Saturday, July 28, 2007


They should be prosecuting the filthy hospital that gave the kid MRSA. It was the MRSA that turned a minor problem into a major one

A headmaster accused of breaching safety standards after the death of a three-year-old boy who fell from a flight of steps while pretending to be Batman insisted yesterday that the child had been told the area was out of bounds.

James Porter, 66, was giving evidence before a jury at Mold Crown Court. He is accused of breaking health and safety laws by allowing infants unsupervised access to the steps in a remote part of the playground. Kian Williams, a pupil at the private Hillgrove School, in Bangor, is said to have been playing as Batman when he leapt from the fourth step and fell headlong. The child did not need treatment for a break in the skin or a fracture but later suffered secondary swelling of the brain and died from pneumonia brought on by a MRSA-type infection, on August 11, 2004. Mr Porter denies charges that he took inadequate measures to protect young pupils from the 13 steps leading from one playground to another. He faces an unlimited fine if found guilty. The trial continues.


British socialists have betrayed the working class kids they purport to help

They hate and have managed to close down as "elitist" most of the schools that were once the highroad to a top education for poor kids -- the Grammar (selective) schools. But talented poor kids are still there

Fifteen pairs of eyes fix on the patient's shrivelled white limb. The toes are black. "It's gangrene," says the surgeon cheerily to his summer school students. The patient says his leg hurts more when he is lying down. "That's probably because less blood can circulate when it's on the level," says a mullet-haired youth with a Rotherham accent. An Asian girl suggests comparing blood pressure in the arm and leg to diagnose arterial disease. Long ringlets from Somerset agrees.

Over 90 minutes they forensically diagnose the patient. No one giggles, or chats, or doodles on their notes. I did science A-levels and I can't follow it all. These 17-year-olds, all from comprehensives and families where no one has been to university, are super-bright. They are the doctors and surgeons of the future, whose knowledge will save us when we are sick.

There has been much national soul-searching of late over Britain's alarmingly bad - and deteriorating - social mobility. Last week, to add to the gloom, our leading universities revealed they are taking fewer students from poorer areas and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation announced that the gap between rich and poor is the largest for 40 years.

Education is the missing link; if poor bright kids don't make it to the best universities to become the surgeons, businessmen and other professionals of the future, the engine of social mobility runs out of petrol. Oxford is the most glaring example with only 53.7% of its students coming from state schools (less than 20% from standard comprehensives). This matters because 90% of our kids go to them and, as I had rammed home to me during my day at the Oxford summer school, intelligence has nothing to do with class, income or accent.

The miracle, as I discovered as I heard more about the lives of the summer school kids, is that these teenagers have made it this far. "I kept quiet about coming here," one lad from Lancashire told me. "Me mates would think I was daft going to school in the holidays." The others laughed and agreed, and one added: "At school you wouldn't let on that you are clever. The others look down on you. You have to hide it." The best thing about summer school is finding that "there are people like you who are on your intellectual wavelength".

They all say they thought they would be the most stupid person on the week-long course. One girl told me she nearly got off the train because she was so sure she couldn't cut it. To them Oxford is not just another world, it's a different planet. Many had unemployed parents, nearly all were on EMA (education maintenance allowance) which is paid to over-16s who are still studying and whose family income is less than 31,000 pounds a year, and nearly all did jobs - waitressing, supermarket checkouts, bar work - as well as their studies.

They all said how proud their parents were that they'd come to Oxford to be students for a week. I had expected their schools to be proud, too - that their teachers would have picked them out, encouraged them to attend (it is hard to get on the summer school, 1,500 apply for 250 places). Not a bit of it. "My school didn't tell me about it," chorus a few voices. They'd found out from the local paper, posters in college, from the internet. Mostly off their own bats. Had their teachers encouraged them to apply? A few obviously had, but the majority implied that the teachers felt that Oxford was "divisive" and "elitist" - not for kids like them. With attitudes like this it's no surprise that we are not getting bright, poor kids into our elite universities. Harvard and the other US Ivy League institutions have teams of scouts truffle-hunting poor kids from bad schools with high SAT results.

A friend told me how he sat in on an admissions board at Harvard where they discussed a bright young black single mother from the ganglands of Los Angeles with SATs at the lowest end of their range but who they believed had the potential to be the mayor of a city, who with their help could be a catalyst for change. They wanted to create social capital. Despite the risks and the other higher qualified candidates, she was in.

