that had contributed to their deaths.


Sharia courts already operating in Britain: "Muslim radicals have established their own draconian court systems in Britain. Controversial Sharia courts have been set up in major towns and cities to impose Islamic law and enable Muslims to shun the legitimate British legal system. Last night religious leaders and politicians expressed outrage that Sharia law is gaining an increasing foothold in our society. Critics insisted that the Govern-ment is allowing a two-tier legal system to flourish in the name of political correctness and that the authority of UK justice is being undermined. The Daily Express can reveal that one of the controversial courts has been set up in the home town of the 7/7 London bombings ringleader. The Dewsbury court is called the Sharee Council - another term for Sharia - and operates as a Muslim judiciary making decisions by which attendees must abide. Non-Muslims are excluded from the secretive court which is registered as a charity to receive British tax benefits. Although the court has no official legal standing, scales of justice adorn a sign outside a former pub building which has been converted by the Islamic Institute of Great Britain."

Maggots cure superbug: "Maggots are being used to help successfully treat MRSA patients in record time, according to a study by the University of Manchester. Researchers used green bottle fly larvae to treat 13 diabetics whose foot ulcers were contaminated with MRSA. All but one were cured within a mean period of three weeks, instead of the usual 28 for conventional treatment. Professor Andrew Boulton, who published the results in Diabetes Care, will now do further tests, funded by Diabetes UK. Maggots eat dead tissue and bacteria, leaving healthy tissue to heal. The group of diabetics, aged between 18 and 80, had sterile larvae applied between two and eight times - depending on the size of foot ulcer - for four days at a time. All but one was cleared of the superbug. "This is very exciting," Professor Boulton said yesterday. "If confirmed in a randomised controlled trial, larval treatment would offer the first noninvasive and risk-free treatment of this problem."

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