At Oxford, by contrast, until 10 years ago the university ran no outreach programmes to get bright kids from unlikely schools and backgrounds into its colleges. Peter Lampl, an Oxford alumnus and himself a poor grammar school boy, was appalled to discover after spending 20 years in America that things here had gone backwards educationally. "I realised," he said, "that a kid like me had little to no chance of making it to Oxbridge or another Russell Group university. Something had to be done." He started funding the Oxford Summer Schools, which have proved so successful that they now run in 10 other top universities and the government is involved in rolling the programme out further.

At the dinner on the last night of the course the sense of thrill, of widening horizons, was palpable. "I thought everyone else would be an egghead, but they're not, they're just like me," said a hipster from Wales. "Oxford just seemed completely out of reach before I came here," said another, "but now I'm going to apply." A week of living in college, going to seminars and hanging out with students who are already there has shown them that this could be their world, too. Half of the kids who come on the summer school apply to Oxford and about 40% of those get in. Of the rest, almost all will get a place at a top university. As one Asian boy from Birmingham put it: "I always thought I'd go to the local college with my friends. Now I'm going to apply to Oxford, Bristol and Edinburgh."

It felt a privilege just to watch the bright young faces, chatting confidently, feeling on the cusp of great things, realising they've got what it takes. During the speeches when Lampl told them that they all had a great future, a black girl on the next table shouted "Yeah!" Lampl told them to work hard for their A-levels, that the next year would have more influence on the rest of their lives than any other. That anything was possible for them. I left feeling humbled. I had expected to go to Oxford since as a child my parents (who met there) had walked me round the quads. At St Paul's school and Westminster I was coached to get in. My time there was fantastic but not productive. I feel ashamed of my immense privilege and how arrogantly I wore it. We need to get our brightest kids, wherever they are from, into our best universities. If we don't, we all suffer.


"Londonistan" shows how sick Britain is

A review by Hal G.P. Colebatch of "Londonistan" By Melanie Phillips

Has this book been reviewed before? If so, in light of the recent terror-bombings in Britain, another review may be called for. British Journalist and George Orwell Prize-winner Melanie Philips has written a chilling book, setting out how confused thinking, left-liberalism and obeisance to political correctness have led to Islamicist terrorism and extremism striking deep roots in Britain.

A major villain, she argues, is Blair -- not former Prime Minister Tony in this case, but Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, who emerges as a man driven by fear of seeming politically incorrect. An employment tribunal found that he had racially discriminated against three officers at a training school who had been disciplined for, in one case referring to Muslim headwear as "tea-cosies," and in another case for having, perhaps in honest mistake, pronounced "Shi'ites" as "shitties" and having said he felt sorry for Muslims who fasted during Ramadan. Sir Ian responded to this finding by declaring that he was "unrepentant," repeating that the remarks were "Islamophobic" and declaring that the police must "embrace diversity." When questioned about the murder of Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh for questioning Islamic attitudes to women, Sir Ian responded: "There were lots of fundamentalist Muslims who didn't shoot him," revealing a certain logical gap.

Phillips might have mentioned how, in words reminiscent of the confessions of Darkness at Noon or 1984 or China's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, John Grieve, assistant deputy commissioner in the Metropolitan Police Service, and head of its Racial task force, groveled that "I am a racist. I know because Sir William Macpherson said that I am; the Home Secretary said that I am; countless members of the public inquiry said that I am ....The Metropolitan Police Service is an institutionally racist organisation. It must be because Sir William Macpherson said that it is; the Home Secretary said that it is ..."

This was not sarcasm but was intended literally and at its face value. Ray Honeyford commented in the Salisbury Review:

It clearly conveys the impression of a man experiencing inner torment, after having been reduced to the level of a small child by a chastising and tyrannical father. It is not only the words themselves that are disturb, even though they are indeed chilling, coming as they do from the mouth of a mature adult. It is the identity of the person who uttered them that causes the greatest feeling of alarm in the reader.

Melanie Phillips has something shocking on almost every page:

At various conferences to discuss the terrorist threat, senior police officers declared their respect for the Muslim Brotherhood and its mouthpiece in Britain, the Muslim Association of Britain, despite its extremist views and support for terrorism in Iraq and Israel. This enraged secular Muslims who were present, who protested that by cosying up to such extremists the police were betraying the Muslim community.

A particular favorite of the police contact unit appeared to be a Sheik who had called for suicide bombings in Israel and Iraq as a religious duty, and claimed: "We will conquer Europe, we will conquer America!" She documents the reaction of Muslim bodies in Britain to the London terrorist bombing, denial that they were anything to do with Muslims and threat of more to come often being combined in the same sentence.

Former Home Secretary Charles Clarke said that "there can be no negotiations about the reimposition of Shariah law, there can be no negotiation about the suppression of equality between the sexes, there can be no negotiation about the ending of free speech. These values are fundamental to our civilization and are simply not up for negotiation." This was attacked as an assault on Islam. All this is combined with a resurgence of Jew-hatred such as we might have thought perished in the West about 1945.

Melanie Phillips quotes a 2004 Home Office survey which found 26% of Brtitish Muslims felt no loyalty to Britain, 13% defended terrorism, and about 16,000 were prepared to engage in or actively support terrorism. A third believed Western society was decadent and immoral and that Muslims should seek to bring it to an end. The former Metropolitan Police commissioner, Lord Stevens, revealed that up to 3,000 British-born or British-based people had passed through Osama bin Laden's terrorist training camps. Other surveys gave at least equally alarming results: a BBC poll found 15% of British Muslims supported the 9/11 attacks. Even though these numbers were minorities, with a total Muslim population of 1,600,000, growing rapidly every week, they added up to very substantial numbers in absolute terms.

Four out of 10 British Muslims want Sharia law (which includes punitive stoning and amputation) introduced into parts of the country, and a fifth have sympathy with the "feelings and motives" of the suicide bombers who killed 52 people in the London terrorist bus and tube attacks.

Melanie Phillips claims: "British Muslims are overwhelmingly horrified and disgusted by the louche and dissolute behaviour of a Britain that has torn up notions of respectability. They observe the alcoholism, drug abuse and pornography, the breakdown of family life and the encouragement of promiscuity, and find themselves in opposition to their host society's guiding values."

That, perhaps, is where the other Blair, Tony Blair, comes in. Whether on not things will change under Gordon Brown is hard to say, but it is impossible to deny that the Blair government, for all Blair's military support of the U.S. alliance and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has presided over an ethos, first known as Cool Britannia, which could command little respect or loyalty from anyone. What does one make of a society where trading inspectors prosecute the vendors of pornographic videos on the grounds that their content is less pornographic than advertised, and where the Queen is made to confer a knighthood on a notorious icon of the drug culture? That is another aspect of Londonistan and, along with other elements, goes to make a very disturbing whole. Meanwhile, the director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity said in 2006: "The more fundamentalist clerics think it is only a matter of time before they will persuade the government to concede on the issue of Sharia law. Given the Government's record of capitulating, you can see why they believe that."

I am not always in agreement with Christopher Hitchens, but a comment from him is apt here:

I find myself haunted by a challenge that was offered on the BBC by a Muslim activist named Anjem Choudary: a man who has praised the 9/11 murders as "magnificent" and proclaimed that "Britain belongs to Allah." When asked if he might prefer to move to a country which practices Sharia, he replied: "Who says you own Britain anyway?" A question that will have to be answered one way or another.

The implications of the book are compelling, though to borrow a certain title and call them an inconvenient truth would be an understatement: Britain is going to have to bite on some very tough political bullets if it is going to survive as anything like the nation it has been.


A satirical reply to feminist values

By Britain's irreverent Jeremy Clarkson

We know from Big Brother that today's young ladies have replaced their appealing thongs with pants the size of spinnakers, and now comes news that the sales of stockings are in free fall. Down from 10m sales in 2002 to 5m in 2006. According to The Sun's woman editor - as opposed to the real editor, who's a woman - this is because girls have better things to do these days than get dressed up like a Parisian hooker every time they go to the shops. I absolutely understand that. Getting dressed in the morning is something that should never take more than 20 seconds and putting on a pair of stockings and suspenders can take anything up to three hours.

Actually this is only a guess, based on how long it takes me to undo a suspender belt. Even when I'm armed with a head torch and a pair of scissors. Anyway, I fully appreciate that in a postMrs Robinson world, where women work and raise children, stockings are to the wardrobe what the quill is to online banking. But here's the thing, girls. Tell us that you won't wear stockings because they are impractical and you may well find that we'll give up as well. At the moment we tend not to pick our noses when in your company because it is a bit slovenly. But if you're going to slob around in a pair of footless tights and a sack, then you won't mind if we bury an index finger in each of our nostrils and dig away.

I was at London's City airport this morning surrounded by a group of middle-aged chaps who, I presume, were going to Scotland to watch some golfists. At home, each of these men would, I'm sure, eat all their yoghurt and pretend to be interested in Victoria Beckham's opinion on interior design. But at the airport, with no wives and girlfriends to keep them in check, they quickly reverted to type. By 7.45am they were on their third pint and as I boarded my plane, I believe they were beginning a farting competition.

This is not a criticism. I recently spent a couple of weeks camping in Africa with 20 or so other men and you wouldn't believe how neanderthal we became. Or how quickly. Every morning would begin with a conversation about who'd been for their number twos, what the number twos had looked like, what they'd smelt of, how much more there was to come, and whether any records for sheer tonnage had been set. Then we'd move on to who'd crept into whose tent the night before, what it had felt like, and how long, if we were the last 20 people on earth, it might take for one us to sleep with James May.

You might argue that your husband is not like this, but I assure you that beneath the veneer you see at home, he is. He may do the washing up and take the children to the park, but when you're not around, he's like the light in a fridge. He's a completely different animal, obsessed with bottoms, buggery and belching. So, girls, do you want that sort of thing at home? Really? No? Well get down to the petrol station then and buy some bloody stockings.

You may say that tights are practical and warm but have you seen what they do to a bank robber's face? And hold-ups won't do either. Thanks to all that elasticated rubber, they ruin the shape of your thighs and, in all probability, cut off the blood supply to your feet, causing gangrene. And no man fancies a girl, no matter how sparkling her eyes and wit might be, if she is gangrenous. Pop socks, meanwhile, would be completely banned if I were in power. And anyone found wearing them would be made to parade in nothing else through their local town, and then shot.

It must be stockings, with a suspender belt, because what this combination does is mask everything that doesn't matter and lay bare everything that does. A picture is nice, but before you hang it on the wall it needs a frame. And apart from anything else, if you flash your stocking tops at a man you can, and I mean this literally, get him to do anything you want. Unless you have the figure of a bison obviously, in which case he won't do anything at all. Because he will be too busy being sick. Assuming, however, you have legs which clearly belong on a human, you only need let a man know you're wearing stockings and you will be empowered to a point you may have thought impossible.

I honestly believe that if David Milibandilegs really wanted to solve this Russian crisis, he could simply ask Rene Russo to reenact that scene from the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair and Putin would have the Litvinenko murder suspect on the next flight to London. And please, let's not have any of this "ooh, stockings make us sex objects" nonsense because that simply isn't true. We all saw Sharon Stone cross her legs in Basic Instinct and we all tittered in a schoolboy way. But when Rene popped a stockinged leg from that split skirt, I damn nearly fainted with admiration at the size of her brain.

Plainly she'd worked out that what she really needed to gain control over the entire New York police department was not a degree from Harvard. But a pair of 4.99 stockings from Pretty Polly. That makes her smart. As well.


Food faddists damage kids' TV

Children are losing high-quality television programmes that reflect their lives because of underfunding and the pursuit of ratings, campaigners say. Floella Benjamin, the former Play School presenter who led the campaign to create a children’s minister, said it was shameful that so little home-grown television was now made as channels increasingly relied on cheap imports. She told the Social Market Foundation in London that more government funding and legislation was urgently needed. Incentives were vital to help not-for-profit organisations to produce high-quality public service shows for children. Doing so, she said, would prove that the Government was serious about its policy of every “child matters”.

The ban on advertising food high in fat, sugar and salt has cut the advertising income generated from children’s programmes by £30 million, a third of the total. ITV responded by scrapping new commissions and long-running hits, including My Parents Are Aliens, pictured right. Drama repeats have replaced children’s programmes on ITV1 at teatime as the channel competes for ratings with Channel 4.

Laurence Bowen, producer of My Life as a Popat, pictured left, the award-winning ITV children’s comedy about an larger-than-life Indian family living in West London, said that the popular series ended because of budget considerations.“Without a broadcasting Bill that can give Ofcom the teeth to really insist that ITV does children’s programmes, and without any other government legislation to follow that, it’s dead.”

Professor Jackie Marsh, of Sheffield University, said her research suggested that television played an important role in a child’s cognitive, linguistic, emotional and social development. The Government needed to encourage broadcasters to make programmes that reflected the daily lives, cultures and concerns of young people. “Not to do so would deny children their rights to a rich and varied diet of cultural activities.”


There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual themes.

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